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Janelle Rogers Mixes Social Work, Music and a Love for Connection

Janelle Rogers MSW ‘24

  • MSW Pathway:
    Interpersonal Practice in Integrated Health, Mental Health, & Substance Abuse
On May 9, 2022 Janelle Rogers of Ferndale, Michigan went back to school. Right on her back porch. Or sometimes in her living room.

Online classes and a part-time schedule made sense for Rogers, who is a business owner and lives in metro Detroit.

“I always wanted to go back, ” Rogers recalls, “but I thought there were lots of impediments. Like a class I failed in undergrad, 20 years ago. I thought I had to show them I was not who I was then."

Rogers started with our MasterTrack certificate program, so she could gauge if social work was for her. Somewhere around the fourth class, she knew. She applied to our part-time online program, and, well, let’s just say that that 20-year-old F made no difference at all.

Rogers noticed right away, “There are a lot of people my age, and we have different races and sexual and gender identities. I like hearing other people's perspectives. I like to have my beliefs challenged. The online program does that.”

Like many who enter our programs in middle age, Rogers was kind of a social worker before – she just didn’t know it. For 20 years she worked on political campaigns. “At first I just dropped literature,” she says of her beginnings, “and I got to know people. I met them where they were at. I loved that.”

Rogers’s job in the marketing department of a major record company moved her around the country. Eventually she landed in Michigan, where she managed Melanie Piana’s run for Ferndale city council and then worked on her successful run for mayor in 2019.

In 2002, Rogers founded her own music PR company, Green Light Go, which she continues to run while getting her MSW. At the School of Social Work, she is on the school’s integrated health pathway. This interest began in 2018, when a friend had a stroke and Rogers watched the healthcare system fail him. “It was the most heartbreaking situation of my life,” Rogers says, “yet also the most rewarding: to be able to be there for someone, when nearly everyone else had failed him. The U-M School of Social Work had the only program I could find that looked at integrating behavioral and physical health.

Janelle Roger’s Social Justice Playlist

Janelle Rogers has spent most of her career as a music publicist. She does it with a social work twist, often supporting artists who have social justice messages. She put together a social justice playlist for us, to showcase the power of art to further social justice initiatives.

“The current state of America and what got us here is often on my mind. As I built my Social Justice Playlist, it became a Black voices in America playlist. The music comes from many eras, but the messages of despair, resilience and hope are all relevant in 2022.” 
Black Voices in America: Songs of Hope, Resilience, and Despair

  1. It’s a good day (to fight the system) - Shungudzo
  2. This is America – Childish Gambino
  3. Morning in America – Durand Jones & the Indications
  4. Black Man – Stevie Wonder
  5. Americans – Janelle Monáe
  6. Get Up, Stand Up – The Wailers
  7. A Change is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke
  8. Talkin’ Bout a Revolution – Tracy Chapman
  9. What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
  10. I Can’t Breathe – H.E.R.
  11. Strange Fruit – Billie Holiday
  12. Rise Up – Andra Day

Listen to Janelle’s Playlist on Spotify

“The convenience is great,” Rogers says of learning online. “I had thought that, online, I might miss the connection, but I haven't.” Rogers is even involved in extracurriculars, like the school’s Art Collective. “It is a perfect bridge from my life in music to social work,” she says.

What will Rogers do after graduation? She is currently volunteering at a domestic violence and sexual assault shelter; this has been an abiding interest. “I might look at behavioral health, though,” she says. “I might become a licensed therapist and start my own practice. At the end of the day, I just love helping people.”

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