School of Social Work

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

As the Council on Social Work Education’s 67th Annual Program Meeting opens on Nov. 4 in Orlando, Florida, the VCU School of Social Work recognizes our faculty, students and alumni whose work has been accepted for the conference, along with an additional honor for one of our faculty from the Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education in Social Work.

The theme for this year’s conference is Leading Critical Conversations: Racial, Economic and Environmental Justice.

The “Spirit Murdering” of Black Students by Social Work Education

Assistant Professor Jamie Cage,  Ph.D.; Ph.D. student Britney Pitts; B.S.W. student Oscar Kemp; Associate Professor in Teaching Daryl Fraser, M.S.W.; Assistant Professor Nicole A. Corley, Ph.D.; and Associate Professor in Teaching Stephanie Grady Odera, Ed.D.

*Accepted but not presenting: This presentation was accepted as a Panel with the African Americans and the African Diaspora Track.

The socio-historical contributions of Black practitioners and scholars are all but erased from the standard social work curricula. Instead, the curriculum taught in most institutions is from a Eurocentric and white supremacist framework that promotes meritocracy in a profession that is intended to promote justice. The outcome is racist teachings that devalue Black people and communities. When Black people are centered in the curriculum, it is often from a deficit paradigm where Black families and communities are described as disadvantaged, at-risk, maladaptive, helpless, and in need of the saving and support of social workers. Black students are fed these messages in the classroom and asked to reinforce these stereotypes in their field/practicum placements. These teachings and racist depictions of Blackness are “spirit murdering,” a term coined by Patricia Williams (1991) to describe how racism robs “people of color of their humanity and dignity and leaves personal, psychological, and spiritual injuries” (Love, 2019). The result is “a slow death, a death of the spirit, a death that is…intended to reduce, humiliate and destroy people of color” (Love, 2019). 

Through case vignettes, the panel will illustrate how social work education is murdering the spirits of Black students. The panel will discuss the need for educators to 1) illuminate the voices and experiences of Black students in social work programs; 2) critique the origins and practices of the profession; 3) analyze school culture and curriculum to inform changes in educational practices/policies to disrupt the “spirit murdering” of Black students. We want Black students to graduate from programs and enter the field with a positive culturally-conscious identity, not a Blackface with a white mask that murders their spirit (Fanon, 1952). Therefore, the panel will lead the audience in a discussion about ways to improve social work education so that Black students enter the field with their “spirit intact.” 

Learning objectives:

  1. To understand and discuss how white supremacy embedded in social work education is “spirit murdering” to Black students. 
  2. To identify concrete ways to move from conversation to actionable practice in shifting social work education and curricula to be anti-racist and affirming for Black students. 

Belonging to Each Other: Exploring Healing Relationships in Social Justice Work

Mary McGovern (M.S.W.’21/SW), White Cloud Therapeutic Services, LLC;  and Assistant Professor Nicole A. Corley, Ph.D. 

*Accepted but not presenting: An interactive workshop accepted in the Cultural Competence Track

Scholars have noted the systemic and internalized pressures that often undermine social and racial justice work. This workshop will guide participants into discovering new ways to interrogate their belief systems, connect with their embodied experience in an unjust world and explore practices that support personal and relational authenticity and growth.

Learning objectives:

  1. Attendees will learn strategies for developing an understanding and embodied awareness of how white supremacy sows separation and distrust at the personal, relational and community levels, as well as the importance of healing relationships to social justice work.
  2. Attendees will explore practices and resources for engaging with individuals and communities in ways that support authenticity, connection, trust and belonging.
  3. Attendees will be able to demonstrate the importance of inclusive, post-oppositional, non-hierarchical structures and practices in their work to transform oppressive structures

Seeking Radical Belonging: Emergence and Inclusion in Preparing for Racial Justice Work

Mary McGovern (M.S.W.’21/SW), White Cloud Therapeutic Services, LLC;  and Assistant Professor Nicole A. Corley, Ph.D. 

*Accepted but not presenting: An oral presentation accepted in the Human Behavior and the Social Environment Track

White supremacy is enacted and experienced in relationship. This paper introduces an emergent, multi-disciplinary approach encouraging social work students to explore intersections of critical scholarship, developmental theory, on-the-ground activism, embodied healing practices and visionary frameworks can provide them holistic strategies to engage racial justice work at personal, micro, mezzo and macro levels.

