Message from the Deans
It is with enormous pride that we introduce these articles on student leadership. You will learn about the emergence of a strong Student Association, the effects of student advocacy on state policy, and the special recognition of students for excellence within the classroom and the community. We have been inspired and invigorated by our students this year and are reassured that the future of the social work profession is indeed held in the capable hands, minds, and hearts of our alumnae/i.For more information about what’s happening at the School, visit our website or give us a call at 610.520.2600
— Marcia Martin, Ph.D. ’82, and Raymond Albert, Co-Deans
Student Association Revitalized
Through the leadership of Anneliese Butler ’01, M.S.S. ’06, and Josh Noble, M.S.S., M.L.S.P. ’07, the GSSWSR Student Association (SA) has become a source of energy and advocacy, contributing greatly to School-wide spirit.The vision grew out of a Policy, Practice and Advocacy class project last spring, in which Butler, Jennifer Steimer, M.S.S., M.L.S.P. ’06, and Christina Cruz, assessed the state of community at the School. In fall 2006, that vision began to be translated into action.
Butler and Noble held two initial informational/brainstorming meetings and then developed a survey, asking students to identify ways in which they wanted to be more connected to their colleagues and to the School. Several students volunteered to help, including Kelly Strunk, M.S.S., M.L.S.P. ’06, who set up an electronic communications page for the SA.
The SA’s first event was an “Open Space” discussion on Hurricane Katrina. Students, staff, and faculty convened to discuss issues of loss, implications for social policy and budget, and media representations and “spin.” Subsequent events included a School-wide potluck picnic and pumpkin painting,a two-day call-in to urge Congress to stop the federal budget cuts to public benefits, and a Garden Day that included the planting of 350 daffodil bulbs and 200 daylilies on the School grounds.
In January, the SA organized a weekend training institute for students interested in community organizing and advocacy work. The training was conducted by Michael Gecan and his colleagues from the Industrial Areas Foundation, one of the most well-known social change organizations in the country.
The most visible project undertaken by the SA is an exterior courtyard mural that includes vibrant colors and rich designs contributed by students, faculty, and staff. Mosaic tiles and quotations depicting messages of peace, optimism and equality soon will be added to the mural. Inside the school walls, the SA continues to facilitate conversations on critical topics including, “Social Support vs. Social Control,” “The Micro-Mezzo-Macro Continuum,” and “Pessimism and Burnout in Social Work.”
The SA is currently developing a strategic plan through which their current efforts will be sustained over time. The feedback from students, staff, and faculty members has been overwhelmingly positive, and momentum continues to build.
McPherson Award Winners
The College honors McPherson Fellows annually from the faculty, the staff, and the graduate and undergraduate student bodies. These recipients are recognized for excellence and service to their communities. This year, the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research acknowledged two McPherson Fellows, Anneliese Butler ’01 and Howard Walters, both of whom received their M.S.S. degrees in May 2006.
Butler was a significant force in revitalizing the School’s Student Association. In addition, as a member of the School’s Policy Committee, she worked on developing a proposal for changing the student/faculty evaluation process and forms.
Walters, a 2002 alumnus of Millikin University, was named the Ruth W. Mayden Scholar in September 2005, an honor bestowed on a student who is committed to serving urban disadvantaged populations. For two years, Walters has provided leadership to the advocacy trip that visited Washington, D.C., in 2005 and New York City in 2006. The trip provides students with an opportunity to gain a macro-level understanding of the systems that affect all people in a society and the ways in which advocates can affect these systems.
Clinical SW Award Winner
The Pennsylvania Society for Clinical Social Work has announced that Leslie Hempling, M.S.S. ’06, is this year’s winner of the prestigious Patricia M. Burland award for excellence in preparation for clinical social work practice and leadership. Her paper, “Exploring Dynamics of Cultural Difference and the Therapeutic Alliance,” demonstrated a superb use of theory, an ease with abstraction and its elaboration in practice, and an empathic and disciplined use of self within the therapeutic relationship. Two of the award reviewers emphasized that Hempling’s paper was of publishable quality. The School is especially privileged to have one of our students honored with an award named for our alumna, Patricia Burland, M.S.S. ’56, whose reputation as a clinical social work practitioner, supervisor, and scholar is extraordinary.
Grassroots Advocacy Efforts
On April 11, 2006, the Pennsylvania State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors decided to no longer permit recent graduates of master’s social work programs to take the clinical social work licensing examination but rather require them to take the basic master’s level examination. This new policy was to be implemented on May 11, 2006, but as a graduate school of social work, we received no prior notification of this decision. By the time this decision was made public, most of our clinical social work students had been preparing for the clinical exam for several months; many had paid to take preparation courses and had purchased study guides.
In letters to the Board, the deans of the School and many students urged that the Board delay implementation of their decision, allowing for a full discussion and notification period. In addition, several students contacted Connie Williams, state senator from the 17th district, who in turn wrote to the secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of State, asking that the Board be required to give public notice of the change before implementation.
Well, all of these efforts worked! The Board has extended the deadline, allowing new applicants for a social work license to take the clinical social work examination until May 11, 2007. The interim director of NASW, PA, has informed the School that the change resulted in no small measure from the grassroots advocacy efforts of Bryn Mawr students, letters from the deans, and the responsiveness of Connie Williams.
On May 13, 2006, Laura Groves, Ph.D. ’06, delivered a convocation message on behalf of the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research. Drawing on her dissertation topic, social support, Groves suggested to her graduating colleagues that in order to most fully accomplish their personal and professional goals, they needed to be able to receive as well as to provide support. She emphasized that social support is reciprocal, a balance achieved through shifts over time. She went on to say, “The exchange of social support with those in all areas of our lives is a cycle that travels with us. I am asking those of us who are graduating this weekend to consider two things. First, to recognize the many ways in which we have been helped along the way in order to arrive at this place, and second, to be constantly mindful of the need to allow others to help us.” It is indeed a challenge to reconcile our drive for independence with our need for support.