MSW grad serves underrepresented populations, making city processes more equitable in Fort Collins

CSU School of Social Work alumna Selina Lujan de Albers applies social work and equity principles to help create healthy and resilient homes for all community members.

As program manager for the Healthy Homes program in the Environmental Services Department of the City of Fort Collins since 2017, Selina Lujan de Albers (MSW, ’18) has succeeded in using her Master of Social Work degree to advance a career focused on environmental justice.

Her involvement with Healthy Homes began in 2012 as an intern. She is the recipient of the 2016 Public Health Hero Award for her work with the program. Lujan de Albers was also recently awarded the 2019 Northern Colorado 40 under Forty and the 2021 World Class Employee awards.

“Never did I see myself becoming an environmental steward; however, I am so glad that this is where I have landed,” Lujan de Albers said.

colorado state university school of social work msw alumna selina lujan
Colorado State University School of Social Work alumna Selina Lujan de Albers (MSW, '18).

Lujan de Albers was connected to Healthy Homes by her high school Spanish teacher. “The mission resonated with me: creating a healthier community by improving indoor air quality and promoting a safe home environment,” she said.

“I enjoy the opportunity to make a positive impact on people’s health and well-being,” said Lujan de Albers. “Community members routinely share how the City’s indoor air quality programs empower them to implement changes in their homes that have made them feel safer and healthier. I love what I do because we are making a difference.”

Read on to learn how Lujan de Albers applies her knowledge as a social worker to her job and how her experiences at CSU helped prepare her for this career path.

Describe your current position and some of the responsibilities that come with it.

I currently manage the indoor air quality programs for the City of Fort Collins within the Environmental Services Department, including the Healthy Homes and Radon programs. Through indoor air quality assessments of homes, we provide free radon testing and identify low-cost or no-cost recommendations for improving indoor air quality. While all community members are eligible for an assessment, the program has a special emphasis on serving children with asthma, older populations, and historically underrepresented and underserved communities in Fort Collins.

How have your education and experiences at CSU helped you?

The core values of social work align so well with my own. My education at CSU helped advance my skillset both in my professional and personal life. I also learned so much from my classmates. My cohort and the academic content really opened my eyes to the possibilities of working as a social worker. While pursuing my master’s degree, I worked full-time and actively applied what I was learning. The use of systems thinking made a profound impact on me. I was able to look at how my work fits within complex systems, like a municipality, in order to best serve the indoor air quality needs of our community.

How has COVID-19 changed your life and work, and how are you responding to it?

COVID-19 has changed my life and work dramatically. Sadly, I lost family members to the virus; on a happier note, I had my first child. With so much change in my life, I am just taking it all in stride, and I try to give myself a lot of grace. This looks like taking a walk with my baby and listening to podcasts. Right now, I am listening to “Anything for Selena,” which, in addition to the name, has so much cultural relevancy for me!

Prior to the pandemic, my work involved going into people’s homes. We had to stop in-person assessments and promote our services in the most equitable way possible (i.e., assessments over the phone and online). The pandemic highlighted many programmatic barriers for participation. We are now focusing on filling the gaps with what I am calling high-impact projects. Our high-impact projects will be co-created with community members, where resources related to the key principles of a healthy home will be identified and provided with educational materials.

For example, wildfires force us inside and negatively impact our indoor air quality if we do not have proper filtration. Therefore, in preparation, Healthy Homes can offer furnace filters with information on the importance of air filtration. I am excited to create a space where community involvement can play a larger role in leading the work to help serve more homes.

Was there a faculty/staff member who inspired you?

I really enjoyed my time at CSU. Although it was only for 2 years, I made some lifelong friends. A faculty member who still inspires me is Dr. Neomi Vin-Raviv, who truly embodies what it means to be a social worker. The thought of the Research Methods course and completing a program evaluation seemed so intimidating at the time, but Dr. Vin-Raviv went above and beyond to make sure we were successful. She pushed us to do our best, and whenever we hit challenges, she was right there to help us figure out a solution. Plus, Dr. Vin-Raviv’s class was fun. She made me want to show up and work hard for my degree.

What advice do you have for students looking to join your field?

In my opinion, every organization and agency needs a social worker. The beauty of being a social worker is that the skills you bring to the table can be applied within any context. I simply would recommend immersing yourself through an internship or volunteer opportunity within environmental work. If you are interested in local government, you could also attend a council meeting or work session. The work we do in Environmental Services is diverse and involves policy evaluation and adoption, community organizing, meaningful community engagement, research, direct service, and a lot of relationship building. I would also recommend creating connections by getting to know the people who are currently doing the work you are interested in to learn more about how you can get involved.

The School of Social Work is a part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.