Nathali RobertsNathali Roberts, a distinguished alumna of the University of Memphis, stands as a beacon of resilience, compassion, and unwavering determination in the vast landscape of social work, where compassion meets advocacy. She graduated from the University of Memphis in 2013 with a Master of Social Work. She is a devoted mother to her two children, Isabella and Ethan, a loving wife to her husband Joseph Roberts who is also a UofM alum, and esteemed manager of rape crisis advocacy services at the Shelby County Crime Victims & Rape Crisis Center.

A Career Dedicated to Serving OthersNathali Roberts

Currently serving as the manager of rape crisis advocacy services at the Shelby County Crime Victims & Rape Crisis Center, Nathali exemplifies a commitment to supporting those in need. Her role involves supporting those who have been victims of crime, overseeing multiple sexual assault victim advocacy teams, providing trauma-informed care and employee training, referrals, and accompaniment to victims. Nathali's dedication extends beyond her professional endeavors; her passion for woodworking and wire wrapping has evolved into a small business, offering solace and creative fulfillment amidst life's demands.

Reflecting on Impactful, UofM Moments

Nathali had the following to share when we asked her about a memorable moment during her time at the University of Memphis she said, “I was seeing my first intake client with the Athena project where I was interning. I had trained for months on intake processes and de-escalation techniques. Because I went straight from an undergraduate to a graduate program, I had not had an opportunity to work that intensely with a “real” person. I remember being both nervous and excited. The intake process was about 3 hours long. After the session, I received very valuable feedback from Dr. Gayle Beck from the Psychology Department that helped build my confidence to dig deeper and ask questions differently. About a year later I was grocery shopping when a person approached me and asked if I remembered them. It was the client from that very first intake. She told me that our interaction helped her push herself to reach out and get counseling. She said that she was scared of anything “psych” related, but our interaction helped her see that it wasn’t as cold and clinical as some of the movies make it out to be. That was over 10 years ago, and I still remember her and our conversation.”

Gratitude for UofM Mentorship

Nathali says all her professors made a profound impact on her academic and professional journey. She wanted to pay homage to luminaries like Dr. Elana Delavega & Dr. Gregory Washington.

She said Dr. Elana Delavega's rigorous teaching style demanded nothing less than her and her classmate's best efforts. While her standards and meticulous attention to detail challenged her students, she never allowed any of them to falter. Instead, she instilled in them a sense of empowerment and inspiration, driving them to excel. Her unwavering dedication to her craft permeated every aspect of her work, serving as a beacon of excellence for her students.

Dr. Gregory Washington's profound commitment to their community and innovative approaches to healing youth left a lasting impression on her. Nathali had the opportunity to work as his student assistant. She had the privilege of observing his development of programs, facilitation of groups, and exploration of novel engagement strategies, all aimed at providing comprehensive services to clients. The invaluable skills she acquired during that time continue to shape her professional endeavors to this day.

Motivation to Pursue Graduate Studies

Driven by a desire to effect change and heal communities, Nathali was drawn to the UofM’s MSW program's clinical focus and emphasis on community engagement at the University of Memphis. When she enrolled the program was relatively new. Its innovative approach and emphasis on family trauma resonated deeply with Nathali, paving the way for her impactful career in social work.

Nathali Roberts

UofM: A Launchpad for Career Success

We asked Nathali how the UofM prepared and influenced her career. She said, “The professors in my program were not only very knowledgeable, but they also worked in the community. Their “insider” knowledge enriched my learning experience. As for how it influenced my current career, when I began my graduate studies we were required to fill out quite a bit of paperwork to be placed at a field study. My field instructor took the information from my paperwork and decided that I would be best matched with the Shelby County Crime Victims Center. I began my internship with them in 2011 as a domestic violence victim advocate. It was around that same time that Crime Victims Center merged with Rape Crisis Center. 
After interning for six months, I was invited to apply as an after-hours advocate for the Rape Crisis Center. I worked as an after-hours advocate from 2012 until my graduation in 2013. After graduating, I applied to become a full-time current-case sexual assault victim advocate. In 2014 I was invited to work alongside MPD in addressing the backlog of rape kits. I was responsible for helping them develop protocols and training to ensure victim notifications were as victim-centered as possible. I was also part of a team that trained sister cities in our victim-centered notification process. I worked as a cold case victim advocate until I was promoted to manager in early 2023.”

Valuable Skills and Enduring Connections

Mastering time management, prioritizing tasks, and dissecting complex situations while forging connections between them were pivotal skills honed during her graduate program. Moreover, learning to trust her professors and seeking their guidance even post-graduation has been instrumental in her growth. These abilities are particularly crucial in her profession, where she assists clients in developing treatment plans while safeguarding their autonomy. Maintaining connections with fellow cohort members has proven invaluable, offering both professional support and personal enrichment.

Believe in Yourself & Prove Naysayers Wrong

Nathali RobertsBalancing full-time grad school, overnight part-time work, serving as a graduate assistant, and completing a thesis left her questioning how she managed with so little sleep! Despite the challenges, she believes that every sacrifice was justified by the rewarding outcomes.

She says at times, others may not recognize your value immediately, and that's perfectly alright. It's essential to champion yourself and maintain faith in your abilities. Despite being discouraged by a professional who doubted her capacity to excel in graduate school, she chose to pursue it anyway. Refusing to heed their skepticism was the best decision she made, as it led to remarkable achievements. Graduating with honors and receiving the Morton Thesis Award affirmed that trusting in oneself and defying doubters can lead to incredible opportunities. Her advice to others is simple: have confidence in your capabilities and don't hesitate to silence the critics by proving them wrong.

Intern outside of your primary field of study.

Nathali had a unique experience that was very valuable in her education and career: Consider interning with a program outside your primary field of study. For instance, during her second year of graduate school, she undertook an internship with the psychology department. This experience provided her with a fresh perspective, fostering enhanced critical thinking skills.

As a proud, distinguished alumna of the University of Memphis Graduate School, Nathali's journey exemplifies the transformative potential of education and the enduring legacy of compassion in shaping communities and lives. Join us in celebrating Nathali's remarkable story! 

Notable Accomplishments & Contributions to the Field:

Náthali Blackwell's research works | The University of Memphis, Tennessee (U of M) and other places (researchgate.net)

2019 Victim Service Professional Award recipient – Shelby County

Trained 18 law enforcement agencies on:

  • Neurobiology of the brain and its effects on memory encoding and memory recall
  • Trauma informed policing
  • Vicarious trauma
  • Victim centered service delivery
  • Minimizing retraumatization
  • Resiliency building

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