Creating more seats at the table

Greer Hamilton, MSW ’16, BA ’16, and Danise Wilson, MPH ’14, sitting at a table in a coffee shop.

Greer Hamilton, MSW ’16, BA ’16, (left) and Danise Wilson, MPH ’14 (right)

University at Buffalo alumnae Greer Hamilton, MSW ’16, BA ’16, and Danise Wilson, MPH ’14, feel fortunate to have seats at the table, and they want to invite others to join them.

The women, who both have careers in public health, were disheartened by the lack of minority representation in the field, both in their classes as well as in their professional interactions. Rather than just lament the situation, they were motivated to do something about it.

To help build a community of black students at UB who are interested in improving health outcomes for underserved populations, Hamilton and Wilson launched the Hamilton-Wilson Student Assistance Fund. The fund will award $1,000 each year to two deserving graduate students working toward a master’s degree in social work or public health, while also connecting them with black mentors in their respective fields.

The fund is designated to help students with non-tuition related expenses, which is of particular importance to the women.

Wilson, a mother of five, worked full time while obtaining her degree; Hamilton acknowledges she was fortunate to have her parents’ support while attending school. Though the cost of higher education is well known, supplemental but necessary expenses such as books, gas and professional attire are not included in tuition or covered by loans.

Greer Hamilton on giving back

One thing I am hoping to accomplish is to see more young people doing philanthropic work, whether that is giving money to our fund or creating funds about issues that really matter to them."

Says Wilson, “A lot of the communities we work in don’t have public transportation—not everyone has a piggy bank they can draw from to pay for expenses like a car or gas.”

Hamilton agrees. “In my role, I see students coming in for interviews who don’t have professional clothing, which can be very expensive, yet there is an expectation that they should dress a certain way. This fund will help to even the playing field.”

Another desired outcome for the fund is to provide mentorship opportunities and build a sense of fellowship for black students in the schools of Social Work and Public Health and Health Professions. Wilson and Hamilton plan on organizing events to encourage MSW and MPH students to network with each other and share their experiences.

Hamilton and Wilson are committed to maintaining—and even growing—the fund with their own contributions, and by holding fundraising events to build the fund.