March is National Social Work Month!

March is National Social Work Month!

This month, social workers around the country are celebrating the history and the future of their profession.

This year, social workers have extra cause for excitement: the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) turns 60 in 2015.

Founded in 1955 through the merger of seven organizations, the NASW is now the largest membership organization of social workers in the world.

But what do all of these social workers do?

These social workers serve individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities through public, non-profit, and private agencies. They work with children and with older adults. They help students at schools and workers through employee assistance programs. They provide care in hospitals, at nursing facilities, and through hospice. They work with those who have survived traumas, including domestic violence, armed conflict, and natural disasters. They work with those who seek to empower neighborhoods, to fight discrimination, and to advance human rights. They advocate with, and for, marginalized groups. They are service providers and researchers. They are policy makers and community organizers.

In the last six decades, social workers in the NASW have advocated with, and for, all Americans, including women; children; older adults; individuals of different abilities and racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds; and individuals who identify themselves as members of the LGBT community. They’ve been involved in campaigns that have led to voting rights, access to physical and mental healthcare, and funding for social services. They’ve responded to the needs of military personnel and their families; individuals with HIV/AIDS; and survivors of tragedies like the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina.

The NASW provides for the advancement of social work professionals through opportunities for networking; support for licensure and continuing education; and the operation of various specialty divisions like the NASW Press, the NASW Legal Defense Fund, and the NASW Social Work Ethics and Law Institute. The organization also raises awareness about the social work profession, through efforts like the creation of National Social Work Month and the development of www.SocialWorkersSpeak.org, which explores how the news and entertainment industries portray social workers and the issues social workers address.

To learn more about the history of the NASW and of social work, visit the interactive timeline on the NASW website. To learn more about the future of social work, check out the work of the students, faculty, and staff here in the Department of Social Work at the College of Community and Public Affairs (CCPA) at Binghamton University.

I came to CCPA after earning a bachelor’s degree in integrative neuroscience through the Harpur College of Arts and Sciences at Binghamton University. I’m now finishing the second year of the Master of Social Work (MSW)-Master of Public Administration (MPA) dual-degree program in CCPA. I’m often asked exactly what I’m going to do with this combination of educational experiences. I think I’ve got a lot of options.

By the time I graduate in the spring of 2016, I will have completed more than 25 courses in social work and public administration; three years in a graduate assistantship with Dr. Victoria Rizzo, Associate Professor and Department Chair in the Department of Social Work; and two field placements that will have afforded me more than 1,000 hours of professional experience. I spent last year with the Youth and Outreach Services team at Family & Children’s Service of Ithaca. In the fall, I’ll start working at United Health Services Wilson Medical Center in Johnson City, under the Manager of Social Work.

My classmates are providing clinical mental health services through agencies like the Binghamton University Counseling Center, the Lourdes Memorial Hospital Center for Mental Health, and the Samaritan Counseling Center of the Southern Tier. They’re working to help develop a system of community schools through the Broome County Promise Zone. They’re providing for older adults through the Hartford Partnership Program for Aging Education, which includes field placements with agencies like the Broome County Office for the Aging and the Rural Health Network. They’re working with those who have struggled with substance abuse at the Addiction Center of Broome County and with those who have survived domestic violence through RISE. They’re serving the community through organizations like Catholic Charities, Family & Children’s Society, and the United Way. The MSW program has field placement partnerships with more than 200 organizations, offices, and agencies across the Southern Tier and throughout the surrounding counties.

We learn from an incredible team of faculty and staff. Find out more about their research and service – in areas like trauma-informed practice, sexual assault prevention on college campuses, community-engaged schools, and healthcare – by checking out the Faculty and Staff section of the Department of Social Work website.

But, regardless of our past experiences, our current work, and our future plans, the students, faculty, and staff in the Department of Social Work are all united through the core values of the NASW: we believe in service, social justice, the dignity and worth of the person, the importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence. We all want to “pave the way for change. “

Emily Tier
Bachelor of Science, Integrative Neuroscience, 2011
Master of Public Administration, expected 2016
Master of Social Work, expected 2016

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It’s About the Journey not the Destination

Something that I have been trying to remind the second year graduate social work students that I teach is to enjoy this time in graduate school, as this program with their peers is a once in a life time experience. The students typically roll their eyes, groan and sigh as I say this. Especially now as they are halfway through the semester with less than 9 weeks until graduation. They talk about how their lives have been put on hold, the sacrifices that they have made to pursue this professional degree. I challenge them to look at the journey along the way, not just the end goal, and the destination of graduation. This parallels a lot with the Grief, Loss and Bereavement in Social Work Practice Elective which I am teaching this semester, and the years which I spent working in the hospice field of social work.

We are always in a hurry to get to the next thing, obtain the next goal, the next degree, the next job, publish the next article, move into the next house, finish the next semester, etc, are we forgetting to be present in the current moment? Consider the following…

“First I was dying to finish high school and start college. And then I was dying to finish college and start working. And then I was dying to marry and have children. And then I was dying for my children to grow old enough for school so I could return to work. And then I was dying to retire.
And now I am dying…

And suddenly I realize I forgot to live”.

– anonymous

We are all busy, we all have deadlines and due dates and bosses and families and are juggling a million things. But are we so busy that we cannot be present in the moment? I am as guilty as the next person. A skill which we teach social work students is to be present. While working with a client(s) be present, be with them be in that sacred space to help them. We teach this to students, but do we practice it ourselves? As you are reading this blog, how many other tabs do you have open, what else are you doing? When was the last time that you did one thing at a time?

