Rarely, do I read an opinion piece or article not located on a social work site written from a social work friendly place. When I do, I immediately think this person must be a social worker or affiliated with the profession in some capacity. When I came across the article Social Workers Can Do More Than Reduce Gun Violence, I wanted to know more about the person and inspiration behind the article, so I contacted the Washington Square News, New York University (NYU) Student Newspaper. I had the opportunity to discuss with Matthew his article, and here is some of our conversation:
SWH: Tell me a bit about yourself and your educational background?
Matt: Currently, I am an advanced standing Masters of Social Work (MSW) Candidate at New York University Silver School of Social Work. My MSW Field Placement is with Good Shepherd Services (GSS) in the Brooklyn LIFE program. GSS is a leading youth development agency based in New York City and the LIFE program is a juvenile justice initiative based in East New York, Brooklyn.
I am also a contributing opinion columnist for the Washington Square News and a member of the NYU Gender Violence Awareness Week student planning committee. My undergraduate social work degree (BSW) is from Eastern Michigan University (EMU) in Ypsilanti, Michigan where I also interned at the Michigan Prisoner Reentry Initiative for the BSW Field Placement.
Following my graduation from EMU, I served one year as an AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) also where I built program capacity, provided direct services to ex-offenders on parole and in seek of employment, and co-facilitated two psychoeducation and support groups which included Job Club and the Men’s Trauma Group for ex-offenders.
SWH: How would you describe the MSW Program at NYU?
Matt: For me, the MSW Program at NYU is quite versatile despite the one year commitment for advanced standing students. Before I decided on NYU, I was contemplating offers from the University of Michigan, Boston University, and University of Southern California. I visited the Washington Square Campus, and I was intrigued by the allure of NYU and the city in addition to reconnecting with friends of mine living in NYC. I researched all of the professors I could select before signing up for classes and selected some of the top social work professionals in the field including Carol Tosone, Gary Holden, Steven Ball, and Jeane W. Anastas (President of NASW).
They each have prominent to the field in international social work, research for practice ), group practice with the LGBT community, social work education, and public policy. Thus far, I have been developed advanced clinical, research, policy, and advocacy skills despite NYU’s reputation for providing solely clinical training. I feel energized and delighted to experience NYU Silver with classmates and professors from across the globe. I feel ready to be in my career, and I owe a great deal of gratitude to the NYU and the Silver communities.
SWH: What was the inspiration behind the article you wrote for the Washington Square News (NYU Student Paper), and how did it come about?
Matt: So far, I have written three articles for the Washington Square News which is the NYU Student Paper. The first was a part of an independent study for the course Legislative Social Policy and Social Work Advocacy: Federal Issues in Action with Dr. Anastas at the NYU-Washington, D.C. campus. I was to write and submit a letter to the editor based on my policy analysis of a federal policy, and I chose social security 05/bramen/). I submitted the letter to the NYU student newspaper, and they offered me a regular slot to publish opinion articles. Next, I wrote a position piece on how social workers can end more than just gun violence 14/braman/).
I wrote this piece as a reaction to a public panel discussion hosted by the NYU Institute for Public Knowledge called “Triggering the Debate: Guns, Race, and Mental Illness”. In general, I plan to bring my social work perspective to the national discussion and focus on timely issues that I feel are important to social work practitioners and clients. Also, I published another article which reiterates my opinion that males have a responsibility to end gender-violence, which is timely because of the recent reauthorizing of the Violence Against Women Act, Women’s History Month in March and NYU Gender Violence Awareness Week which occurred April 8-12th.
SWH: Hypothetically, what would need to happen for the vision outlined in your article to become reality?
For the vision of the gun violence article to become a reality there are several things that would be needed. First, social workers should explore the existing knowledge base and become familiar with facts and political rhetoric. When that is accomplished it is important for social workers to create new knowledge based on research. Anytime someone is advocating for a position on a policy issue it is crucial to have evidence that supports their assertions. Otherwise there is a potential that a hostile critic can exploit the weakness of an argument that strongly needs an advocate with a credible social work perspective.
I admit that a weakness exists in this column and I accept it as a learning experience provided by my group of professors. I think that the main goal is to know the rhetoric and change it to align with interests of social justice and human diversity. I learned at NYU-Washington, D.C. that ideas and values affect opinion, and politicians vote on opinion, which thus, makes policy creation personal. Its our responsibility to shape opinions using our social work perspectives, and to do so with evidence as much as possible. Above all, we have to be politically active, and encourage and empower political participation across systems and populations in collaboration and in coalition with relative and interested groups.
SWH: What aspirations do you have for your future, and how will your writing be a factor?
My immediate aspirations are to enjoy the remainder of the semester since it’s the final opportunity for me to maximize my MSW experience in such a rich academic environment. I plan to obtain licensure in New York State as a Licensed Master Social Worker following graduation. I am currently entertaining potential job offers and developing relationships with interdisciplinary professionals in the criminal and juvenile justice systems. I plan to work primarily as a clinician to begin my career.
I am trained in Solution-Based Casework for my field placement, and I am highly interested in Ego Psychology, Existential Psychology, Motivational Interviewing, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Gestalt Therapy, Family Therapy, Group Psychotherapy, and Interpersonal Neurobiology. I plan to contribute writing to the field in whatever way makes the most sense for me given the period of time when I find any opportunity. If I find an opportunity to create knowledge through research, then I will look forward to publishing it. Meanwhile, I plan to continue writing opinion articles. Eventually, I plan to explore more opportunities to add to my knowledge base and professional portfolio.
Deona Hooper, MSW is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Social Work Helper, and she has experience in nonprofit communications, tech development and social media consulting. Deona has a Masters in Social Work with a concentration in Management and Community Practice as well as a Certificate in Nonprofit Management both from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.