An Interview with Nicole Navega


An interview with Nicole Navega, the Social Work Department’s newest half-time faculty member.

Where are you from originally and where did you attend college?

I was born in Rhode Island, raised in Seekonk, Massachusetts and have been living in Rhode Island for the last 14 years. Because my childhood home is right on the Rhode Island border, I have considered myself to have a dual citizenship with both Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

I attended undergraduate at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts and graduate school at Boston University.

Growing up, what did you want to be?

Aside from my father attempting to brainwash me into being an attorney during my entire youth and succeeding to Nicole Navega Photothe point that I even applied to Law School, I actually wanted to become an Orthodontist when I was young.  But the first day of undergraduate Bio and Chem with labs beginning at 8:30am wasn’t for me. It wasn’t until my senior year at Assumption that I fell in love with social work due to an internship as a volunteer probation officer through juvenile court.

What have been your experiences practicing Social Work?

It’s a bit of a long list but I started out, right after college, working in adolescent residential treatment affiliated with a Psychiatric Hospital. I started as a direct care counselor and worked my way up to shift supervisor, then training supervisor and ultimately Assistant Director and Residential Director roles. I worked residential for approximately 13 years. During that time I also served as The Clinical Director for a DYS detention unit in Dorchester. I then went on to manage the psychiatric assessment center (known as Psych Triage at the time) in an emergency room for approximately 4 years. Due to the high stress level of that work, and having come straight out of the intensity of adolescent residential, I wanted something completely new. I made the switch to managed care for 8 years while also maintaining a small private practice part time in order to keep my clinical skills sharp. My last employment was working in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive care Unit) helping families cope with their newborns being in the ICU as well as grief counseling.

What brought you to work with Wheelock College?

My dear friend and colleague Dr. Heather Howard referred me to Wheelock and I spent last year as an Adjunct co-teaching Integrative Research Seminar with her as well as two practice courses.

What will your role be within the Social Work Department at Wheelock College?

I’m currently half-time faculty- teaching a practice course, Integrative Research Seminar again with Dr. Heather Howard and serving as a Faculty Field instructor and Faculty Field Liaison for concentration year student’s field placements.

What does the mission “to improve the lives of children and families” mean to you?

One of the many reasons that I love Wheelock is this commitment to children and families. I see it as a call to action for all of us and a mandate of sorts. I like to use it as a mantra and a persistent question: What am I doing to improve the lives of children and families? This helps to focus all of us on the task at hand. I believe the work can come in many different forms; from simple, every day kindness and relationship building to therapeutic interventions and advocacy for those whom may not have the resources to help themselves.

Do you have any advice for current or prospective students?

Be yourself.
Love yourself.
Love others.
Work hard.
Play hard.
Make time for silence and reflection.
Make time to be in nature.