Social Work seniors (left to right) Markie Moore, Chelsea Cordero, Lori Zerrusen, and Emily Chou pictured with Tanya Rhodes-Smith, Director of the Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work at UCONN (middle).
Four BSW undergraduate students from Seton Hall University (SHU) attended the Campaign School for Social Workers run by the Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work at the University of Connecticut (UCONN). The Campaign School for Social Workers was founded in 1996 and has supported more than 2,300 students, social workers, and leaders in policy and politics as volunteers and advocates.
Attending UCONN's Campaign School reinforced the importance of having social workers in multiple political settings. One of the SHU student participants, Chelsea Cordero, a current intern at Assemblyman Gary Schaer's office, is no stranger to the political arena. For her senior capstone project, Chelsea did a policy analysis entitled "Economic Equality in Urban Areas." A poster of her findings has been displayed at various social work and research conferences and aims to increase understanding about the need for wealth generated in urban areas to be repurposed back into these communities. After attending the UNCONN Campaign School, Chelsea commented "One day I will run, and I will make a change creating a difference. I will be representing those who do not think their voices will be heard."
Over the two-day event, social workers from different backgrounds emphasized the importance of inclusion in all sectors of the social work field, especially the political space. It was stressed that those impacted by legislation must be part of the process, reinforcing the "Nothing About Us Without Us" notion that is paramount in social work practice. This point resonated with Emily Chou, a senior SHU social work major who attended the UCONN Campaign School. Emily did her capstone work on the prevention of violence across the life course and found that people of color experience a higher number of adverse child events, negatively affecting their stress levels and overall well-being. She stressed, "Having more people of color in the legislative process is essential as it increases understanding about policies that need to be developed to help address childhood trauma."
From left to right: SHU seniors Markie Moore, Lori Zerrusen, Emily Chou, and Chelsea Cordero at the UCONN Campaign School.
The UCONN's Campaign School is not only valuable for those planning for focus their professional careers on policy. It is also a great opportunity to be exposed to an experience rich in social work values and discussion. Throughout the event, individuals of varying backgrounds shared their own knowledge about important social justice topics and experiences. Markie Moore, another SHU social work major attending the Campaign School, commented about the importance of the experience, "It attracts diverse individuals who provide insight into the most important and most overlooked issues that we should be paying attention to. Being in a room filled with people who have passion, competency, and a desire to change the world, is the easiest way to stay current as a social worker. Understanding important issues empower us to vote intentionally and research our representatives' positions on these issues."
Lori Zerrusen, a SHU senior who also attended, previously has done research focusing on the ways accessibility affects voting of people with disabilities. She stressed that "Social workers feel passionate about advocating for marginalized groups. During the Campaign School, we learned that social workers have the knowledge, empathy, and unique perspectives about the issues that affect all Americans, especially vulnerable populations." She hopes one day to be more involved in the political process, "it opened my eyes to the possibility I could run for office and make an impact on my community, something I had never considered before."
All SHU students left the event questioning, "Who better to change policies than a social worker?" The UCONN Campaign School experience reaffirmed students' understanding of the various levels of systemic injustice that affect the day-to-day lives of all Americans. The event highlighted the importance of the capstone projects that they completed, along with other SHU social work seniors, that focused on enhanced social and political justice. Their work can be seen at https://blogs.shu.edu/symposia/democracy-in-crisis/.
If you want to learn more about earning a BA in social work, a minor in social work, or a Social Work Policy and Justice Certificate at SHU, please contact the Program Director, Dr. Dawn Apgar, at firstname.lastname@example.org.