Munisamy ‘destined to become a noteworthy leader’

Yogeswari (Yoge) Munisamy recognized firsthand the importance of social work when she was severely injured in a car accident in 1998.

Yogeswari Munisamy
Yogeswari Munisamy (right) of the George Warren Brown School of Social Work enjoys a discussion with mentor Diane Elze, Ph.D., assistant professor of social work. “I love the way people come together at GWB to address social issues and to get things moving for change,” Munisamy says. – Photo by Carol House

“It was a life-changing experience,” says Munisamy, who will receive a master’s degree from the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at today’s Commencement. “It made me more focused in my work as a social worker. Just watching my own healing and knowing that growth and change can take place was very powerful.”

At the time, she was a senior social worker with the Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centre in Singapore.

“I was involved in family casework and counseling and developed a program for low-achieving youth in schools,” Munisamy says.

Her efforts to recruit and sustain new social workers were acknowledged by the Rotary Club West (Singapore) Professional Development Award. This spurred her on to find a specialty area.

“I wanted to focus on sexuality issues,” Munisamy says, “but I realized that I did not have the skills and knowledge in that area.”

Her supervisor, 1991 GWB alumna Sudha Nair, encouraged her to apply to the University. Shanti K. Khinduka, Ph.D., the George Warren Brown Distinguished University Professor and GWB dean, recruited Munisamy during a trip to Singapore.

“A few months before I applied, I would have never thought that I would be going to the United States,” she says. “I come from a working-class family. Going to school abroad was just not an option.”

Through GWB’s Leo Tolstoy Scholarship and support from the Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centre, Munisamy was able to come to the University.

“I was apprehensive at first,” Munisamy says. “It was sad to leave behind friends and loved ones, but I found a family at school.

“The great thing about GWB is that if you wanted to mae a change or if you wanted to create a program, there was always support to be found in the dean, faculty, staff and students.”

George Warren Brown
School of Social Work

Munisamy quickly made an impact on GWB.

She helped start the Buddy Program, in which a current international student and a student from the United States are paired with an incoming international student. This program has become very successful and continues with each incoming GWB class.

Munisamy also worked on an international-student survey that helped to address the needs of international students. Additionally, she was always busy with international-student events and Outlook, a student group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered students and their allies.

“Yoge has remarkable leadership qualities,” Khinduka says. “She is serious in purpose yet always cheerful, incredibly energetic and resourceful. She’s a unifier while giving others credit for the success of a project.

“Yoge’s destined to become a noteworthy leader in her home country.”

Munisamy found the skills and knowledge she was looking for to take back to Singapore.

“I have taken many useful classes, and I found a wonderful mentor in (assistant professor of social work) Diane Elze,” Munisamy says. “She contributed to both my personal and professional development.

“The faculty at GWB are very open and engaging.”

Munisamy says she hopes to begin the first gay youth services in Singapore.

“There is a definite need for such programs in my country,” she says. “I am hoping that over time, I can develop a strong program from a mental-health angle or through the schools.”

“Yoge came here and hit the ground running,” says Elze, Ph.D. “She has made important and lasting contributions to our school and to the St. Louis community. Yoge demands intellectual challenge and professional development and gives so much of herself in return, always with good spirit and positive vision.

“If anyone can develop services for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youths in Singapore, Yoge can — although it is a task that will not be easy or risk-free.”

Outside of GWB, Munisamy enjoyed parks and events in the various neighborhoods throughout St. Louis. She also made time to travel around the United States.

“I have made amazing friends since I have been here,” Munisamy says. “I love the way people come together at GWB to address social issues and to get things moving for change.

“Social work empowers, empathizes and energizes, and I am humbled by the kind of support that I received at GWB.”