Doin’ The Work: Frontline Stories of Social Change

Prison to Professor - Nathan Stephens, MSW

December 7, 2020

Episode 36

Guest: Nathan Stephens, MSW

Host: Shimon Cohen, LCSW

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This episode is sponsored by Designs by Tee, bringing you positive, socially conscious tees and accessories. There’s now a Doin’ The Work collection with hoodies, tees, tote bags, and mugs! Use code TeePod5 for $5 off your next order.


In this episode, I talk with Nathan Stephens, who is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Illinois State University and a PhD candidate in Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis at the University of Missouri Columbia. Nathan gives a raw and vulnerable account of his experience from being in prison for selling drugs, to spirituality and healing, to social work. He shares about how he grew up and the trauma he experienced, as well as those who supported him, and how he wanted to find ways to give back to the community and help Black youth who are born into similar conditions as he was. Nathan highlights how school was a safe space for him to get away from the abuse he experienced at home, and that his academic performance was a strength, so he was excited to go back to college after prison, and he excelled. He discusses how he uses his life experience to inform his analysis, teaching, research, and community work, which includes creating programs for Black men, teaching a course in a prison called Social Justice in Social Work, and working with Black male youth groups in the community. Nathan further explains that his research looks at critical topics like racialized stress and the trauma from hypersexualization and sexual abuse of Black boys and men, and how we need to talk about these issues. We also discuss hypersurveillance by police in Black and Brown communities versus white suburbs and rural areas; who gets arrested, charged, and convicted; and how arrest records can be a major barrier to employment, including being a social worker. I hope this conversation inspires you to action.


Twitter: @TheN8Stephens

Facebook: Mister Nathan Stephens

LinkedIn: Nathan Stephens

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