Hello Fellows: Meet Shawn Schuette
Wilder employees have the opportunity to apply for Kingston Fellowships, an honor awarded annually based on accomplishments, commitment to human services and leadership potential. In March 2017, Wilder awarded fellowships to six employees spanning a variety of professional backgrounds. The fellowships help these professionals to study, teach, conduct research, exchange ideas and develop innovative programs to address community concerns.
In “Hello, Fellows,” we introduce the most recent cohort of Kingston Fellows. This week, we catch up with Shawn Schuette.
What is your role at Wilder?
I am a Senior Clinical Supervisor in Wilder’s school-based mental health program, and have been with Kofi for 9 years. Kofi is a culturally specific program serving African-American students in St. Paul Public Schools. School based staff work with clients individually, in group, and in family sessions to help kids learn to regulate their emotions and to be more functional at home, at school, and in the community. In addition to supervising staff and seeing clients, I’m involved in the Allies Against Racism employee resource group and the Inclusion Action Team at Wilder. I am also a trained Intercultural Development Inventory Qualified Administrator.
Tell us about your background before coming to Wilder.
I got my bachelor’s degree in Social Work and Criminal Justice from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D. I ran truancy groups in schools with Pillsbury Neighborhood Services, and also ran a program for pregnant and parenting teens with Plymouth Christian Youth Center in North Minneapolis. When I went back to school to get my Master’s in Counseling and Psychology, I switched my focus toward providing mental health services. I worked in a day treatment program with Family Networks while accumulating hours for my license in Marriage and Family Therapy. After that I was hired by Wilder as an Initial Response Case Manager with Ramsey County. I left Wilder for a year to work as the Director of In-Home Services at Choices Psychotherapy in Golden Valley, and then I was hired in Kofi as a Clinical Supervisor.
What are you using the Kingston Fellowship to achieve?
The project itself came out of an initiative led by Kofi Services director Rudy Rousseau and Nona Ferguson, who was director of Wilder’s Family Supportive Housing Services and is now a Vice President. I have been serving on the initiative’s Mental Health Action Team, which was initially formed to help housing staff address mental health concerns with their clients, and in turn to help find resources for Kofi families that were experiencing housing difficulties. The team has met consistently over the past two years and in that time has developed what we’re now calling the Lifelines Project. It’s a strengths-based interview and assessment tool that helps people figure out, through their own narrative, what barriers and patterns have historically gotten in the way of their ability to be successful.
We started out wanting to use Lifelines with clients, but we discovered that there could be two possible tracks: One as a development tool with staff, and the other with clients. We’ve developed an individual interview model, and now we’re in the process of developing a group model. The individual assessment involves a one-on-one interview, where the participant chooses a focus area and then tells their story. The Lifelines Guide is there to ask questions, in order to deepen the process and identify patterns. The group process is a less intense version, where you are going through a workbook and sharing parts of your story out loud. It’s an investigative process where people begin to see patterns that they didn’t realize were there before.
The Lifelines model needs funding for things like printing workbooks and goal setting worksheets, along with monetary support to sponsor workshops. We’re also planning to develop a training cohort. Our Mental Health team is small, and as the use of the assessment tool grows, we’d like to train more people to be able to be able do the work.
The Kingston Fellowships are aimed at filling unmet needs in the field of human services and human services research. What unmet need is your fellowship filling?
We’re looking at two distinct needs: Staff development and reducing barriers to success for our clients. Staff can use the tool to help themselves become better human service professionals. For clients, this tool could be used as an intake assessment, to help people identify needs and address barriers. When someone is able to tell their story and they feel seen and heard by the person doing the interview, they’re often more willing to work with you. The narrative approach is definitely more of a culturally affirming practice, as opposed to other intake practices, which can be quite intrusive.
Do you have an experience about diversity and cultural competence that you have encountered in your work?
I can’t personally interact with a diverse work group, along with seeing primarily African American kids and families, and not think about historical trauma. Every day when I walk into my office, I’m aware of my power and privilege, and I interact with people from that particular lens. If I’m not involved agency-wide in changing the culture around inequity, oppression, and racism, then I don’t think I’m doing my due diligence as a supervisor at Wilder. It’s about being culturally aware and sensitive, as a human being first, and as a clinician second. These are the things that I value, and are important to me in my daily work.
Shawn Schuette is a Senior Clinical Supervisor in Wilder’s school-based mental health program.