The School of Social Welfare focuses on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

In keeping with social work's historic and enduring commitments to further social and economic justice and to serve people who are vulnerable, marginalized, or oppressed, the School of Social Welfare held several events focused on diversity, equity and inclusion during the semester. Following are some of the events that took place at the school last semester, with more scheduled for Spring 2017.

The Gathering 3.0

The Gathering is currently in its third year. SSW doctoral student Samantha Fletcher (MSW ‘14) and Dawn Knight-Thomas, Assistant Dean for Student Academic Affairs, established The Gathering to create a positive and inclusive campus climate. They facilitate discussions to bring a deeper understanding of equity, diversity and social justice issues. With the ultimate goal of making inclusiveness a habit practiced by everyone in the School of Social Work, The Gathering provides a safe forum for participants to reflect on and challenge their assumptions about race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, religious affiliation, physical and mental ability, and immigration status.

On November 6th, Dawn Knight-Thomas, Samantha Fletcher, along with Assistant Professor Keith Chan and Dean Emeritus Katharine Briar-Lawson, led a discussion about The Gathering at the Council on Social Work Education’s Annual Program Meeting in Atlanta, GA. The presenters described the history of the group, the process of creating a safe space for difficult conversations, the art of facilitating emotional discussions, and the role of administration in supporting the group. Over a dozen social workers attended the discussion panel.

Also in November, lifelong social activist, Dr. Merle Longwood met with the group on campus to talk about his work in Mississippi during the civil rights movement. The Fall semester concluded with a week of consciousness raising about the experiences of Muslims in our community and throughout the United States. Several faculty members, staff, and students wore a hijab signifying solidarity with the Muslim community. Additionally, Gathering meetings were held to discuss the Islamophobia since the election.

A Schoolwide Post-Election Meeting: Recommitting to a Social Justice Mission

In November, the School of Social Welfare hosted a discussion about how to ensure social work values and ethics are front and center in this challenging sociopolitical climate. Every seat in the Husted Amphitheater was full. Students from our undergraduate, MSW and doctoral programs shared ideas to expand and fortify the social justice focus of the curriculum.

Social Justice Retreat for Faculty and Staff

The SSW is committed to increasing awareness of issues of race, class, gender, and other forms of inequity as central to the education that students should be receiving. To help prepare and train faculty and staff to better address and integrate social justice into the curriculum, SSW faculty and staff participated in a full-day retreat. The workshop was initiated and planned by the school’s newly formed Ad-Hoc Social Justice Committee. The interactive workshop was facilitated by Dr. Kenneth Hardy, an internationally recognized clinician, author, and trainer. The focus was on fostering the development of a multicultural relational perspective to education. Participants learned about strategies for deep engagement in difficult social justice conversations in the classroom. Content focused on the need for educators to recognize the influences of power, privilege and subjugation; to be able to locate themselves in these sensitive classroom conversations; and to be better facilitators of painful, fearful or uncomfortable discussions related to oppression and difference. The social justice retreat represents an ongoing commitment by the School of Social Welfare to social justice in the academic setting, the community, and the profession.