Kristen Gustavson (’04)

Assistant Professor of Social Work
California State University, East Bay
Hayward, CA
Executive Director of 28 Twelve Foundation & Development Chair of HFAB

Kim Gilmer, HFAB Communications Chair: How would you describe your vocation, and how are you pursuing that in your current position?

Kristen Gustavson: My vocation is really one of a healer. I am a licensed psychotherapist and an Assistant Professor of Social Work at California State University, East Bay. My work aims to improve the lives of those living with mental health issues and mental illness and well as the lives of their family members. This involves both providing counseling, training the next generation of social workers and advocating for mental health policy change at the local, state and national levels. 

K. Gilmer: How has being a Harvey Fellow affected your vocation and life? 

K. Gustavson: Being a Harvey Fellow helped me connect my faith and vocation more clearly, and in deeply restorative ways. I grew up in a church that taught me that the Christian faith valued heart decisions and heart change over and above that of the mind. I remember very clearly reading Mark Knoll’s, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind for my 2004 Summer Institute. It was such a powerful book and dismantled my longstanding notions that my brain and intelligence were something to be ashamed of as less spiritual or less Christian. It was and is so fortifying to be with Harvey Fellows all over the world who are using both their hearts and their brains for Christ’s Kingdom work.

K. Gilmer: What about your work most excites or inspires you right now?

K. Gustavson: California State University, East Bay is a minority serving institution and was just named the top 5 university for Diversity by the Wall Street Journal. It’s so exciting to be in an educational environment that values diversity and is at the forefront of equity and inclusion in post-secondary education. I love that! I also love that the diversity reflected in our student body is exactly the diversity needed in an educated and civically engaged social welfare workforce. My students are working to make their lives and communities a better place, and I am thrilled over the part I get to play in that.

K. Gilmer: What about God’s work most excites or inspires you right now?

K. Gustavson:  As with many academic environments, my department has had its fair share of workplace politics and interpersonal conflict. I feel like God is using me as a partner and advocate in working to build a stronger sense of shared governance, partnership and collegiality in my workplace. 

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