The Graduate School has named Naana Ewool, a second-year Master of Social Work (MSW) student, as its 2021-2022 senior fellow for the Weiss Urban Livability Fellowship Program. In this role, Ewool will facilitate interdisciplinary opportunities for students, including academic seminars. The Weiss senior fellow provides leadership for the fellowship program, which supports graduate students who share a common interest in urban livability. During her tenure as senior fellow, Ewool will direct this year’s nine Weiss fellows. Ewool was also a Weiss fellow during her first year of study.
“The best part about being in the fellowship this past year, and participating in those conversations, has been the learning opportunities,” Ewool said. “I thought there would be lot of ways for me to connect and plug in.”
Prior to pursuing graduate school, Ewool worked as a community organizer around public housing in Washington, D.C., conducted listening sessions in Black communities, and worked abroad with children in Ghana.
“I am passionate about using social work skills for radical community work, focusing particularly on community care, healing justice, and creating alternatives to policing through transformative justice,” Ewool said. “I chose to pursue my master’s degree at UNC-Chapel Hill largely because of the Weiss fellowship, and I am constantly affirmed in my decision to do so.”
Ewool, who graduated from the University of Virginia in 2017, wanted to pursue the Master of Social Work degree at a university where she could be connected to community work in the surrounding area. When she learned about the MSW program at Carolina, she knew the Triangle would allow for the community work she sought to continue.
Ewool said the learning opportunities and conversations fostered by the Weiss fellowship have been beneficial to her graduate studies.
“I definitely saw a desire to gain more information and knowledge and a desire to understand issues more deeply,” Ewool said. “COVID-19 has forced a lot of us to slow down and have time to reflect on who we are and how we show up in the world.”
The Weiss fellowship provides full tuition, among other benefits, to graduate students. Ewool said the receiving the fellowship during the first year of her program solidified her decision to attend Carolina’s MSW program, ranked #3 in the country according to U.S. News & World Report.
“I was definitely honored to know the School of Social Work, that I hadn’t even committed to yet, was already thinking highly of me to nominate me to be a part of this fellowship,” Ewool said.
A first-generation graduate student, Ewool said the fellowship has provided her a freedom and flexibility in the work she has been able to do during her time as a student.
“There is a genuine desire for graduate students to be engaged and involved in opportunities to support each other,” Ewool said. “It’s meant everything to me.”
The 2020-2021 fellows presented their end-of-semester projects in April, which focused on urban livability during the COVID-19 pandemic. Covering a variety of topics such as art and the public, and the urban/rural divide, fellows used photography as a tool to discuss nuances of these themes during the pandemic.
The Weiss Fellowship, founded in 1992, is named for Charles and Shirley Weiss, who retired as professors from the University. The Weisses’ active involvement with the arts, education and civic organizations, coupled with extensive world travel, convinced them that an interdisciplinary approach is essential to improving the quality of life in communities. Suzanne Barbour, PhD, is dean of The Graduate School.