Li shares her passion for social justice and the opportunities the MSW program has offered her so far.
Mengqi Li is a Master of Social Work student with a passion for social justice and advocating for the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) community. She was recently accepted into the Council on Social Work Education’s (CSWE) Minority Fellowship Program, with a mission to reduce health disparities for racially and ethnically diverse populations through cultural competency training. Additionally, Li accepted a new position at Mason’s Center for Culture, Equity, and Empowerment (CCEE) as a graduate assistant within the Student Engagement for Racial Justice team.
Li started the MSW program as a major career transition a few years after graduating with an undergraduate degree in business. “I just knew it really wasn’t where my heart was,” she says about working in business. She decided to pursue social work due to her interest in clinical mental health and the field’s emphasis on social justice values.
“The program at Mason has the most diverse faculty, and as a BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and person of color] student that was really important to me,” Li says about why the MSW program stood out to her.
She’s found many ways that the curriculum has intersected with her activism and advocacy. Last spring, she took SOCW 659 Organizing and Advocating for Change, a course on community organizing, during which Li and her classmates brainstormed ways to organize around issues on campus.
Li’s engagement as a student goes beyond the classroom too. She is the founding president of the Asian Graduate Student Association. So far, the organization has recruited nearly 100 APIDA graduate students. “I’m very excited for the potential of this RSO [registered student organization] to build community at Mason,” she says.
Faculty and staff have had a tremendous impact on Li’s life as a student, and MSW Program Director Evelyn Tomaszewski, MSW, ACSW, has been a great ally to her in and out of the classroom. Social Work Department Chair Emily Ihara helped connect Li to CCEE for her graduate assistant position and to other opportunities as well, including the CSWE Minority Fellowship Program.
“Having APIDA faculty and staff [in the department] has been very meaningful,” says Li. She notes that Julie Kim, the director of graduate student life, is an APIDA staff member who has also made a huge impact on her experience at Mason so far.
After she completes her master’s degree, Li plans to continue her advocacy work for the APIDA community, particularly within the field of mental health. She notes that a lack of diverse practitioners may be one reason why Asian Americans do not always seek mental health services, even when they need it. Li is currently in a training program to be a meditation teacher and hopes to integrate mindfulness training into her future clinical work.
When asked about what advice she has for future MSW students, Li says, “Let others know what you care about. I really believe that’s a huge part of what will open the door to opportunities.” She also adds that leaning into your interests and passions “will keep [them] burning and sustain you in whatever form of work that you do.”