Month: September 2013

MSW Student Kyle Barrette Reports on His Summer 2013 UNICEF Fellowship in India

As part of their initiative to build a Knowledge Community on Children in India (KCCI), UNICEF sponsors an annual fellowship program that seeks to expand the knowledge base on issues and interventions aimed at women and children in India. UNICEF accepts applications from graduate and post graduate students from India and around the globe. This year, 32 fellows from 7 different countries were chosen to take part in the program. After applying, I was chosen as one of two students to represent the U.S. for this fellowship.

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Giving final presentation on our study to UNICEF officials in Delhi

As part of the fellowship program, UNICEF created teams of students based on areas of academic and professional experience and sent us to various project sites throughout India. The team I was placed with was tasked with evaluating UNICEF’s Community Based Disaster Risk Reduction (CBDRR) program being implementing in the northern state of Bihar.

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Field visit to Dwalakh village in northern Bihar, India

As part of our evaluation we carried out field research in 12 different villages and 12 different schools throughout the state. We carried out interviews and focused group discussions with NGO workers, community members and stakeholders to assess the program’s progress and how the program could be scaled up. The final outcome of the fellowship was a 30 page report on the CBDRR program that included an in-depth program assessment, suggestions for scaling up the program and policy implications.

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Marking the flood level on a raised housing platform during field visit

Sadly, as we were carrying out our fieldwork, a state in North India, Uttarakhand, experienced one of the most devastating landslides to hit the country in the past 200 years. In light of this natural disaster, the program we were evaluating was placed in the national spotlight as a proposed model to reduce the effects of similar disasters in the future and is currently poised to be implemented throughout the country. Because of this disaster event, our supervisor was forced to leave in the middle of our field work to carry out a needs assessment for survivors and we were asked to present our findings to the state team that had been assembled to direct reconstruction. This was an immense honor and led me to realize the importance of the work that my team was doing.

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At UN offices in Patna, Bihar

After returning from fieldwork and finalizing our report, UNICEF administrators were impressed with our analysis of the program and selected our report for publication. The report will be used for internal and external advocacy, and to help bring the CBDRR program to other parts of India where UNICEF operates. UNICEF officials also requested that we give a presentation of our findings to the India country office, the Director of UNICEF in India, and to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) of India. This was a great honor and it was a hopeful to see that our policy recommendations were given recognition by members of the national government. Members of our evaluation team recently received work that the NDMA has chosen to pilot the CBDRR program in partnership with UNICEF in three new states in India and has implemented two of our policy recommendations for the program.

As the fellowship came to a close, all fellows were asked to prepare a story of our most significant experience of change. I had come to realize many things about myself throughout the summer and this story offered me a great opportunity to process and document much of the change I had experienced. As a westerner working in India, the weight of my privilege often caused me to speculate on the role I could play in working towards positive change in India. However, throughout my experience I continued to build close relationships with those I lived with and the families I met during our visits to disaster effected villages. This experience illustrated the strength of human connection in overcoming barriers and obstacles and revealed appropriate ways in which I could work towards positive change in a country that was not my own.

These stories of change were compiled and reviewed by the UNICEF country office to better understand our experience. Of great personal honor, my story was selected by UNICEF officers for publication on their website and I was asked to give a reading of the story to UNCEF officials at the closing workshop for the fellowship program.

As I return to the United States and settle back into life in my home country, I continue to realize the totality of this experience and I know it is one I will carry with me for the rest of my life. This experience has helped me to realize what I am capable of, both as an individual and as a social worker. This experience has caused me to expand my conceptualization of the social work profession and has allowed me to see the important role that social workers can play in international development efforts. As I move forward from this experience I plan to advocate for further integration of social workers within international development efforts and for the expansion of international content in social work curriculum.

MSW Alums Nate Fox and Barbara Shaw Helped Organize the Passage of A Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights

Connecticut is only the third state to pass An Act Concerning A Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights. The historic measure, serves to protect the basic rights of all Connecticut residents by mandating the equal treatment of people experiencing homelessness, specifically by reaffirming their civil liberties and preventing discrimination based on homelessness.

At the ceremony in July, Governor Malloy praised the new law and emphasized its importance in promoting dignity and respect for all residents. Prior to its passage, the legislation faced a lengthy journey through the Legislature, passing through four legislative sub-committees before being approved by the Connecticut Legislature on June 5 in a show of bipartisan support. Joining the Governor at the ceremony was a number of supporters of the bill including Hands On Hartford Executive Director, Barbara Shaw MSW ’87, and Nate Fox MSW ’13.

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Governor Malloy Signs Homeless Bill

The law will go into effect on October 1, 2013. Connecticut joins a growing national movement to protect the civil and human rights of people experiencing homelessness by inscribing them into law.

