The Nancy A. Humphreys Institute works to increase the political participation and power of all social workers and the communities they serve so public policy reflects our profession’s values and commitment to social justice. The Institute urges all social workers to re-examine their attitudes toward politics, their role in empowering their clients and communities to be politically active and their personal commitment to integrate political action into their practice.
In addition to training social workers to run for office, the Humphreys Institute is training social workers to engage their clients and communities to vote by integrating nonpartisan voter engagement into social service delivery and organizational culture.
About Director and Founder
Tanya Rhodes Smith, MSW, is the Director of the Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work and an instructor in residence in the Policy Practice concentration. She has overseen the expansion of the Institute's Campaign School for Social Workers to schools across the country, led the development of nonpartisan voter engagement training models for schools of social work and social service agencies and supports the idea that political empowerment and voting are central to all social work practice and impact.
Nancy A. Humphreys, DSW, founded the Institute for Political Social Work at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work in 1995 to investigate ways that social workers can facilitate the political empowerment of clients as well as increase the number of social workers who are directly involved with electoral politics. Dr. Humphreys has a long and accomplished professional history. Her academic work has left an indelible mark, both here in the United States and abroad. She served as dean of two schools of social work, Michigan State University and University of Connecticut. Beginning in 1991, Dr. Humphreys worked with what is now the Republic of Armenia to establish social work education in that country. The result of her efforts is a BSW and MSW program at Yerevan State University.
Campaign School for Social Workers
2020 Campaign School: Dates TBA, Hartford, CT
The Campaign School for Social Workers trains social workers and students on electoral politics. Now in our 24th year, we have a strong network of over 1,400 alumni who serve as elected officials, leaders, advocates and organizers. Even those who do not have any current ambition to run for office are changed by the understanding of their own political power.
During the two-day training, attendees learn how to run a winning campaign for elected office, gain exposure to career paths in political settings and acquire valuable skills that can be applied to any practice setting, including advocacy, messaging, networking, fundraising and leadership.
Day one is led by Kate Coyne-McCoy, MSW. Kate is the president of Campaign Fixer/ KCM Consulting, and has trained more than 8,000 candidates and assisted with hundreds of successful elections. She has designed and implemented candidate training and support programs for EMILY'S List and the Oval Office program at Harvard University while serving as a Fellow in the Women's Public Policy Program. Kate is a social worker, an experienced advocate, coalition builder, effective organizer, knowledgeable recruiter, skilled fundraiser, and dynamic facilitator. She is also a former candidate for Congress.
Day two includes interactive workshops on topics such as social workers’ role in supporting a more inclusive and representative democracy and ethical issues in political settings, as well as the opportunity to have in depth discussions with social workers who are in office and/or work in politics. Speakers this year include political social workers and elected officials from across the country who represent diverse political settings.
Research, Policy, and Advocacy
The Humphreys Institute works with faculty around the country to study the political participation of social workers and communities as well as the quality and impact of our programming. We also work to expand voting rights through education and advocacy and support policies that help people become lifelong, informed voters in all elections.
UConn Lobby Day
In March of 2019, the Humphreys Institute and the UConn School of Social Work hosted the first UConn Lobby Day at the Capitol Building/ Legislative Office Building. Students of all concentrations (IGFP, CORG, and POPR) and programs (BSW, MSW, and PhD) came together to meet with social workers who currently hold elected office, lobby legislators, and attend public hearings to bring the full power of our profession to the political realm.
Student Advocacy Day on the Hill and Social Work Day on the Hill
Each year, a group of MSW students from the University of Connecticut travel with the Humphreys Institute to attend these events hosted by the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy (CRISP). In 2019 we were fortunate to sponsor 14 students to attend, representing all three of our concentrations. Students lobbied the offices of Senator Murphy, Senator Blumenthal, Representative Hayes, and Representative Courtney, toured the Capitol Building, attended panel presentations with professionals and students in social work, and had the opportunity to meet social work students from across the country.
Hylton, M., Rhodes Smith, T., Powers, J., Ostrander, J. & Lane, S.R. (2018). The Power of Three: Infusing voter engagement in lower level BSW courses. Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work, 23(1), 213-229. https://doi.org/10.18084/1084-7188.8.131.52
Lane, S.R., Ostrander, J.A. & Rhodes Smith, T. (2018). "Politics is social work with power": Training social workers for elected office. Social Work Education, 37(1). doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02615479.2017.1366975
Ostrander, J., Lane, S.R., McClendon, J., Hayes, C. & Rhodes Smith, T. (2017). Collective power to create political change: Increasing the political efficacy and engagement of social workers. Journal of Policy Practice, 16(3), 261-275. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15588742.2016.1266296.
Voting is Social Work
Individuals and communities who vote are better off in important indicators of well-being. Voting is considered a social determinant of health and a basic human right. Voting builds political power, with multiple studies showing that elected officials direct more attention and resources to communities that vote in higher levels. Participation matters in a strong democracy, and when social workers and the communities we serve don’t vote that power is given to others.
Supporting people and communities to vote through nonpartisan voter registration, education and outreach is a critical intervention on all levels of social work from the micro level effects of an individual voting, to the mezzo level of strengthening communities, to the macro level changes to policies and systems.
The Humphreys Institute believes voting is as important as other forms of empowerment. We train students, faculty, social workers, organizations and communities on the importance of voting to our mission and impact and how to effectively integrate voter engagement into all social work practice, service delivery and community culture.
Voter Engagement Training for Schools of Social Work
In 2015, the Humphreys Institute launched a pilot voter education program at the Schools of Social Work at the University of Connecticut and the University of Nevada, Reno. The work of the program centers on the development and research of educational pathways that lead to the integration of voter engagement and education practice into curricula and field education. Through a human rights lens, students learn foundational civics, the importance of voting in all elections, and its connection to policy decisions and social work outcomes. An important component of the model is the application in field agencies where students apply concepts and is supported through training designed for field supervisors and faculty.
Our goal is to transform social service delivery as well as community culture through the integration of voter engagement with social work practice. The Humphreys Institute provides training materials and consultation for schools that wish to add the Humphreys Institute voter education program to their curriculum.
National Social Work Voter Mobilization Campaign
The Humphreys Institute is proud to support the National Social Work Voter Mobilization Campaign. This national voter empowerment campaign began in 2016 as a collaboration with the Humphreys Institute, Influencing Social Policy and the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work, along with funding from the Fund for Social Policy Education and Practice. In 2018, and in collaboration with the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College and the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research at Bryn Mawr College, there has been a national call to action within social work education and practice.
The Campaign seeks to:
- Raise awareness of the importance of voting to social work practice and social policy;
- Integrate voter engagement activities into class and field education for all micro and macro students;
- Provide information about voter mobilization skills and strategies to field instructors, students and faculty for use in agencies and the classroom, and
- Ensure that all the people served by social workers have access to the vote.
The VotingIsSocialWork.org website includes research, resources and training related to voting and the Campaign.