Reflections: 20 Years of Sorensen Fellows

Tova (Neugut) Walsh '01
2000 Sorensen Fellow
Grenada Education and Development Programme (GRENED)
Grenville, Grenada

Read Tova's 2000 Sorensen Fellow essay here.


I’m a social worker and professor. I work at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, where I’m a faculty member in the School of Social Work and a faculty affiliate of the Center on Violence Against Women and Children. My research, teaching, and practice experience center on promoting child wellbeing and preventing child maltreatment. My research focuses on pregnancy and early parenting in contexts of risk, with an emphasis on interventions to strengthen parent-child relationships. I live in Highland Park, NJ with my husband Elias and our two daughters.

tovamaskI got this mask, carved from the hard shell of a calabash, in Grenada in the summer of 2000. As an ECSF, I worked with the Grenada Education and Development Programme (GRENED).  My experience working with GRENED sparked lasting interest in efforts to help vulnerable children thrive in the context of caring families and communities.

tovapaintingMy home and office are covered in kid art, made by my children and children that I work with. I study early child development, parenting, and parent-child relationships, and I’m also living it as the mother of an infant and a preschooler. After graduation I worked with the Rural Family Support Organization in Jamaica, as a family support worker in the U.S., and then I applied to PhD programs to study the causes and consequences of young children and families experiencing complex, profound, and sustained distress.  Over the course of my career I have increasingly focused on prevention and early intervention efforts, with the goal of providing needed support early and preventing or minimizing harm.

tovagroupAs a student at Brandeis, I was very fortunate to have fantastic mentors. One such mentor was Dr. Dessima Williams, then a professor of sociology at Brandeis as well as Director of GRENED, the nonprofit organization that she founded in her home country of Grenada. Now, as a professor of social work, I have the opportunity to teach and mentor students of my own. Life came full circle when I brought a group of my own students to Grenada as part of a program that integrates intercultural learning, fieldwork abroad, and community engagement. We even had the chance to spend time with Dr. Williams. At the time of our visit, she was serving as Grenada’s Ambassador to the United Nations.