Devon Gilchrist2019 Rising Alumni

Devon Gilchrist

Devon Gilchrist is a Human Services Program Consultant–Foster Care Policy Specialist for the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS). In that role, Devon leads efforts to improve child welfare practice and make meaningful effective and sustainable change at the state level. He also works closely with Minnesota counties to facilitate dialogue, training, technical assistance, and planning efforts to improve their practice to address ongoing challenges that have affected children. He is committed to reducing disparities for children of color in out-of-home care in Minnesota, and has been a champion to ensure that agency practices are culturally responsive and appropriate. He has also been an advocate for improving practice when it comes to engaging fathers of children who are involved in child welfare services. His volunteer service includes starting the Men of African Heritage Employee Resource Group at DHS to provide mentorship and support to colleagues.

Current Job

Foster Care Policy Specialist, Minnesota Department of Human Services

CEHD Degree

MSW, Social Work, 2011

Please list any professional accomplishments you wish to mention.

I was a cohort participant for the Bush Foundation Change Network, a scholarship recipient at the Bush Foundation Upswell Conference, a Bush Foundation SOCAP Scholarship recipient, a Roy Wilkins Community Policy Fellow, part of the Minnesota Department of Human Services L4 Leadership Program, a member of the African American Leadership Forum, a Josie R. Johnson Leadership Fellow, a Cross Sector Leadership Bootcamp recipient, and a Bush Foundation Social Innovation Scholarship recipient.

Volunteer activities

I have volunteered for the Minnesota Department of Health Infant Mortality Community Learning Cohort, the Governor’s Council on the Martin Luther King Holiday for the State of Minnesota, the People of Color Job Fair, the Twin Cities MS Society, MN Adopt, the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, Meals on Wheels, AchieveMpls, Minneapolis Parks and Recreation, the Minnesota Sexual Violence Center, and the WellSprings Second Chance Center. I was a community grant reviewer for the City of Minneapolis Collaborative Public Safety Strategies and an applicant grant reviewer for the Page Education Foundation. I also was a community judge for the Minnesota Debate Institute, an art access review panel member for the State of Minnesota Arts Board, a member of the Restorative Justice Community Action Community, a co-leader of the University of Colorado Alumni Association–Twin Cities Chapter, a steward for the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, and a delegate for MN House District 62B.

Awards or honors from collegiate, professional, or volunteer experiences

I received a University of St. Thomas School of Law Dean’s Scholarship, a Minnesota State High School League Established Service Award, a Minnesota Department of Human Services Award, a Minnesota Association of Professional Employees Scholarship, a Minnesota Department of Human Services Children’s Leadership in Prevention Fellowship, a University of Minnesota’s Child Welfare Title IV-E Scholarship, a Page Scholarship, a Hennepin County “Outstanding Service to Youth in Foster Care” Award, and a University of Colorado-Boulder Athletic Scholarship.

What is your favorite memory from the University of Minnesota?

My favorite memory is graduating from the MSW program and walking across the stage with my then young daughter and having her flip my tassel while my late mother watched.

What professor(s) or course(s) were most influential during your time in CEHD?

Priscilla Gibson

What was the impact and benefit of your educational experience in CEHD?

The impact and benefit of my experience is that it truly strengthened my work as a social service professional tenfold. I came into the MSW program almost 10 years after completing my undergraduate degree and having worked in the field as a counselor, case manager, and program manager. I had a strong general knowledge but the MSW program helped me enhance those basic practice skills while developing a theoretical and practical social work framework while building new professional proficiency and capacities.

Who has inspired you the most during your career?

It is difficult to say who has inspired me the most during my career. I find inspiration in many places. In the resiliency and strength of the clients I have worked with; in the ingenuity and knowledge of my professional colleagues; and within the hope, dreams, and potential of individuals, families, and organizations in the community. I think what inspires me the most are the small victories you have throughout your career. We often want the big win, but oftentimes it is the little things that keep you going and continue to inspire you. The client you worked with when they were a child and who now is an adult doing well, working, and raising a family who excitedly comes up to you at the store—you can feel what you meant to them. Or the program you helped start that is still up and running years after you have moved on. Currently, it’s the impact I am able to have on policy and practice and knowing that a small change can dramatically improve the lives of many children and families. Those are the things that inspire me most.

What skills are important to succeed as an emerging professional today?

In my opinion, being successful starts with having a good attitude. You must be able to see the positives in every situation. You must have the willingness to "do the extra" even when there is little or no incentive or reward. You must have confidence in yourself and your ability. However, the best way to build confidence is from small success along the way. Professionals should have a plan and both short-term and long-term goals. They should also develop professional relationships both in their workplaces or field as well as through external networks. Lastly, take control of your journey and direction rather than just going along with the ride.

When you have 30 minutes of free time, what do you do?

I am a semi-avid cyclist and have participated in several local events such as the MS 150, Fulton Gran Fondo, Twin Cities MS Ride, Tour De Cure, Tour De Tonka, and the Minneapolis Bike Classic as well as the one-day, 114-mile Buffalo Bicycle Classic in Colorado. I also enjoy reading, volunteering, going to art and history museums, and exercising.

How do others describe you?

I think others would describe me as unique, confident, smart, energetic, extroverted, ambitious, insightful, and loyal.

How do you describe yourself?

I describe myself as fun, honest, genuine, driven, fearless, purposeful, direct, humble, confident, optimistic, resilient, and caring.

What's a good book you'd recommend to others?

I am currently reading a number of different books on leadership and personal development. Many of them are from author John C. Maxwell. A few other books are How To Be Exceptional and Lean Impact.

If you could have coffee with anyone from history, who would it be?

I would choose to have a world cafe with Nelson Mandela, Huey Newton, Maya Angelou, Angela Davis, Leonardo da Vinci, Nikola Tesla, Martin Luther King, Jr., Winston Churchill, Frederick Douglass, Beethoven, Oprah, and Barack and Michelle Obama.

What gets you excited about work?

What gets me excited is the possibility of what can be done or achieved as well as the challenge that comes with trying to figure out how to get there.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was a child, I wanted to be an inventor, scientist, or computer programmer/engineer or all of the above.

Outside of your job, how do you grow professionally?

I am always looking for new opportunities and ways to continue to grow and develop myself. I enjoy the challenge of learning something new or challenging myself to step outside my box and comfort zone. Additionally, I do not wait for opportunities to present themselves to me and make it a point to seek them out and find the resources, whether it be people or other supports that can assist me with facilitating my professional growth.

What is a "fun fact" about you?

I starred in a district bus safety video when I was in elementary school.