Learning objectives:

  1. Attendees will learn how an emergent, interdisciplinary approach to study can support social work students in developing a deep, embodied understanding of the impacts of white supremacy at the personal, relational, organizational and community levels.
  2. Attendees will learn about non-traditional, experiential resources that can support social work students in developing the practical skills and social-emotional capacities for challenging racial justice work.
  3. Attendees will be provided a resource list of texts, websites, authors and videos to increase their understanding of healing relationships in social and racial justice.

Reimagining an anti-racist child welfare system: Implications for social work education

Ph.D. student Camie Tomlinson; Child Welfare Stipend Program Coordinator Naomi Reddish, M.S.W.; Assistant Professor Hollee A. McGinnis, Ph.D.; Assistant Professor Jamie Cage, Ph.D.; Associate Professor in Teaching Daryl Fraser, M.S.W.; and ASPCA Director of Research Shelby E. McDonald, Ph.D.

*Accepted but not presenting: The presentation was accepted as an Interactive Workshop within the Child Welfare track.

The U.S. child welfare system was originally developed to serve poor, white children and families. Slavery and Jim Crow laws largely excluded Black families and children from services until the 1960s-1970s following the Civil Rights movement (Billingsley & Giovannoni, 1972; Pryce & Yelick, 2020). However, Black families and children have been overrepresented in the U.S. child welfare system since the early 1970s (Billingsley & Giovannoni, 1972). Relatedly, Black families experience disparate outcomes at every stage of the child welfare system continuum, from intake and assessments to foster care and adoption (see Berger & Slack, 2020; Cénat et al., 2020, for a review). Efforts to understand and address this disproportionality remain ongoing (e.g., Berger & Slack, 2020; Dettlaff, 2021). The purpose of our workshop is to engage practitioners, educators and researchers to strategize how to best prepare the next generation of child welfare practitioners and policy advocates (i.e., social work students) to address anti-Black racism and the overrepresentation of Black families within the child welfare system.

Learning Objectives:

  1. To understand and discuss racial injustices within the child welfare system, while critically reflecting on the sociocultural and historical context of anti-Black racism in the U.S.
  2. To engage in reflection and discussion on anti-racist child welfare practice and policies
  3. To explore how to incorporate material on the historical, sociocultural context of child welfare into social work child welfare courses to best prepare students to engage in anti-racist practice that advances social and economic justice

A Workshop on Trauma Informed Self-care for Racial, Economic, and Environmental Justice

Rebecca Gomez, Ph.D., associate professor; Patricia Galan-Cisneros, M.A., LMSW, Ph.D. candidate, Catholic University of America; Erika J. Hildebrandt, LCSW, Ph.D. candidate, Our Lady of the Lake University; Jennifer A. Vasquez, LCSW, Ph.D. candidate, Our Lady of the Lake University
Interactive workshop accepted in the Interprofessional Collaboration Track.

1:45 p.m. ET Friday, Nov. 5, Dolphin, Walt Disney World Resort, Southern Hemisphere 4/Fifth Level

This presentation reflects the experiences of four social work professionals in higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic. Utilizing the lens of collective trauma, cultural trauma, and shared trauma, their experiences as academic educators, field educators, and academic administrators across institutions framed by feminist trauma theory. The perspectives and responses of a large public institution, small private religious institutions, Hispanic Serving Institutions (HIS) and a Primarily White Institution (PWI) represented are shared. The role of trauma-informed teaching in supporting students, staff and faculty is offered as a way to promote professional post-traumatic growth outcomes.   

Learning Objectives:

  1. Recognize the collective nature of administrative, faculty and student pandemic impacts and experiences as related to social work education. 
  2. Understand faculty role and responsibility in addressing students within a holistic bio-psycho-social-spiritual lens addressing human needs physical, psychological, social, and spiritual.  
  3. Identify trauma informed teaching practices needed to address collective experiences exhibited in the learning environment.

Benchmarks along your journey to scholar
Professor Kia J. Bentley, Ph.D., LCSW. Presentation to GADE Doctoral Student Breakfast as recipient of the 2021 GADE Award for Educational Leadership in Doctoral Education.

Friday, Nov. 5, Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education in Social Work/CSWE Doctoral Student Breakfast.

Award details

Categories Education, Faculty and staff, Research, Students
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