Student Development Is Key to Mission

This month, the 2010 Social Work Congress convenes in Washington to outline our profession’s challenges and opportunities, and to chart a course to better serve our constituency. Faced with the enormous social and economic upheaval in our country and its devastating impact on the underrepresented, a key focus of this event will be to encourage leaders — from those who are new to the profession to mid-career professionals and fully seasoned social workers — to step up and be heard. By blending experience with innovation, we can work to advance the profession and secure a better future for others.

Essential to our mission is the engagement and development of our social workers-in-training: current BSW and MSW students. The 2010 Student Social Work Congress will be held virtually, in conjunction with the Social Work Congress, bringing to the table 400 social work students in classrooms across the United States. To bring this idea to fruition, we invited social work faculty members to apply for their classes to participate, and the selection committee chose a final group of classes based on diversity, class focus, geography, experience with technology, and written narratives describing why their class should be selected.

The 2010 Student Social Work Congress will engage students through a variety of interactive online tools, including a “virtual environment” that will house videos, webinars and resources. Students have had the opportunity to ask questions regarding the logistics, technology and content of the event during live webinars and were provided with a welcome video and resources regarding the history of social work. In addition, they are able to join the 2010 Student Social Work Congress Facebook group and Twitter feed in order to virtually meet one another and create a leadership cohort.

Professors have been provided with a curriculum guide to review the process behind the 2005 congress and to prepare students for participation in the 2010 Student Social Work Congress. On April 22 and 23, students will have the opportunity to view the general sessions and final voting process streaming live. In addition, students may chat live with one another, participate in polls regarding the profession and vote on the final imperatives. Students will have the option of voting on whether they agree that the imperative is necessary to address the future needs of social work, and they may provide a comment about their vote.

The 2010 Student Social Work Congress is an exceptional opportunity for students to represent their peers nationwide and to voice their opinions. It is critical that we listen carefully. We often discuss leadership in our profession, many of us mentoring students and emerging professionals, but this dual event will move us toward fresh thinking and broader-reaching action that will span and serve multiple generations. We, as teachers, will educate and inform student leaders; student leaders will enlighten teachers as both groups seek to change the status quo. In this world and its virtual companion, that’s the way it should be.