The Macro Social Work Student Network (MSWSN) garnered 80 registrants from around the country for its June 14th event, “MACRO in a Micro World! What the 2012 ‘Rothman Report’ Means for Social Change Hopefulness,” at the Silberman School of Social Work of CUNY-Hunter College. Co-sponsored by the Association of Community Organizing and Social Administration (ACOSA), MSWSN, Silberman, the SUNY-Albany School of Social Welfare, and the University of Connecticut School of Social Work, the event featured a sobering presentation by Dr. Loretta Pyles and Dr. Scott Harding. Students then led open space exercises and parceled out ideas about pressing macro practice issues.
The relatively diminutive stature of macro practice social work in the Academy and beyond is petrifying. Dr. Jack Rothman’s 2012 report illustrates macro practitioners, professors, and students caught in a scholastic and professional purgatory where some work is valued, but much of it is shunned. What is to be done about this professional epidemic? Part of the answer is that social work students must step up and demand in their schools be more equitable between the macro and micro disciplines.
Nine Silberman first-year students in the Community Organizing, Planning, and Development (COP&D) method organized the event, which was the continuation of work started in the fall of 2011. (Recent Silberman graduate Allison Weingarten wrote in the preceding The ACOSA Update! about the Network’s history – see volume 25, winter/spring, 2013.)
What began as required coursework transformed into something much larger. “It seemed like the logical next step,” said Silberman student Ilana Wexler. “We found it important to take it to the next level and meet other students to connect and grow with.” Under the mentorship of Dr. Terry Mizrahi, the Network was rebranded with a distinct mission of connecting students tangibly to explore an integral macro issue.
At the event, Dr. Pyles and Dr. Harding highlighted some of the Rothman Report’s grim findings stunting the growth of macro practice: Many faculties in social work schools lack interest in or oppose macro courses and programs; macro courses are neglected or marginalized; students are not encouraged to choose a macro program or are deflected to clinical practice; and, the Council on Social Work Education standards focus on micro competencies. This, unfortunately, is but a fraction of the findings.
During the open space exercises, small groups of students grappled with key macro questions. Andrew Schoeneman of Virginia Commonwealth led a discussion on how licensing is skewed towards micro practice. Tiffany Hall of Adelphi posed the challenge of getting macro education in micro-centric schools. Silberman student Mary Caparas’ group explored how macro and micro practices can be used symbiotically.
Of these student led break-outs, Meg Baier of Silberman beamed, “They provided the ideal environment to have substantive conversations. Having students and practitioners from around the country in one room created a beyond valuable experience.” Jorge Vargas of Rhode Island College added, “It was great to meet other social workers in the macro field and get a chance to engage in thought-provoking conversation.” Danelle Wagner of Shippensburg (PA) traveled from the Keystone State at 3:30 am to attend “a great event that was real social work!”
As the day wrapped up amid food and drink, Nora Moran, one of the Silberman organizers, said the event was “a big step for MSWSN. It is important work that will help shape the future of social work education.” What must follow, however, is another step and another and another… If the future of macro education is to change then the gauntlet goes beyond ACOSA or macro faculty.
The change must come from the students. It is incumbent upon us to take greater ownership over our chosen method, employ the principle of advocacy with which we have been imbued, and command the opportunity macro social work – and the people we will empower – deserves. “Indeed,” affirmed Dr. Harding, “it represents the missing link to realize the goals of the Rothman Report.”
To learn more and to get involved, please reach the Network at MSWSNetwork@Gmail.com. Read and Download the Rothman Report below:
Photo Credit: www.acosa.org