Social Work Students Support Social Justice: at State Capitol and in Local Community

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Social Work Students Support Social Justice: at State Capitol and in Local Community

More than two dozen students and faculty from the UND Department of Social Work renewed a former tradition by visiting the 62nd North Dakota Legislative Assembly on March 7, 2011. Leaving before day break, braving winter conditions, and persevering through a breakdown of their bus, the students promoted their work at UND, attended committee hearings, and met with state officials.

The trip was coordinated in response to an invitation from the North Dakota chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW-ND) to support Social Justice Advocacy Day at the Capitol. Nancy Miller, NASW-ND Executive Director, coordinated this first-time event, and invited social work students and professionals from across the state to take part. The UND group was also joined by NASW-ND chapter President David Bialik.

Upon arrival, students were greeted by UND alumni Representative Corey Mock and Senator Mac Schneider. The two gave an overview of the legislative process and highlighted key issues of the current session. Students received packets of information about the workings of the legislature and specific literature that outlined the social justice topics relevant to their profession. Additionally, they were then made aware of specific hearings related to those issues that had been scheduled for the day.

Students learned tips on giving testimony and on being advocates for oppressed and disadvantaged populations. Committee hearings that were attended covered issues related to budgeting for human services, child support enforcement, compensation for service providers, medical payments for inmates, expanding service payments for the elderly and disabled, and eligibility requirements for medical assistance. The presence of social work students was acknowledged in the Health and Human Services Committee.

After attending the morning sessions, students and faculty were greeted by Grand Forks Representative Lois Delmore during lunch and heard from the Director of the Division of Children and Families Services, Tara Muhlhauser, who announced a child welfare stipend program now available for social work students. Additionally, Julia Geigle, BSSW graduate, incoming MSW student, and the Grand Forks representative for NASW-ND, discussed her work with the legislature as the clerk for the House Appropriations Committee (Human Services Subdivision) and her perspectives as a social worker during this process.

After lunch, students were invited to sit on the floor of the House and Senate during the afternoon session with Grand Forks County and other elected officials from around the state. After the session, BSSW student Holly Williams and MSW student Anna Barth were interviewed by KFYR in Bismarck, where they quickly learned the importance of offering sound bites that would help to represent the profession of social work in a positive manner.

Kathryn Schill, MSW student and President of Phi Alpha Honor Society and Renae Kemp, BSSW student and President Student Social Work Association, took the lead in organizing this event by securing funds from Student Government, scheduling events, and coordinating with NASW-ND. In addition to their advocacy work at the state level the two have led the UND student social work clubs in providing volunteer services in the local community.

Social Work activities for the 2011 academic year have included:

• Painting bowls for the St. Vincent of Grand Forks Empty Bowl Project• Greeting and helping fundraise at the Northlands Rescue Mission Annual Banquet• Decorating the Grand Forks Senior Center for the holidays• Wrapping holiday gifts for the Community Violence Intervention Center• Running games and activities at the St. Vincent of Grand Forks Halloween Costume Give-Away• Making blankets for the Children’s Advocacy Center in Grand Forks• Packing and delivering food to local seniors for Red River Valley Community Action• Packing food for the Feed My Starving Children event• Greeting families and helping with activities at the annual Hands-On Learning Fair

To recognize their significant attendance at Social Justice Advocacy Day on March 7, NASW-ND representatives Nancy Miller, David Bialik, and Julia Geigle will be presenting a Participation Award to UND Social Work students at the department’s annual Spring Banquet on Thursday, May 5. The banquet is coordinated and partly funded by the Student Social Work Association and Phi Alpha Social Work Honor Society as a way to thank students for all the hard work they have done in the community during the past academic year.


UND Phi Alpha and the Student Social Work Association included on Good Morning America's Your Three Words video segment

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