School of Social Work

No. 28 M.S.W. Program in the U.S.

The four newest members of the VCU School of Social Work faculty are two instructors for the online M.S.W. Program format and two visiting scholars who are part of the university’s iCubed initiative (Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry and Innovation).

We caught up with them and asked about their experiences so far in the 2019-20 academic year.

Kimberly C. Compton, instructor, Online M.S.W. Program; Ph.D. candidate

I’ve been blown away by the commitment to innovation and pedagogy in the online program. It wasn’t completely unexpected, but it was something I had hoped for. I have absolutely loved being able to work with a small and dedicated team of VCU faculty.

Portrait of Kimberly Compton, instructor, smiling
Kimberly Compton, instructor

What was a surprise was that I would also be working from people all over the United States to build and develop my courses. I have weekly meetings with instructional designers, which has given me the time and space to think deeply about how people learn and how to take something that is just an idea and to really shape it into a reality.

I am looking forward to more of this. In this next semester, I will be working with a team from VCU Online to build select courses for our Advanced Standing students. This represents a new phase of our program where ASP students will have access to our high-quality online courses as well. Working with the online M.S.W. team is a pleasure, and it brings me lots of joy to do this work and to feel so supported.

Maurice Gattis, iCubed Visiting Scholar, associate professor of social work; Ph.D.

The most pleasing experience of the Fall 2019 semester was assisting in the process of helping Richmond secure and implement the Grand Challenge to End Youth Homelessness sponsored by A Way Home America. The community’s dedication and commitment to the issue is extensive and impressive. The consistent inclusion of youth voices in the process in Richmond demonstrates a keen understanding of youth empowerment and their role in creating lasting solutions.

Portrait of Maurice Gattis, iCubed visiting scholar and associate professor, smiling
Maurice Gattis, iCubed visiting scholar and associate professor

The partnerships between the VCU School of Social Work, community leaders, service providers, youth and other stakeholders are thoughtful and strategic. It’s great to be able to merge research, policy, and practice in a project that attempts to create meaningful change. I am grateful that members of the team have embraced my presence and that I have the opportunity to work with such engaged collaborators.

I’m looking forward to continuing the work of the Grand Challenge in Spring 2020. We are convening with the other four cities in our cohort in Miami in February, and it will be the second time that we will meet. We’ll be able to measure progress, share successes, challenges, and continue to refine our strategies and action plan. Reconnecting with and cultivating our national network will help support our efforts and we can contribute lessons that we’ve learned with the other cities participating. The momentum of the movement serves as inspiration and catalyst for change.

Gattis, an associate professor at the University of Louisville, is currently a visiting scholar in iCubed’s program Intersections in the Lives of the LGBTQIA+ Communities.

Basil Gooden, iCubed Visiting Scholar, Sustainable Food Access, Ph.D.

During Fall 2019, I and my iCubed Visiting Scholar colleagues for the Sustainable Food Access Core, Drs. Nasibeh Zoriah (Computer Engineering) and John Jones (Environmental Sciences), developed a strategic plan focusing on identifying, coordinating and supporting activities that will strengthen the university’s internal capacity to effectively engage in sustainable food system innovation.

Portrait of Basil Gooden, iCubed visiting scholar, smiling
Basil Gooden, iCubed visiting scholar

For more than 20 years, I have worked to improve the health, education and economic well-being of underserved communities across the state and region. Using my networks of governmental officials, community leaders and academics, I focused much of my iCubed work on building internal and external collaborations to raise awareness and address food system issues.

Overall, the iCubed Sustainable Food Access core has been working to develop initiatives that will:

  • Increase awareness of the significant issues impacting sustainable food systems and generate interest within the university (among faculty, staff and students) to address these issues;
  • Conduct a comprehensive review of the food system issues within the university and identify solutions, courses, programs, and resources designed to address them;
  • Fully integrate and institutionalize sustainable food systems thinking and innovation as a key component of all university-wide strategic plans, especially the university’s Sustainability Plan;
  • Encourage and support the development of university research, teaching, programs, outreach, and innovation related to sustainable food systems; and
  • Engage with citizens, non-profits, and government agencies in the Greater Richmond Region to learn how the team’s research can benefit the region’s food system.

As a part of the VCU Campus Food Access Research Team (led by Dr. Youngmi Kim), I am helping to plan and will conduct focus group interviews with study participants in Spring 2020. Empirical research will explore and understand food insecurity and its associated risks among VCU students. The study’s aim is to highlight the impacts of various economic issues, notably food insecurity, and to inform innovative anti-poverty strategies. 

I am also leading the research team conducting the Comprehensive Review of the VCU Food System. We are seeking to document and make available information, initiatives and resources related to sustainable food access and food systems currently at VCU. A primary purpose of this project is to develop a repository of easily accessible information and data to better inform decision-making, planning and action-taking among students, staff, faculty and administration at VCU. 

Finally, I have planned, coordinated and will direct VCU Social Work’s 2020 Federal Policy Fellows Program. This program will provide students an understanding of political systems and will teach strategic skills to impact policy in the legislative and administrative arenas. Students will gain an understanding of various methods to effectively monitor, influence, and alter social policy. This year’s program will provide a survey of issues related to sustainable food access, food sovereignty and socially just food systems. The program focus includes learning about the policy advocacy process at the federal level, and spending two days in Washington, D.C., with faculty to engage lobbyists, advocates, governmental officials and Congressional Representatives.

Gooden has previously served as Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry; Virginia State Director for Rural Development at the United States Department of Agriculture; and Chief Deputy Director of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.

Carrie Hartwell, instructor, online M.S.W. program; Ph.D., LCSW

I’ve also been incredibly grateful for the warm reception I’ve received within the school, from faculty, staff, and students. This year has included a steep learning curve (with technology, particularly!) and my success thus far would not have been possible without all the guidance and gracious support I’ve been given.

Portrait of Carrie Hartwell, instructor, smiling
Carrie Hartwell, instructor

Last spring was an exciting time to join the School of Social Work! In addition to teaching, I’ve been primarily focused on updating and redesigning the curricula of our online clinical M.S.W. classes, along with the online team, and building these courses in our new learning management system. It’s been a pleasure to learn and re-envision ways of teaching clinical knowledge and skills in an online setting, with the help of some very innovative new technologies. The most rewarding part of the process has been having the opportunity to personally experience and teach the courses I’ve built with our new cohort of online students. I have always loved teaching, and it’s been a pleasure getting to reach a more diverse group of students and engage them in a whole new way. 

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