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MSW Student Chandra Keller ’17: Big Plans for Positive Change

May 08, 2017

Chandra Keller '17 (left) and her "bestie" on a cruise in 2016.

Chandra Keller ’17 has ambitious plans and a very workable strategy: The College of Staten Island (CSI) student wants to change the world, one life at a time. Keller will graduate this spring with a Master’s of Social Work as an advanced-standing student. 

“This degree that specializes in Disability Studies is the only one of its kind in the country, and I know that it will open so many doors for those of us who are fortunate enough to possess it. It will allow us to change the face of social work as we know it,” said Keller, who plans to explore the possibility of a PhD program as well as opening a clinic for people with disabilities that will be located near underserved communities.

“I desire to empower people to know that they can do and be better. I want to be that person that they can come to with their problems and together we can find solutions,” commented the Bronx native, who is a vice president with Local 420 for DC 37, a Local 420 Delegate, and a Behavioral Health Aide at Bellevue Hospital. She is also interning at New York Foundling, a foster care agency, while she finishes her degree. 

An active member in her church, The Love Fellowship Tabernacle, The Kingdom Church, located in Brooklyn under the leadership of Senior Pastor Bishop Hezekiah Walker, Keller sings in two choirs and is a member of the Steward committee, visiting sick and bereaved individuals in the community. Keller is also a member of the Women of Excellence and a street ministry team, The Crusaders for Christ. 

Keller (middle) at a picnic in 2016.

As vice president, Keller assists the 1,400 members of the union to resolve issues, and as a DC 37 Delegate for Local 420, she travels the country advocating for hospital workers. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Lehman College in 2013.   

The dedicated student attributes much of her academic success to the faculty and staff at CSI. 

“I believe that we learn something from everyone who comes into our lives, and there are many people at CSI who have helped and encouraged me along the way. Some of them never knew it,” commented Keller, who, in particular, was greatly motivated by Vandana Chaudhry, PhD, who showed her “the true meaning of perseverance.” 

“Chandra is a determined and hard working person that never gives up. I am happy and proud for her accomplishments, and wish her all the best in her endeavors. She will make a fine contribution to disability and social justice causes,” said Dr. Chaudhry.

She is also grateful for the tutelage of Professor Constance Stafford for “having patience with our class and really making us think and put to use the things that you were being taught” and to her peer Ilyssa Silfen for “returning every phone call, always being there for me, and for going out of her way to always find any information that I requested.” 

“Chandra Keller encapsulates the essence of social work professionalism.  Ms. Keller’s professional identity ensued from her commitment to social justice and her educational undertaking to facilitate changes in the lives of children, families, birthmothers and foster parents through her internship at the Bronx Foundling agency.  After 12 years of employment as a Behavioral Health Aid at Bellevue Hospital forensic psychiatric unit, and now equipped with the core set of values underpinning social work, I welcome with confidence  Ms. Keller to the profession of social work,”  said Professor Stafford, Manager of Professional Student Services and Assistant Director of Field Education in the Department of Social Work.

Keller’s advice to college students is to, “stay focused, never give up, keep a positive attitude, ignore the distractions that keep us from moving forward, don’t be afraid to ask for help, keep pressing forward, live fearlessly, and shoot for the Moon. Even if you miss, you will land among the stars.”

By Sara Paul


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