Program links social work policy practitioners, students

Feb 24, 2015

By Paul R. Pace, News staff

Reading about social welfare policy from a textbook is one way to learn, but hearing about it from the people who actually do the work is an added benefit, say social work students.


NASW, the Council on Social Work Education, the Coalition on Human Needs, and Sunny Harris Rome, a professor at the George Mason University School of Social Work, are working together to link social work policy practitioners to schools of social work so they can serve as guest lecturers via Skype or another teleconference platform in policy classes.

Students from Jane Hoyt-Oliver’s social welfare policy analysis class at Malone University in Canton, Ohio, recently participated in the effort. They spoke via conference call with John Horejsi, founder and coordinator of the Social Action Linking Together organization.

Based in Virginia, SALT members work to educate lawmakers and shape fair public social policies that take into consideration the needs of the poor and powerless.

Student Ken Lancaster said talking directly with a policy practitioner offered him a different perspective that he could not gain from just reading a textbook.

“You hear the live voice and the passion,” Lancaster said. “You can hear what’s really involved and what steps have to be taken – it really helps out.”

Student Lisa Burns said one of the things she learned after hearing from Horejsi was how important it is to highlight your personal experiences when promoting your cause.

Meanwhile, student Suzi Pachmayer said she was impressed by how passionate Horejsi is in his work.

“I learned that without passion, there is no action,” she said.

Hoyt-Oliver said she was glad NASW offered the opportunity to participate in the policy exchange program.

“Students don’t come into (the class) feeling empowered,” she said, adding that after hearing from Horejsi, the students learned that they each had a story to tell about what brought them into the field of social work.

“It was a terrific opportunity for them to have contact with somebody who is a social worker who shows it is both manageable and possible to effect change for the better for our clients and for the community,” Hoyt-Oliver said. “I was very thankful that NASW participated in the process. I think it is a terrific resource for the profession.”

From the February 2015 NASW News. NASW members can read the full story after logging in.

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