The purpose of the Homeless Bill of Rights according to Nate Fox, a community organizer with Hands on Hartford and a principal promoter of the bill’s introduction and passage, is to “raise public awareness and create an institutional response” to the “deferential treatment and structural issues that… sustain homelessness.” In addition to reaffirming the right to vote, personal property and privacy, the bill guarantees that people experiencing homelessness receive equal treatment from police officers and have the right to be in public areas free from unjust persecution. Fox hopes that the Homeless Bill of Rights will provide “recourse and accountability” if homeless individuals are subject to continued discrimination. In response to the opposition, which deemed a Homeless Bill of Rights as giving homeless people preferential treatment, Fox said “it is about people who have unequal rights and bringing them up to a level of equal rights.”

Rhode Island was the first state to create a Homeless Bill of Rights, which was signed into law June 2012, inspiring organizers in Connecticut and Illinois to move forward on similar pieces of legislation. Fox believes that expanding a Homeless Bill of Rights to every state “can and should be done – the progress in Rhode Island, Illinois, and Connecticut will raise the public dialogue and change some of that apathy, stigma, and stereotyping” that promotes the cycle of homelessness.”

The School of Social Work’s Partnership with Armenia

Promoting global social work education is an area of strength at the UConn School of Social Work.  The School has had a long standing partnership with Yerevan State University in Armenia. 

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Nancy A. Humphreys, DSW, Professor and Director, Nancy A. Humphreys Insitute for Political Social Work
Dr. Nancy Humphreys’ efforts in promoting this linkage are featured in the September 2013 NASW News article: Promoting Social Work Education, U.S. Schools Strengthen Global Partnerships.

Dr. Stanley F. Battle Named Founding Director of the MSW Program at the University of Saint Joseph

The University of Saint Joseph (USJ) recently announced the appointment of Stanley F. Battle, Ph.D., MSW as professor of social work and the founding director of their MSW program.

In his new role Battle will provide vision and leadership in developing and implementing the new MSW degree program which will prepare social workers for community-based clinical practice in labor force shortage areas such as health and mental health; children and family services; aging and disability services; veterans’ services; and services to newly arriving populations and ethnic communities.

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Stanley F. Battle, Ph.D., MSW
University of Saint Joseph

“I am delighted that our alum and former Associate Dean has assumed leadership of our sister MSW Program at the University of Saint Joseph. I look forward to a long and productive collaboration,” said Dean Salome Raheim.

Battle has extensive experience in higher education administration and his academic career as a faculty member and administrator encompasses distinguished service spanning from 1980 – 2003 at public and private institutions.

Highly respected as an accomplished educator, researcher, consultant and speaker, Battle has authored or co-authored 11 books along with numerous articles and book chapters, many of which focus on social issues concerning the African American community. Throughout his career, Battle has held editorial positions for various academic journals. He currently serves as contributing editor of the Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment and co-editor of
Social Work in Public Health (both published by Routledge Group, Philadelphia, Pa.).

Drs. Harding and Kurz Accept New Positions at the School of Social Work

Effective August 2013, Dr. Scott Harding is the new Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Dr. Brenda Kurz is the MSW Program Director.  On making these appointments, Dean Raheim said “I appreciate the commitments made by both Scott and Brenda and look forward to our work as a team.”

Scott Harding, PhD
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

Dr. Harding is an associate professor and joined the social work faculty in 2004.  He has taught courses in community organization, macro foundation practice, and a special topics course on war, militarism and imperialism. His areas of specialization include community organization and practice, poverty, social problems and social welfare policy, political advocacy, and war, militarism, and imperialism. His research interests are community organizing, globalization, war and militarism, political social work, and forced migration.  Dr. Harding received the Doctorate of Social Welfare from the University of Washington and the Master of Social Work from the California State University–Sacramento.

As Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Dr. Harding will foster academic excellence, diversity and cultural competence of the school’s academic programs, while promoting efficient use of resources and effective operation of administrative units to support the academic mission.  He will also promote the school’s academic mission within the university and among external constituencies.

Brenda Kurz, PhD
MSW Program DirectorDr. Brenda Kurz is an associate professor and joined the social work faculty in 1999. She has taught courses in casework, micro foundation theory and practice, and social work practice with children and families. Her areas of specialization include casework, foundation practice, and research.  Her research interests are behavioral and mental health related to maternal child health, disparities in mental health care utilization, public health and social work education and evaluation.  Dr. Kurz received the Doctorate of Philosophy in epidemiology from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill and the Master of Social Work from Smith College.

As MSW Program Director, Dr. Kurz will promote achievement of the goals of the MSW Program and initiatives to meet the needs of MSW students.

“I extend my sincere gratitude and heartfelt appreciation to former Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and MSW Program Director Catherine Havens for her many years of dedicated service.  She has been an excellent leader, colleague and Associate Dean, who has worked tirelessly for and with faculty, students, staff, alumni and friends of the School of Social Work,” said Dean Raheim.