In November 2012, three MSW student candidates from the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, Allison Weingarten, Kimberly Moore, and Stoop Nilsson, were invited to attend the Council on Social Work Education’s (CSWE) Annual Program Meeting in Washington, DC. Joined by their Professor, Terry Mizarhi, Chair of the Community Organization Planning and Development (COP&D) Department at Silberman, students had the unique opportunity to volunteer as student organizers at a recruitment booth representing the Association for Community Organization and Social Administration (ACOSA), a membership organization of educations and macro practitioners concerned with the advancement of community organizing. We students also promoted the development of a prospective national student network, representing the marcro-practice discipline, where we were able to interface with more than 2000 educators and other students from all over the country. Below are three reflections from each of us regarding our experience working with ACOSA, recruiting for the student network, attending workshops at the conference and networking with field professionals and students from all over the country.
A Reflection on Recruiting a Student Network by Allison Weingarten, MSW Candidate, Siberman School of Social Work at Hunter College Class of 2013
The ACOSA Trip
Each year, the Association for Community Organization and Social Administration (ACOSA) designates one school of social work in the area nearby the location of the CSWE’s annual conference to visit in order to raise awareness regarding the exciting work the institution is actively involved in regarding macro practice social work. Additionally, ACOSA utilizes the CSWE’s annual meeting as a platform to promote the organization’s work, and to encourage membership among students and educators interested in or engaged in macro social work practice.
With this year’s conference held in Washington, DC, ACOSA sponsored a field trip to visit the Social Work Community Outreach Service Division (SWCOS) at the University of Maryland School of Social Work in Baltimore. We visited a high school located in Western Baltimore. On our way to the high school, we saw hundreds of boarded up buildings and houses as well as an unfinished highway nicknamed the “highway to nowhere.” When this highway was built, it completely broke up a community. The impact of building the unfinished highway and splitting up the community still remains today.
The high school, Augusta Fells Institute for the Visual Arts is located in an area plagued by poverty and crime. The school, failing just a few years ago, has turned around largely because of SWOCOS’ presence in the school. Social work students, led by a social worker coordinator, run programs in the school to fit the needs of the community and help students utilize their creativity. For example, because many students come to school hungry, the school operates a food pantry. Additionally, teachers and social workers and social work interns at the school make home visits to help with school attendance and to help address the many needs that students and their families face. Their arts program has produced beautiful murals all over the school helping to create a sense of community. The school also has a newsroom and recording studio. There are police officers in the school who we were told were wanted by parents, students and teaches but were regarded more as mentors and counselors rather than intruders and enforcers. A trained social worker, a graduate of UMD, coordinates the program. This program, which creates a community school, should be replicated.
Next on the visit, we visited a local food market where students are organizing in low income areas to serve healthier options. SWOCOS interns reported having a very difficult time as it is a complicated process to regulate a private market. Finally, we passed a playground which SWOCOS interns helped organize to build. The area was unused until SWOCOS interns surveyed the community and together helped persuade the government to put the space to good use by building a playground.
The visit to Baltimore hosted by ACOSA was my favorite part of the conference. Not only was it an opportunity to network with other ACOSA members from all over the country, but it is a chance to see actual work being done in other parts of the country. From this trip I felt inspired to keep doing the work that I am doing and I was able to take away ideas that I am now applying in my internship.
The prime reason for my participation in this conference was to help build a network of macro practice social work students from around the country. Over the last year, students at Silberman, have been reaching out to other schools of social work with macro practice programs to try to build contacts with both faculty and students to form a network of macro practice students. The purpose of the network includes the utilization of social media, specifically a student facebook page, allowing students from different schools across the country to communicate with each other about different projects and curriculum in macro practice social work education. We are contacting faculty to obtain the names of students and to encourage ACOSA membership and participation in the student network.
Our attendance provided a great opportunity to meet faculty and students from around the country to build the network. We were proven correct! In true organizing style, we found that it was much easier to build rapport and develop a personal connection with someone when you are standing in front of, rather than some informal method of reaching a person through calling or sending mass emails. To our pleasure, many students and faculty welcomed the opportunity to build a student network, and were excited to join on as contacts representing their school of social work for the student network. The recruiting opportunities were endless including, but not limited to:.
- On the ACOSA Bus
I probably had the most success at recruiting valuable faculty to serve as contacts for the student network on the bus I took back from the Maryland trip with the ACOSA members. As the ACOSA members on the trip were all faculty from universities with Macro Practice Programs, they were a great audience for me to pitch the network.
- At the ACOSA Booth
During the conference my two classmates and I volunteered our time to help recruit for ACOSA and tell people about the meetings and workshops ACOSA was hosting at the conference. This was a good opportunity for us to promote at the same time for the student network. As we volunteered at the table, we simultaneously collected contact information for people interested in joining ACOSA and in joining the student network.
- Approaching different university social work program booths
Another very useful method used to recruit during the conference was approaching the more than fifty tables of social work schools and giving mini presentations to the faculty and staff. Representatives from the booths were willing to provide contact information for either a member of the faculty who works in macro practice or giving the contact information of a student who is involved in macro practice.
- Attending Breakfast/Preparation Meeting for Student Volunteers
Finally, on Sunday morning, we students attended the 7 A.M. information session for the student volunteers. We identified the leader of the session and asked her if we could give a short presentation to the students. We passed out flyers about the network to the students and asked anyone who was interested to provide us with their contact information. There again was a very positive response from the students even at such an early hour. Most promising was the addition of a student leader from the University of Maryland who expressed interest in the network. She took a leadership role and recruited students at the ACOSA membership meeting and reception on Sunday evening.
