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Standing Up Together

SSW Celebrates the Profession During Social Work Month 

Community members join students, faculty and alumni from the School of Social Welfare Wednesday for a presentation on social justice by Salome Raheim. 

Ph.D. students from the School of Social Welfare write letters to political leaders during Social Work Month.

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 30, 2017) — Senior DuWayne Engram says he was attracted to the School of Social Welfare (SSW) because of his desire to help people reach their full potential.

For Jackie Servideo, also a senior, it was her faith, family and volunteer experiences that led her to the field.

Romel Wilson, a second year Master’s student at SSW, was working in engineering when his desire to make a greater impact on people and communities led him back to school.

Social work encompasses a wide range of disciplines in a wide range of fields. And as part of Social Work Month in March, SSW participated in a “Social Workers Stand Up” campaign developed by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) to celebrate the contributions of social workers, and to educate the public on the work that social workers do.

“Social workers stand up for millions of people every day. These include people who are experiencing devastating illnesses and mental health crises, our veterans, children, families and communities. Yet many people still misunderstand who social workers are and the invaluable contributions they bring to society,” according to NASW, an international organization of professional social workers with more than 130,000 members. Interim Provost Darrell Wheeler is president of its Board of Directors.

SSW hosted a series of events for Social Work Month, including panels on leadership and legislative advocacy. Students presented their work and alumni held forums. A workshop Wednesday on social justice, led by Salome Raheim, was one of the month’s highlights. Raheim spoke about uncertain social welfare policies in the changing U.S. political landscape, and social workers’ unique position and ethical obligation to influence change.

"Over 100 members of our social work community came together to stand up for our profession and celebrate the many contributions we make to Albany every day," SSW Interim Dean Lynn Warner said after the event.

SSW has about 90 undergraduate majors, and some 350 MSW and 60 Ph.D. candidates. The combined roster provides almost $6 million worth of social services to the Capital Region each year through field education, which includes placement at one of more than 400 community agencies.

Graduates work in clinical practice, in schools, in agencies focusing on family matters, mental health or substance abuse issues, or in management, law enforcement and policy roles. Their training in the classroom and in the field helps them find their role in the world of social work, and prepares them for a career once they graduate.

Alyssa Lotmore, SSW’s assistant to the dean for Alumni Outreach and Engagement, said the school strives to teach students the skills they need to understand people’s behavior in relations to the social environment they live in. “Our students learn to focus on client strengths, not problems and deficits, to empower them,” said Lotmore , BSW ’07, MSW ’08. “These are skills that make our students, and social workers in general, desirable employees because they use these valued frameworks.

Servideo, who had done volunteer work in South Africa and Malawi, was looking for a role in solving issues of poverty. For the past two years she has worked at the non-profit City Mission of Schenectady, which focuses on helping people get out of poverty.

“I help coordinate a group program called ‘Getting Ahead,’ where participants learn about ways to move from poverty to sustainability,” Servideo said. “It has been great learning a concept in class and going to work the next day to apply it.”

Wilson has used his time in SSW’s master’s program to focus on community and social justice, working in Albany with the Promise Neighborhood and My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper initiatives. He helped restart the Association of Black Social Workers and developed a social work radio show called SPEAK, Students Perspective on Education Advocacy and Knowledge.

The March series was a way “not only to celebrate our profession but to inspire and motivate each other to keep advocating and speaking out,” Lotmore said. “Our school tries to provide those real life experiences and examples so we can critically think, learn and grow.”

Ron Bunce, an SSW alum and the executive director of NASW’s New York chapter, said it was the school’s faculty and mentors that allowed him to learn and grow in the profession. “I didn’t just learn the what and how of social work practice, I learned to be reflective and think critically to better serve all people with particular emphasis on vulnerable and oppressed individuals.”

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