Dear Social Work and Gerontology students,
Greetings and welcome to the School of Social Work! We are looking forward to another exciting and learning-filled year.
These recent months have been a difficult time in our country as we have seen a rise in racism, antisemitism, intolerance, and in some cases, violence. This in turn has impacted all of us, personally but also as social workers, for we stand for social justice and protection of the vulnerable. Students often come to social work education thinking that they want to work with individuals or families, perhaps as therapists, and yet the macro environment is incredibly important now as we see policies being passed that increase the already daily stressors and strains that our clients experience. Advocacy and social change are urgent in the areas of environmental justice, voting rights, and immigration, to name a few. Social workers and gerontologists with the knowledge and skills to advance positive social change are needed now more than ever.
As our country becomes more divided, social workers also need to promote listening to understand how we got to where we are. You may have classmates whose opinions differ from yours, and I urge you to listen carefully and treat one another with respect. When we do this, it doesn’t mean that we agree.
Beyond being culturally competent, we need to move into cultural humility, where we recognize that each person has a “story” that deserves to be listened to. Your classmates may be experiencing personal concerns regarding immigration status or food insecurity or family violence or racism or religious intolerance. Being humble means we don’t have all the answers or even know what the person is experiencing, and it is the willingness to create a safe space to learn their “story”.
You may make some lifelong friends in school. Find someone who looks different from you and get to know him or her. Listen to their “story”. Learning about others with humility and empathy will make you an even better social worker/gerontologist.
Please know that my office is always open to students. Feel free to come by to introduce yourself or if you have a concern that you want to talk about. I also will be holding “open house coffees” on 9/20, 10/17, and 11/27 from 9:30 to 11am. If you can’t make it then, please do come another time. If you need more information about available resources for our students, please see this Important Contacts page.
I wish you all a very successful semester.
Mindy Hohman, Ph.D.