search button
newscenter logo
Saturday, October 1, 2022

Follow SDSU Follow SDSU on Twitter Follow SDSU on Facebook SDSU RSS Feed

Ken Nakamura with his 2015 graduating class. Ken Nakamura with his 2015 graduating class.

7 Things About Ken Nakamura

Ken Nakamura is a social justice champion in the field of child welfare.
By SDSU News Team

Ken Nakamura is the project coordinator for San Diego State University's School of Social Work. His job is to attract and successfully prepare students for the field of child welfare services.

He manages SDSU's Title IV-E stipend program and connects students who are committed to serving in public child welfare. The Title IV-E Stipend Program at SDSU provides support for the delivery of a specialized public child welfare curriculum and support for students committed to service in in public child welfare.

This program has been at SDSU for 22 years and has a long history of bringing new graduates into both tribal and public child welfare services.

"As the project coordinator, I work with my colleagues across the state as well as within our region," Nakamura said. "The Title IV-E component of the Master of Social Work Program at SDSU has more than 500 graduates who have gone to work in tribal and county child welfare services across the state."

The program offers full time bachelor of arts in social welfare students in their final year a $15,000 stipend and full time MSW students are awarded an $18,500 stipend for each year of their program.

"SDSU is a wonderful campus community and it’s a pleasure to be a part of it," Nakamura said. 

1. What inspired you to do this kind of work?

As a third generation Japanese-American and as an adolescent during the late 60’s, I was involved in a time of enormous social and political transition. Since being involved from a young age in efforts to address injustices across race, class and gender, I became aware of and attracted to the profession because of the National Association of Social Work’s Code of Ethics with a specific commitment to social justice. 

For more than 30 years, I’ve been a social worker involved with children, youth and families, and in the education of undergraduate and graduate students in social work.

The idea for the Title IV-E Stipend Program to recruit and support social work students to child welfare services was envisioned and initially promoted by the late Harry Specht who was the dean at the School of Social Welfare at Berkeley. He was a generous and thoughtful supporter of my career.  At this point in my life, I’d like to inspire a commitment to social justice in the field of child welfare and to encourage a new generation of social workers for public service as an homage to him.

2. How long have you worked at SDSU?

I’ve been at SDSU School of Social Work for the past 6 years.

3. What is the best piece of advice you ever received? 

Though I have had many wonderful people in my life, I think I would want to credit a historical figure, Robert F. Kennedy, a presidential candidate when he was assassinated in 1968. As a young person, I read many of his speeches after his death and was struck by his messages.  In a speech he gave to college students in South Africa nearly 50 years ago, he said, “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” (University of Cape Town, South Africa, "Day of Affirmation" Speech June 6th, 1966)

4. What is your favorite thing about your job?

Though I miss teaching, I have the pleasure of working with amazing students who care about the welfare of others and meet community partners who work tirelessly to improve the lives of people in San Diego and Imperial Counties.

5. What about your field or position do you think would surprise people the most?

I think most people are unaware of the scope and depth of social work as a career option. Social workers are in the fields of education, health care, politics, social services, mental health, environmental justice, philanthropy and much more and work with people of all ages to address the health and well-being of our communities.

6. What is the most interesting or surprising thing about you?

Well, if I shared it, it wouldn’t be surprising anymore …

7. If you could only rescue one thing from your burning office, what would it be?

The one thing I would take with me would be a photo of my 2015 graduating class of students.