This blog is cathartic for me to write in the present moment as I need to be reminded of being present and enjoying the journey myself. My time where I was 100% present was while I was running or practicing Baptiste Yoga. I recently got caught up training for a ½ marathon and I lost sight of my journey, running and practicing yoga for the cleansing and centering that it offered me. I got caught up in the destination, the training miles and the schedule of on days and off days and the pressure. I was not present. I am now in a cam walker boot, nursing a calf tear for the third time and I feel like my life is spiraling out of control because I have lost my center. It is time to readjust my journey and find another way to center myself. When I was on a healthier journey of centering and cleansing I had incorporated meditation into my life. It is time to incorporate meditation again.

Many patients who I have had the pleasure of working with as they have approached death under hospice care share that they have regrets. As they approach death they share that they wish that they had spent more time with family and friends, they wish that they had been more present. They wish that they had said the things that mattered. They wish that they hadn’t been so busy doing, rather than living. A book that the Grief, Loss and Bereavement in Social Work Practice read was The Four Things That Matter Most, by Dr. Ira Byock. I was pleased that the students took the time to slow down and read a non-text book. This books talks about telling those people in your life whom you care about, “I love you, thank you, please forgive me and I forgive you.” Many students reflected up how this book can be used not only in their professional but also personal lives.

What do you need to incorporate into your life in order to slow down and enjoy the journey? Are you living in the present, or are you focused on the destination? What might you be neglecting to reach your destination; health, family, friends, your true calling? Do those people who are important parts of your journey know that they are? If not take the time to tell them. I know that this takes time, start with 5 minutes and build on that slowly. You don’t want your life to be over before you truly lived it. I challenge you to reflect upon this and try something new, to be present with yourself and those you care about, they deserve it and so do you!

For those students graduating who are reading this, you have about 9 weeks left until graduation, breathe it in, and enjoy it! This is an experience that you will not get back, do not just wish it over! Tell someone whom you have met on this journey, “Thank you!” This will make you more mindful and centered as you move on to your new journey which lies ahead.

Sarah E. Hopkins, LMSW

Full Time Lecturer

Department of Social Work

Binghamton University

College of Community and Public Affairs

CCPA MPA faculty and alumni mourn the passing of Steve Jackson ’07

On Friday, January 30, the Binghamton MPA community suffered a terrible loss. Steve Jackson, (MPA, 2007), passed away suddenly, leaving a void in the hearts of those who called him a friend.

I met Steve in the summer of 2005; we both were starting our MPA degrees and were part of a small, but cohesive cohort of enthusiastic students. Before the MPA program was located in the beautiful downtown space, it was housed on the main campus in the library basement. Steve and I were both graduate assistants who shared a small office space with Denis Scott (MPA, 2007) and Jennifer Miller (MPA, 2007) in a windowless room that was nearly impossible to find. Some of my fondest memories from graduate school took place in that basement-we laughed, rushed to finish last minute assignments, had regular lunches, slept on the couch that we moved in there, and occasionally were able to complete some work.

I, like so many others, was devastated by the news of Steve’s untimely passing-Steve was always so full of life, able to make a joke, break the ice, and make everyone smile. He was an amazing ambassador for the MPA program and was a true public servant. After moving to Binghamton, Steve quickly integrated himself into the tightknit community-volunteering, taking an interest in local politics, and frequenting area small businesses. He soon considered Binghamton his home.

In early 2006, Steve, myself and several other MPA students traveled to New Orleans to volunteer in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He spoke with everyone he could, collecting stories of loss and hope, offering words of encouragement, and was visibly pensive and moved by the experience.

Within the MPA program, Steve established himself as a leader, excellent student, and a person, who other students gravitated toward-for help with classwork, to exchange ideas, and of course, for a good laugh. He was an incredibly humble person, who never spoke of his achievements nor did he like to be recognized publicly for the important work that he was doing, instead he preferred to quietly slip away when his name was mentioned.

Jennifer Whitehead (MPA, 2008) shares, “Steve was an academic, an expert, a professional. He was educated, and he was genuine. An intersection of all these qualities became one of the important things Steve had, something not really compatible with perfection, or with sainthood: he had credibility.

If Steve told me I had done something well, I believed him. If he guided me to a resource, a reference, a teacher, I trusted it. If he didn’t know an answer, he said so. We trusted Steve to help; we trusted him with our opinions. We trusted Steve with our things, and with our uncertainties. We trusted Steve to have fun with and we also trusted him to work really hard–we trusted him with group projects, and with academic problems. We trusted him to lead us. Not unique qualities in themselves, maybe, but Steve put them together in a singular way.”

Though modest about his accomplishments, Steve did love the stage as both a thespian and musician. I had the pleasure of seeing him perform on several occasions and always smiled when he signed emails “ROCK.” Denis Scott adds, “When Steve was in need of a more professional closing, he simply ended his emails with “Best.” Not “Best wishes,” or “Best regards,” just “Best.” This succinct sign-off fit Steve in every way. His curiosity, humor, and zeal for each project, paper, and meeting made good things better. Steve seemed to have a knack for adding special insights that created “a-ha” moments. Watching his face light up while his smile turned into an impish grin, then pausing for a beat to deliver the perfect one-liner… now that was the best.”

Processing the loss of Steve has been challenging for so many people-how do you fully understand the loss of someone who was so full of life? Over the past few weeks, I have connected with those who called Steve a friend and through tears and smiles we took the time to really remember him-the guy who drove a Honda Element; loved to eat Gouda and apples; had the basement apartment on Walnut Street where we would all gather after a night at the Belmar; and who, despite the stress of graduate school, could always elicit a laugh.

Best to you, Steve. Best.

Jennifer Miller
Cynthia Nuara
Denis Scott
Jennifer Whitehead