Kimberly Mayer, CalSWEC’s new Center Director, brings a wealth of leadership, workforce development, and cross-systems experience to the position, including collaborating with CalSWEC and Regional Training Academies in her previous roles at the California Institute for Behavioral Health Solutions (CIBHS). As she begins her term on October 14, Kim shares her thoughts on what excites her about her new role, the challenges facing CalSWEC, and what effective leadership entails.
Q: As someone who proudly identifies as a social worker, tell us about what motivated you to become a social worker.
A: I grew up in the East Bay and was always interested in my mother’s career as an educational psychologist, working with children and families in the local school district. I knew that I was interested in some type of service-related profession and saw myself in a role where I could impact service delivery systems. As an undergraduate student at Cal, I majored in social welfare and also coordinated a Berkeley Social Welfare DeCal course sponsored by the University YWCA (now the Berkeley-Oakland YWCA), focused on community service. Working at the YWCA after graduation with various student and community programs cemented my desire to complete a graduate degree in social work. My focus in the social work program at Columbia University was social administration and planning. New York City provided a great laboratory for fieldwork experience!
A: I’m excited about being part of CalSWEC in a time of ongoing policy changes on the state and federal levels affecting social workers and social service systems, and to ensure CalSWEC’s leadership role and relevancy in that environment. Over the past several years at CIBHS, I collaborated with different CalSWEC and Regional Training Academy staff on a few initiatives. I look forward to being part of a very talented group of professionals in the Center who manage a range of statewide projects and contracts focused on child welfare education and in-service training and behavioral health workforce development. Being part of Social Welfare at Berkeley is a big strength of CalSWEC, and I look forward to forging relationships with Dean Burton along with faculty and staff.
A: CalSWEC is a statewide program with wide reach in California. The roles of social workers in child welfare, behavioral health, and health are increasingly multifaceted, emphasizing cross-systems collaboration. In the past three years at CIBHS, I’ve facilitated a series of regional convenings across the state, learning from county child welfare, behavioral health, and juvenile probation leaders—including the County Welfare Directors Association and the County Behavioral Health Directors Association—on how they are implementing various components of Continuum of Care Reform (CCR). I’ve also had the opportunity to work with graduate social work faculty on several campuses, focused on developing programs to increase the local behavioral health workforce. I hope to bring a broad statewide perspective on child welfare education and training, along with behavioral health workforce development.
Q: Having served on CalSWEC’s Advisory Board, you’re familiar with the challenges and opportunities CalSWEC faces. What are you thinking about tackling first?
A: The fiscal environment in 2019 in California is very different than when CalSWEC was formed in 1990. Ensuring that CalSWEC is meeting the obligations to its partners, including UC Berkeley, the California Department of Social Services, the Regional Training Academies, and the universities in the consortium, is critical. The sunsetting of the 10-year Mental Health Services Act Workforce Education and Training (MHSA WET) funding has impacted CalSWEC, along with many other education and training programs statewide. Seeking new opportunities with other funding sources is important.
From a social work practice perspective, I’m interested in how we are educating and training social workers to operationalize working with a trauma-informed perspective. Long term, I’d like to see CalSWEC develop an initiative that encompasses social work practice and aging.
Q: Having served in leadership positions at CIBHS as well as at Contra Costa Health Services, what are some reflections you have on effective leadership?
A: I see the importance of building trust with staff and also ensuring that we are fulfilling the mission of CalSWEC. Having worked in a large county health department, along with a behavioral health consultancy (plus other employers), I’ve had the opportunity to witness how day-to-day leadership, driven by consistency, creativity, and flexibility can impact organizations. For the past two years at CIBHS, I worked with the California Future Health Workforce Commission as the lead behavioral health consultant, facilitating a group of stakeholders from education, behavioral health provider organizations, health plans, and advocacy organizations. It was a tremendous education, and I think good leaders need to be continuous learners, too.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: CalSWEC was formed in 1990, which was around the time I finished my undergraduate degree. I’m one of three generations of Cal graduates in my immediate and extended family and could not be prouder to become part of the UC Berkeley community!