Updated: Sep 8, 2020
We are so pleased to announce that ROPE program mentor Jean Clarke-Mitchell has just earned her PhD from the Smith College of Social Work. Dr. Clarke-Mitchell earned a master’s degree in clinical social work (MSW) in 2002 from Smith College School for Social Work, and a BA in Psychology from MCLA. She undertook her MSW and PhD studies at the ages of 45 and 57, respectively. The title of her dissertation is “An Exploratory Study of Primary Caregivers’ Knowledge of the Risks and Effects of Adolescents’ Exposure to Intimate Partner Violence.”
Dr. Clarke-Mitchell is the Clinical Director at the Elizabeth Freeman Center, Inc. She is a clinician in the Out-Patient Department of the Brien Center for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and owns a private practice and consulting service in Pittsfield. Jean is also a trained Clinical Supervisor. Besides mentoring with ROPE program, she serves her community on the board of directors of MA College of Liberal Arts (MCLA), Western Massachusetts and Albany Association for Psychoanalytic Psychology (WMAAPP), and is on the leadership committee of the MA Women of Color Network (MAWCN).
This deep dive into an aspect of her professional work not only advanced her degree, but widened the embrace of her field in an essential way. Says Dr. Clarke-Mitchell, “Rural communities, and adolescents in particular, are severely under-researched and underserved,” she says. “I wanted to take a hard look at the effect of adolescent exposure to intimate partner violence in this community.”
Growing up in Jamaica, W.I, Jean’s parents placed a high priority on education, though their own formal schooling was limited. Her mother never finished elementary school, she says, but notes “My mom always had a book in her hand and she was always a very intelligent woman.” Her father was illiterate, but he pushed for her education by paying extra for her to attend a private high school. “Seeing that hunger for knowledge, understanding, and self-discipline, modeled for me was very influential,” she observes.
Clarke-Mitchell has instilled the same value for education and learning in her own daughters, one of whom once told her that there was never any question IF she and her sister were going to college, it was always just a matter of which college they would attend.
Beyond parental influence, she cites as critical to her success the engagement of other adults. “My kindergarten teacher told us to reach for the sky, and as soon as I became a college student, going all the way to a doctorate was my ‘sky’ goal.
“In college and graduate school, I noticed all the professors had PhDs. That increased my interest in what had always been my dream. But as a single mother, I needed to pursue the fastest route to professional work so I could support my family, and that was getting my license to practice as soon as I completed my MSW.”
Dr. Clarke-Mitchell has taught in the Elms College Social Work Department and Cambridge College Psychology Department, and she is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Westfield State University Department of Social Work. She conducts training and seminars on Intimate Partner Violence. She never lost sight of her sky-high goal.
Coming from an under-developed country like Jamaica, she says her parents made it very clear that education was the only pathway out. This same confidence that education will lift them up is what she tries to impart in her mentees in the ROPE Program.
“Hearing someone tell you that you are capable has a magical effect. It is just so profoundly influential. At every point in my life where I encountered a crossroads, someone cheered me on.” Without that encouragement, she would not have returned to the classroom for her MSW, or again 12 years later to earn her doctorate.
“If the first place a young woman hears that she is equipped, intelligent, and on her way to her goal, is in my classroom—well, I am delighted to provide that encouragement. Because when you want to do something, and someone that you respect tells you that you are capable of achieving it—then you will make it happen.”
She lovingly describes the ROPE students who voice their intentions to pursue STEM careers. She loves to hear that sky-high goal and knows better than most how much breathing space has been cleared by invested, engaged adults to allow a young woman to set it and believe she will achieve it.
We send our warmest congratulations to Dr. Clarke-Mitchell. She is truly walking the path she is clearing for the young women in our program.