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Social Work majors work to improve lives — including their own

Social Work majors gather outside of Thompson Hall with the research poster they designed to help them with advocacy efforts for social work standards reform this past spring. They are, from left, Danny Galusha, Antonio Regulier, Ian Jutsum, Kelly Forstbauer and Kathryn Feather.

The Social Work department at Fredonia has been steadily expanding. In the fall of 2007, the entering cohort consisted of 18 students. By the fall of 2013, that number had nearly tripled, soaring to 53.

The department’s mission is to promote the growth and development of students, the university, and the world around them, according to Program Director Brian Masciadrelli. “We want to influence all of these in a positive direction,” Dr. Masciadrelli said.

The Social Work faculty is focused on educating students, preparing them for life after graduation, and giving them real-life learning opportunities during their baccalaureate studies. Recently, a group of undergraduates had a life-changing experience in Albany, N.Y., as they advocated for legislative change regarding child welfare.

Assistant Professor and Field Coordinator Rolanda Ward is heading a research project titled, “Understanding the Investment of Child Welfare Training at the Bachelor of Social Work Level.” She is the Principal Investigator, and she’s organized five students who have served as her research assistants, including: Kathryn Feather, Kelly Forstbauer, Danny Galusha, Ian Jutsum and Antonio Regulier. The research team recently went to Albany to advocate for child welfare policies and funding. Currently, almost anyone with an undergraduate degree can become a child welfare worker. However, that person is often incapable, because he or she has not been educated in the field. The team talked to legislators about the demands placed on child welfare workers and the importance of properly educating them. They then asked state lawmakers for their support in increasing these standards.

Dr. Ward noted, “We were not advocating for social work in Albany; we were advocating for the well-being of children.”

This all started as a research project. The team collected information on child welfare programs, and eased into the process of advocating.

“Advocating in Albany really gave me a sense of accomplishment. It’s an experience that I will always remember,” Ms. Forstbauer said. “It showed me that, even as an undergrad, I can make a difference. It was proof that if we, as students, put our hearts and minds into something, we can achieve a positive change.”

Mr. Regulier was also deeply impacted by the experience, saying, “Before Albany we were all dedicated to what we were researching and fighting for, but once we got to Albany, the feeling I had was surreal. Legislators truly noticed our dedication and passion for child welfare, and they took us very seriously.”

The research team is returning to Albany within the next year to further advocate for funding and policy change.

“In the Social Work department, we want our students to be exposed to opportunities that will help them establish skill sets,” Dr. Ward added. “These advocacy projects are graduate-level work, and they will certainly help students establish the skill sets we are striving for.”

Another goal of the department is to strengthen the bond with today’s students and Fredonia graduates. Social Work alumni are welcome to return to Fredonia as Field Instructors, as long as they went through the capstone practicum. They are also welcome to be a part of “large group days,” a professional development opportunity designed to teach students something about which alumni are especially knowledgeable. Alumni are also welcome to be a part of the department’s year-end celebration. Each year, the department invites a graduate who has gone directly to graduate school, as well as one who went out to work in the field, to share their experiences with seniors.

“It is a significant opportunity for graduates to share with current students the true potential of what their future can be,” Dr. Masciadrelli added. “We’re hoping we see more and more of this happening as our numbers of students and soon-to-be graduates steadily grow.”

posted @ Tuesday, September 02, 2014 7:09 PM by Nick Gunner

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