Story by Jane Moorman, NMSU Communications and Marketing Services
New Mexico State University dual master’s degree graduate Rose Nava began a 15-week internship Sept. 10 with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in Washington, D.C.
Nava earned a Master of Social Work and Master of Public Health in May from the College of Health and Social Services. She currently is an Albuquerque area program coordinator for the Southwest Institute for Family and Child Advocacy, which is housed in NMSU’s School of Social Work.
She will be working for SAMHSA’s policy office where she will focus on various projects that deal with tribal affairs, health care reform, legislation, behavior health, trauma and women and children’s issues.
“This is an excellent opportunity to see what happens on the national level,” said the Santa Fe native. “I want to gain knowledge that I can bring back to New Mexico communities.”
SAMHSA was established in 1992 by Congress to target effective substance abuse and mental health services to the people most in need and to translate research in these areas more effectively and more rapidly into the general health care system.
Over the years, SAMHSA has demonstrated that prevention works, treatment is effective and people recover from mental health and substance use disorders.
Nava, a former United States Peace Corps volunteer and an NMSU Peace Corps Fellow, was among the five percent of the 75 applicants to be interviewed. She received one of two internships in the office of policy and regulations. She applied for the internship after learning about it from Sue Forster-Cox, who was her adviser and mentor while working on her master’s degrees.
Nava earned a Bachelor of Science in Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management from NMSU in 1994. She held various business positions prior to serving in the Peace Corps from 2006-2008.
She served in the Peace Corps in the Kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific as a micro-business developer and as a community educator.
“Midway through my service, riots occurred in Tonga, which affected the area where I was living, so I switched from a business developer to a community educator, where I focused on health issues, such as basic sanitation, exercise programs for women, and after-school programs for children.”
Nava discovered she enjoys working with communities to improve the quality of life for the citizens.
“I’ve always enjoyed volunteering in my community,” she said. “When I came back from the Peace Corps, I wanted to switch my career focus in order to expand on the volunteer work I had been doing with homeless families and at-risk youth. So I went back to school to earn my master’s degree.”
Nava says she has “on the ground experience” through her clinical work while obtaining her master’s degrees, and now the SAMHSA internship will allow her to “see the policy process that has a direct effect on New Mexico communities.”