Inaugural fellowship takes students to D.C.
Hands-on experience is essential to social work education. It reinforces the material taught in the classroom and provides opportunities for students to apply and practice what they have learned. The Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work recognizes the importance of experience in education and is dedicated to not only providing opportunities for student experience but increasing the variety and breadth of those opportunities as well. This spring school faculty members, Alex Wagaman, Ph.D. and Matthew Bogenschutz, Ph.D., piloted a new opportunity for B.S.W. junior and seniors to supplement their required field experiences. They developed the B.S.W. Federal Policy Fellow program. The program is a competitive fellowship that provides students the opportunity to go to Washington D.C. to engage lobbyists, advocates and policymakers.
“Being a part of the inaugural Policy Fellowship has been incredibly fulfilling,” said B.S.W. junior Rebecca Carter. “I now feel empowered to enact change on a larger scale than I’d ever considered before. This experience has broadened my perception of just how powerful social workers can be,” Rebecca continued.
“Being selected for the B.S.W. Federal Policy Fellowship was without doubt one of the best experiences of my social work education,” echoed B.S.W. senior Amy Malloy.
In addition to visiting the Capitol and the Supreme Court, the students met with officials from the National Association of Social Workers‘ national office, talked with school alumna and current executive director of the National Coalition for Low Income Housing, Sheila Crowley, and advocated for improvements in low income housing policy at the office of Congressman Bobby Scott.
“The program gave me insight into the political realm and illustrated the importance of the role of a social worker in politics and policy making. I really feel like I can influence policies that affect society, and promote change for the betterment in the lives of the voiceless and oppressed,” said B.S.W. senior Kiley Mayfield.
As a part of the fellowship, the students worked collaboratively to build knowledge around current and emerging policy related to low income housing, learn the positions of stakeholders and craft an advocacy strategy for delivering socially and economically just recommendations to lawmakers.
“We really got the opportunity to work together as a team with the other policy fellows, to articulate a position to bring with us to Washington, and to present to actual policy makers. We had the opportunity to have our voices heard and it has done nothing but solidify my desire to be a social worker,” said B.S.W. senior Jonah Neff.
“Participating in the Federal Policy Fellowship Program was undoubtedly the highlight of my academic career at VCU. Working with Dr. Bogenschutz and Dr. Wagaman, and my amazing fellow students was such a fun and unique learning experience. It was an amazing opportunity to take the knowledge and skill I learned in the classroom and implement them in the real world,” said B.S.W. senior Patrick White.
Feature image at top: B.S.W. Federal Policy Fellows – including, from left Rebecca Carter, Patrick White, Amy Malloy, Chanel Mabry and Kiley Mayfield – at the Supreme Court of the United States.