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March 22, 2019

Alumni Spotlight: Shawn Gianforte ’13 (Social Work) and ’14 (MSW) Mental Health Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program Chief

Shawn Gianforte, MSBA, LCSW ’13 (Social Work) and ’14 (MSW) is the Mental Health Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program (MHRRTP) Chief at the Canandaigua VA Medical Center.  After transitioning out of the military he was searching for a smaller college with beliefs that matched his own.  After some research, he found that Roberts had an accelerated BSW program that led to advanced standing in the MSW.  The Christian values at Roberts and the opportunity to complete two degrees in four years were a perfect fit.

The profession of social work was a bit new to Shawn when he got to Roberts, but he knew that he wanted to care for Veterans and Service Members with similar experiences to his own.  From the very beginning of his studies, he was challenged to develop his own beliefs and to become an independent thinker. 

Shawn writes, “Coming from the Marine Corps I was very concrete in my thinking. I struggled to understand ‘gray areas’. Throughout my time at Roberts, I was able to learn that in the civilian world everything is not black and white. This has played a critical role in my professional life working with Veteran who are recovering from substance use disorders and mental health disorders. Roberts taught me to treat everyone as an individual. We all come from different environments, cultures, and experiences.  As I tell the Veterans in my program, there is no cookie cutter approach to recovery. Meeting people where they are at is key to providing high level care. This also ties into my spiritual development as well.”

Roberts helped to emphasize the importance of addressing spiritual heath in the recovery process.  Shawn says, “True recovery requires us to examine and make changes to all aspects of our life. It’s about finding balance and maintain homeostasis. If we focus on one area and ignore the others sustained recovery will be very difficult to achieve if at all.”  Roberts helped Shawn understand his own faith better, but also other faiths and belief systems.  He grew stronger and more confident in his own Christian beliefs which helped him become better at discussing individual beliefs with people of other faith backgrounds. 

Shawn himself has experienced and endured PTSD, and he wants to do everything in his power to help prevent other Veterans and Service Members from going through the same struggles.  He hopes that his Christian witness shows through in his actions every day as he provides support to Veterans in the MHRRTP. 

Shawn gives these words of advice for current Roberts students thinking about a career in Social Work, “The best thing about being a social worker is that the field is so diverse and there are all sorts of career opportunities. You can be a clinical social worker and provide psychotherapy. You can work on advocacy and changing policies. There are social workers in all areas of healthcare and other community agencies. Social workers develop an array of skills that cross many disciplines. I never imagined myself as a machine gunner and platoon sergeant in the Marine Corps becoming a social worker. Ironically, many others have tried to make the correlation too. If you have a passion to serve others, social work is a great career choice.”

Shawn and his wife Wendy live in the Rochester area with their daughter and two sons.  They attend The Father’s House and he is involved in providing Military & Veteran culture training to community agencies, colleges, and medical centers.


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