Everything at the conference was not all work, especially on Saturday night. We were invited to a mixer and cocktail hour sponsored by the Silberman School of Social Work’s, Dean Jacqueline Mondros, at Oyamel Cocina Mexicana, which offered a delicious Mexican cuisine enjoyed by all. Here, we had the unique opportunity to spend quality time with our professors and school administrators and discuss aspirations of continued social work education, career planning, and reflections on our educational journey thus far. Back at the conference center, several academic institutions and groups provided dinner, dancing, and comic relief in true social work style!
What’s to come:
There is a lot of work to be done following the conference. As a group at Hunter, we need to come up with a comprehensive plan to integrate the new contacts that we met at the conference with the contacts that we already had. We also need to formulate an idea for an event for next semester in order to keep our new contacts engaged. In order to formulate the idea though, we need to also talk about integrating the contacts from different schools so they feel connected to the student network and the process. We anticipate planning an event in Spring 2013. This conference was a great opportunity for us as students to learn and to build the student network.
A Reflection on a CSWE Conference Session: Establishing Careers in Global Social Work by Kimberly Moore, MSW Candidate, Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College Class of 2013
It is with great pleasure that I submit his summary regarding my experience at the Council of Social Work Education Conference in November 2012 in Washington, DC.
The conference weekend was jam packed with presenters and scholars from all over the country. Many knew one another on both a professional and personal level, and the strength of the relationship and camaraderie among social workers was evident in their interactions throughout the conference. Immediately, I was stuck by this dynamic, and the pulse in this learning environment generated excitement within my spirit.
The conference sessions covered a myriad of areas from specializations in gerontology, grant writing, and information regarding funding opportunities for researchers. One of the most interesting break-out sessions attended surrounded Establishing Careers in Global Social Work. This session was focused on providing valuable information on strategies to utilize when seeking international employment opportunities. Specific considerations are as follows:
- Understanding Job Titles: Agencies seeking to hire staff for international projects are less likely to list them as “Seeking Social Workers,” but rather will most likely utilize language such as “Seeking Program Director,” “Project Manager,” and “Community Planner.”
- Gain the Skills: Organizations are seeking to hire people with a variety of skills such as strong written and verbal communication, strong time management, managerial experience, and fiscal/fundraising/grant writing experience. Also, it is important to note that programs seek to employ staff which have an existing track record of successful fundraising over a specific period of time on multiple projects. Moreover, multi- tasking, advocacy, and direct care are essential tasks to possess, as there is also a requirement to provide direct services to the constituency when necessary.
- Demonstrate Competence: During social work education, a significant amount of time is spent reviewing mindfulness in practice, self-awareness, an acknowledgement of power dynamics and oppression that exists. Here, when seeking to work on international agendas, it is one’s obligation to demonstrate an understanding of the people with which you will serve, their histories, the context in which you will provide services and environmental factors that will affect one’s ability to practice successfully. Executing with competence is not only a requirement, but a moral and ethical responsibility.
There are a number of search engines available for people interested in global social work to review in great detail and gain a deeper understanding into career choices. Such include, but are not limited to:
- Interaction www.interaction.org
- The Conference of NGO’s in Consultative Relationships with the United Nations (CONGO) http://www.ngocongo.org/index.php
- Foreign Policy Association http://www.fpa.org
- Devex www.devex.com
- United Nations http://un.org/en/employment/
- Relief Web http://www.reliefweb.int/
Finally, one of the most important pieces of advice provided to the audience was the need “to move from a resume to (CV) curriculum vitae.” Why is this significant? Here, the key is to move from a summary of employment to a summary of skills, thereby allowing one to highlight their experiences both in academia and specific skills necessary to secure employment in a variety of settings. This may also include papers prepared for submission to be published, membership to professional organizations, offices of leadership, campaigns or initiatives organized. This also allows for one to examine the areas which need further development in preparation for advancement opportunities on both domestic and international projects. This is an area that should be included in practice labs and skill building workshops throughout the MSW curriculum.
In closing, it was truly a privilege to be surrounded by the pioneers in social work education and practice. My desire to advance, develop, and engage is stronger than ever. My commitment to continuing to post master’s certificates, and possibly earning a doctorate degree, is stronger now more than ever. I look forward to attending next year, and hopefully joining the roster of presenters.
Special thanks to Professor Terry Mizrahi and the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter for providing this wonderful experience.
A Poem Reflecting a Community Organizer’s Experience at the Conference by Stoop Nilsson, MSW Candidate, Siberman School of Social Work at Hunter College Class of 2013
We sang and danced, took taxis, buses, and trains over town, walked to the white house, up stairs and down elevators, escalators, told stories late into the night after cold showers in overpriced hotel rooms. Ate guacamole and chicken tacos, drank red wine, got tipsy with teachers and strangers, spoke about new topics, hot topics, with new people, soon to be friends, told stories, oh the best stories, laughter, challenge, connection, met with my undergraduate chair for lunch and undoing racism conversations, danced with my graduate chair after dinner, attended 7am sessions on gender, feminism, ethics, and preparing for a career in academia. met new people, got to know old, laughed over line dances that tripped on my shoelaces, and had good good times most of all! Most important, we were the talk of the town in the morning…well, even if we weren't famous, we made a memorable impression on our nearby tablemates, and even though we were late for everything, we had a good excuse. We were students, out late, and up early, organizing.