Dear GSSWSR community,
At the GSSWSR, our students, faculty and staff have worked tirelessly to build and sustain a community of purpose and resolve. The COVID-19 pandemic challenged us to reconceptualize how we build community and, as social workers, how we can continue our work as advocates in new ways. Together, the GSSWSR was able to pivot to a virtual and synchronous learning environment while also prioritizing our capacity to engage in in-person field instruction when possible. I want to lift up the collective resilience of our community and the creativity and commitment shown during this difficult time by our students, faculty and staff. As social workers we often hold both strength and vulnerability at the same. So as we celebrate our collective resilience, it is important that we recognize and hold the pain, suffering and losses we have experienced as a community during COVID-19.
In addition to the structural inequities highlighted by the differential impact of COVID-19, this past year has highlighted the need for social work, as a profession, to reaffirm our commitment to changing systems that were formed in a context of white supremacy and that function to sustain marginalization, discrimination, and other forms of social, racial and economic injustice. Whether you choose to concentrate in “Clinical Social Work” or “Community, Practice, Policy and Advocacy”, we all share the responsibility to advocate for change at a systemic level; particularly with regard to policies and practices characterized by aspects of white supremacy culture that sustain systems of oppression and marginalization.
I invite you to join us as we lean into the ethics of our profession and reaffirm our resolve to recognize structural inequality and work against injustice and the legacy of racism in our society. We can engage this work in many ways, within our own community and as we collaborate and partner with our local, regional and national communities. As an example, the National Association of Deans and Directors (NADD) co-constructed an anti-racism position statement. The GSSWSR is part of this effort and our collective vision is that students, faculty and staff, along with coalitions of leadership on local and national levels, will develop a shared agenda to promote racial justice, including within the social work profession and schools of social work.
The work of social work is challenging, but working with the students, faculty and staff of the GSSWSR always creates optimism about the potential for collective change and resilience. As President Barack Obama stated, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” I am grateful you have chosen to join our community and I look forward to the work ahead.
With warmest wishes for your continued safety and health during the time,
Dean Janet Shapiro