Thanks to Dr. Lisa Henshaw
Assistant Professor
Wurzweiler School of Social Work

Throughout the history of social work, group work has served as a vehicle for social change to support community organizing and social action. In times of trauma, political and social unrest, group work offers an opportunity for consciousness raising, empowerment through voice, and mutual aid to support action. Wurzweiler’s Anti-Racism Committee (ARC) has shared about our meaningful purpose and work in previous newsletters (see below for more on our narrative!).

What has not yet been unearthed is how the role of social work group practice and community organizing principles have offered a vehicle for our work! As a diverse committee comprised of Ph.D. students, faculty, administrators and staff, members of the ARC committee bring their unique positionality and intersectionality to the group process. We are group principles in action! We continue to thrive, embodying and harnessing empowerment and mutual aid.

On Thursday, June 10, 2021 from 2:30 to 4 p.m., doctoral students and faculty from Wurzweiler’s ARC presented at the IASWG Virtual International Symposium. We were honored that our presentation, Power Dynamics and Anti-Racist Organizing: Use of Group Work for Empowerment towards Social Change,was selected for the 90-minute Catherine Papell Invitational Session.

Presentation Description

In the aftermath of COVID-19 and the social unrest prompted by racial violence, students and faculty in higher education were confronted with traumatic stressors impacting the way that school communities engaged. This presentation will demonstrate how a diverse group of social work students and faculty organized a grass roots coalition to support a community response to these issues, with the common purpose of developing an anti-racist community among our graduate school.

Presenters

  • Lisa Henshaw, Assistant Professor, Yeshiva University, New York, NY (USA)
  • Sari Skolnik-Basulto, Assistant Professor, Yeshiva University, New York, NY (USA)
  • Joyce Roberson-Steele, PhD Candidate, Yeshiva University, New York, NY (USA)
  • Charmain Williams-Farrar, PhD Candidate, Yeshiva University, New York, NY (USA)
  • Beatriz Oliva, PhD Candidate, Yeshiva University, New York, NY (USA)
  • Kristy Aristy, PhD Candidate, Yeshiva University, New York, NY (USA)
  • Michelle Desir, PhD Candidate, Yeshiva University, New York, NY (USA)
Dr. Lisa Henshaw

Dr. Lisa Henshaw

Dr. Sari Skolnik-Basulto

Dr. Sari Skolnik-Basulto

Joyce Roberson-Steele

Joyce Roberson-Steele

Charmain Williams-Farrar

Charmain Williams-Farrar

Beatriz Oliva

Beatriz Oliva

Kristy Aristy

Kristy Aristy

Michelle Desir

Michelle Desir

Students Speak Out

“Having the ability to conceptualize our process of our work in ARC was rewarding and empowering. We started out organically as a group of faculty and PHD students wanting to be intentional about seeing change and supporting each other during the unrest of the racial injustices happening in our country. This blossomed into a cohesiveness of the use of group dynamics and the practices of community organizing to see both the initiative of changes, the inclusion of all voices and a new safe space to share” – Joyce Roberson-Steele, Ph.D. Candidate

“Presenting at IASWG in collaboration with Wurzweiler Faculty and fellow PhD students provided a platform for us to share with others the importance of dismantling power dynamics. In sharing the history of the evolution of ARC and how Group Work and Community Organizing Theories naturally guided our work, we were able to affirm the importance of recognizing differences but still coming together to discuss racial injustices and strategies to overcome these injustices. This was an exhilarating experience!” – Michelle Desir, Ph.D. Candidate

“Being invited to speak at the IASWG was a honor and an experience I would never forget. Sharing the story of journey that led us to the formation and development of A.R.C. was exciting. Meeting fellow social workers from newbies like myself to seasoned vets to masters of the craft was the highlight for me. Hearing the input from them all inspired me and confirmed once again I’m in a great field with great people” – Charmain Williams-Farrar, Ph.D. Candidate

Interested in hearing our narrative?

During the academic year of 2020, students and faculty nationwide were confronted with traumatic stressors impacting the way that school communities engaged. With the onset of the global pandemic of COVID-19 in March 2020, followed by the social unrest prompted by racial violence, the safe space offered by the hallways in our school were no longer available to aid in our connection, fight for oppression and foster connection amidst social isolation. These events collectively propelled social work faculty and students to reflect both inward and outward at the individual and institutional level.

In the summer of 2020, faculty, staff, administrators and students at Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University began a series of Community Dialogues. These Community Dialogues served as opportunities for students and faculty to come together to discuss their thoughts, feelings and reactions to the murder of George Floyd and the resulting protests demanding for social and racial justice. Our hope was to offer a space for those in our community to share their voice and come together in solidarity and allyship. All in our community were invited. We listed and we learned from one another, as students, faculty, and staff shared their reactions and experiences. After running several Community Dialogue sessions throughout the summer, we formed the Anti-Racism Committee, with the common purpose of developing an anti-racist community among our school. Today, our work continues with the support of our administration as we engage in multiple initiatives including reviewing and expanding our curriculum to be more inclusive and representative, engaging in diversity, equity and inclusivity training, and exploring the needs of the diverse students in our community.

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