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Student Profiles: Barrette on Community Organization

Kyle Barrette, a UConn MSW student with a concentration in Community Organization, chose to attend the UConn School of Social Work due to the uniqueness of their MSW program.

Bachelor’s Degree: UConn, Sociology and India Studies

I chose to attend the UConn School of Social Work due to the uniqueness of their MSW program. UConn offers the ability to choose both a concentration and a focused area of study, allowing students to hone in on a specific area of the social work field. The fact that UConn offers a concentration in community organization and a focused area of study in International Social Work made the program a perfect fit for my personal interests and professional ambitions.

As a first year student with previous social work experience, my foundation courses pushed me to look critically at the work I had been doing and to learn from those experiences. My foundational courses, such as community organizing, macro practice and macro theories, were particularly helpful as I was able to implement what I was learning in the classroom within my field placement and community work. As part of my foundational class on macro practice I was able to carry out a community needs assessment that was utilized by the organization I was interning with, demonstrating how classroom learning can benefit both the student and the community.

Through my first year field placement I was able to obtain unique experience as an intern with the Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission, an advocacy body for the Asian Pacific American community in Connecticut. Although I was of the mindset that real change will only come from the community, this internship opened my eyes to the relationship between policy change and social change. As part of my internship I was exposed to the entire policy making process, from the introduction of bills, to public hearings, to lobbying and advocacy. Through this experience I learned how to integrate political advocacy and policy work into the community organizing I was doing and how this could improve outcomes for the communities. I encourage all students to reach outside their area of interest and comfort zone during their field experiences and explore the different roles that social workers can play.

As a first year student I was pleased to see the amount of opportunities that were available at UConn. There are a multitude of organizations and committees that students are able to join and have their voice heard. As a first year student, I joined the Student Organization as a representative on the Field Education Advisory Committee where I was able to advocate for the expansion of international field placements.

While my interests were very focused on community organizing and activism, I was given the opportunity to join a research evaluation team as a research assistant during my first year. This position opened my eyes to the broader role that social workers play in designing and developing programs and revealed how research can help to facilitate social change. This research position influenced me a great deal and pushed me to apply for a summer fellowship program with UNICEF. Through this fellowship I worked as part of a project evaluation team in India and was able to directly utilize the knowledge I had obtained from my classwork and research experience.

Considering the proximity of UConn to the state capital, there are many opportunities to get involved in the community. Last year was a very important legislative session for immigration reform in Connecticut. I and other UConn students were able to organize a small group on campus committed to immigration reform and forge an alliance with eight other local colleges and universities. Our efforts culminated in obtaining over 2,000 signatures calling for immigration reform in Connecticut and organizing a march of over 800 individuals through the streets of downtown Hartford. I encourage all students to bring forth their ideas for community projects or activities as faculty and fellow students offer ample support and opportunity to see these through.