“As an immigrant myself, I am passionate about supporting the aspirations of our students to pursue the ‘American Dream.’ This was why my parents came to the United States—to give me an opportunity to thrive. In Guttman students, I see the dreams of all who come here, their rich history, traditions, and extraordinary contributions.”
Dr. Anya Spector began her clinical career in direct practice after completing her MSW at Fordham Graduate School of Social Service. At Fordham, she worked with adults in treatment for substance use disorder and co-occurring mental health disorders. During her doctoral training at Columbia University School of Social Work, Dr. Spector focused on evidence-based practice and community-engaged research at the intersection of HIV and substance use. “I studied providers working in a variety of substance use treatment settings with HIV-affected populations. I continued this work during my post-doctoral fellowship at the HIV Center for Special Studies at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.” While Dr. Spector continues to do research in this area, she has, at Guttman, launched a program of SOTL research. Her SOTL research aims to elucidate best practices in professional identity development, pedagogy of experiential learning, and clinical supervision of community college students in the human services major.
Currently, Dr. Spector is working on several manuscripts with researchers from Fordham and Columbia. One manuscript is concerned with evidence-based practice for community-health-worker-home-visiting services; a second manuscript discusses use of PrEP among women in treatment for substance use disorders. She has submitted a grant proposal to CUNY research foundation to conduct a study with CUNY faculty in the human services and social work fields. Her study will identify best practices, needs, and potential interventions in the pedagogy of self-care for students in field placements. Dr. Spector is working with several interns from social work programs throughout CUNY on the planning of this research.
Since coming to Guttman in 2017, Dr. Spector is particularly proud of her work with the Human Services program. The relationships that she has forged with her students and her colleagues have been the most rewarding connections of her career. “Naturally, I am proud of all my publications; however, I am most proud of the co-authored paper that I published with a former student who went on to earn her MSW at Hunter.”
When she interviewed at Guttman, Dr. Spector recalls being energized by the faculty and the questions that they posed. “I appreciated the mission of CUNY and Guttman in particular, namely, as a vehicle for upward mobility, particularly for first-generation and immigrant students.” After only one meeting, it was clear to Dr. Spector that Guttman is comprised of people who care deeply for one another as colleagues and friends.
In the classroom, where she teaches Methods of Intervention, Fieldwork I and II, EOW, Urban Community Health, and Health and Human Services Policy, Dr. Spector is especially pleased when her students are in the role of “teacher:” presenting material, participating in an activity in class that is student-led, or conducting peer reviews. To see them demonstrate competence and confidence is her greatest reward.
Dr. Spector describes her teaching style as Socratic: she challenges her students to interrogate their own ideas and beliefs. She encourages them to use multiple sources of data to come to their conclusions. “I invite discussion throughout the class, particularly in service of connecting their real-world experience to theory, evidence, and ethics. My standards for written work and in-class conduct reflect the standards that our students will encounter in the field of human services.” Students are required to write in a formal, professional manner and to conduct themselves in class according to the Ethical Standards of the National Organization of Human Services.
When it comes to what qualities Dr. Spector is most keen to pass on to her students, two words come to mind: “Confidence and self-efficacy.” As Dr. Spector says, “Our students have a broad knowledge base and a plethora of talents. Despite their many obvious strengths, they sometimes express feeling discouraged, inadequate, or afraid to ask for help. I make every effort, through individual contact, and, when possible, in class, to highlight their strengths and offer encouragement.”
Dr. Spector is grateful for the years of support, friendship, and, most of all, mentorship that she has received from her colleagues in Human Services and from her colleagues throughout Guttman. “I have leaned on them for professional, emotional, and social support in ways I never thought possible in a work setting.”