Four hundred social work students participated in the virtual 2010 Student Social Work Congress, part of the 2010 Social Work Congress.
Among the participants was Texas Christian University social work major Heather Brown, who said students are the successors to the profession and they need a say in how it will be shaped.
“We are the future,” she said. “The world is constantly changing and for me, I need to be a part of making change. I need to be mentored and be involved in order to continue the momentum of the leaders.”
The students represented 16 classrooms across the country, said Elizabeth Hoffler, co-chair for the 2010 Student Congress and special assistant to NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark.
“We made an effort to invite a representative population to the Student Congress,” Hoffler explained. “This included schools of social work that were diverse — geographically, ethnically and varied in their class focus.”
Participating social work professors taught their students through an NASW-produced curriculum guide that focused on promoting leadership in the profession. It outlined the history of the 2005 Social Work Congress and offered a guide to view the 2010 Social Work Congress via an interactive virtual environment. Students participated in two webinars, watched videos and drafted their own class imperatives, as well as voted on the 2010 Social Work Congress imperatives.
Using a website created for the event, students had the opportunity to view a live video stream from the Social Work Congress. The site also provided slides and a live chat session, said Ebony Jackson, co-chair of the Student Congress and Web designer at NASW. Social networking sites were also used before and during the event, Jackson said.
“The professors were enthusiastic and really helped to make this event successful,” Hoffler said.
Texas Christian student Brown said she was impressed by the congress, which boosted her motivation to make a change for the better.
“The stories and actions of all of the speakers were incredible,” Brown said.
She said the event also opened her eyes to how broad the profession can be. “Social work is not just direct practice, we have such a far-reaching scope,” Brown said.
Michael Fracum, an MSW student at the University of Maryland, was also a Student Congress participant.
“It was an amazing opportunity to connect with leaders and emerging leaders,” he said. “My professional identity has been helped in knowing that I have a say in the outlook of the profession.”
Fracum added that he believes leadership is critical in social work education.
“It’s good to know that something like this took place and we can build on it to strengthen the profession in the future,” he said.
The Student Congress list of imperatives and the result of how the students voted on the imperatives from the broader congress will be included in a final report of the 2010 Social Work Congress.
Some of the issues that students tackled in their own imperatives included social work safety, public education, loan forgiveness, title protection and salaries.