News from the UGA School of Social Work
At the first annual Social Justice Symposium, members of the MSW Student Faculty Committee and Dr. Maurice Daniels presented Dr. June Gary Hopps (center) with the Bridge Award.
Happy 2017 everyone! I hope this finds you well and experiencing both personal and professional growth.
The past month has already brought us continued news about challenges around the globe—tragedies in places like Aleppo, Syria and continued challenges closer to home. We also have a new president, following a very contentious election. Irrespective of one’s political affiliation, one message from this election was clear: we are a deeply fractured and divided nation.
Social work is a profession of hope and of healing. If we are to move forward in any way as a country, our ability to work together is essential to make positive social change. Our students, faculty and staff have been talking about this a great deal lately. In particular, we’ve been thinking about what promoting hope and healing means for us as social workers, and as a school of social work.
As a school, I think our responsibility is clear. We need to prepare the next generations of social workers with strong advocacy, communication and social justice skills to promote healthy communities. We need to be a resource for communities that seek healing, and we need to generate new social work knowledge to inform our actions.
Several recent events have given me great hope and pride in our school as we move into 2017. The first was seeing the tremendous research productivity of our faculty and students that was showcased at the Society for Social Work and Research national conference in New Orleans earlier this month. The topics presented were wide-ranging and important, including but not limited to investigations of racial barriers to health services, the promise of worker-owned cooperatives, aspects of intimate partner violence, problem drinking among older adults, and challenges facing immigrants, to name a few.
While in New Orleans we were also able to visit one of our alumni, Ben McLeish, (BSW ’01, MANPO ’02). Ben runs a non-profit called the St. Roch Community Development Center, which provides affordable housing, education, employment skills and a thrift shop to the St. Roch community in the 7th Ward. Ben embodies the dedication and caring of a true social work community organizer by creating opportunities for people to connect with resources and training to improve their lives. Both the conference and meeting Ben reminded me that the School engages in significant research for change and graduates powerful change agents.
Another amazing and heartening event occurred this month: the school’s first student-led Social Justice Symposium. Organized by members of the MSW Student Faculty Committee, with the support of Drs. Lee Cornelius, Rebecca Matthew, and other faculty and staff this all-day event brought experts from Athens and surrounding counties who spoke about and conducted workshops on promoting social justice in the areas of homelessness, corrections, health, poverty and discrimination, among many topics. Our own Dr. June Gary Hopps was awarded the first annual Bridge Award by our students, honoring one who has helped to span divisions and inspire hope and action for social justice. The symposium was a tremendous and moving success, and I am extremely grateful for the commitment given to it not only by our students, faculty and staff, but also by members of the Athens community, the UGA Office of Sustainability and the UGA Office of Multicultural Services and Programs.
As you move forward into 2017, my wish for all of you—for all of us—is that we, too, find ways to inspire hope and action.
Dr. Jane McPherson (standing at left) and students display letters they wrote for Amnesty International's Write for Rights campaign.
Dr. David Okech and Dean Anna Scheyett at the 2017 SSWR Annual Meeting.
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University of Georgia
School of Social Work
279 Williams Street
Athens, GA 30602