Category: SSW News Releases
On February 22, BUSSW’s Rick Cresta led Chronic Marijuana Use in Teens, a workshop for over 70 social workers and mental health professionals working with teenagers, in Southeastern Massachusetts. Chronic Marijuana Use in Teens was sponsored by Old Colony YMCA, a longtime partner of BUSSW and a field placement site for BUSSW students. BUSSW Professional Education Programs and the Off-Campus Program also co-sponsored the event.
The workshop aimed to explore the effects of marijuana use on adolescents as well as to learn about productive ways to open the conversation with teens. Throughout the workshop, Cresta identified the relationship between brain development and marijuana usage, explored myths about its effects, and discussed the potential risks of chronic marijuana use in adolescents.
As a result of its recent legalization, much of the conversation has shifted towards the potential benefits of smoking marijuana. However, in spite of the positive effects, the developing brain can be permanently damaged by its use. Because adolescents’ brains are more malleable than those of adults, Cresta noted, they are more vulnerable to harm from substances that would otherwise not affect adults. While teenagers might argue that marijuana can help with focus in school or for inspiring creativity, Cresta argued that adolescents run the danger of becoming dependent on the drug to achieve such benefits.
Stressing the importance of discussing marijuana use with teens in a way that will not make them feel targeted, Cresta suggests approaching the subject by allowing them to explain their rationalization for themselves. For example, instead of explicitly stating the negative consequences of smoking, Cresta suggested practitioners ask teens whether they personally have noticed any negative effects as a result of their usage and moving the conversation forward from there. By allowing teenagers to define and explain their usage on their own terms, the hope is that they will grow more willing to talk about the subject honestly. Offering harm reduction tips, replacement activities, and honest information about withdrawal, Cresta explained, will be more effective in treatment planning than simply warning teens about negative effects.
As legislation regarding marijuana continues to evolve, many find it difficult to open up effective and unbiased conversations about its impact. With Chronic Marijuana Use in Teens, Rick Cresta provided practitioners a practical guide for breaching a complicated subject.
Robert D. Eschmann is completing his PhD at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. Eschmann’s research focuses on social media and youth development, urban education reform, the geography of poverty, and adolescent experiences with violence, prejudice, and discrimination. His current work utilizes a sample of high achieving African American males in a violent Chicago neighborhood, and explores the relationship between deviant peer networks, informal social control, and social cohesion. Eschmann has also worked closely with the Woodlawn Children’s Promise Community around youth development program design and evaluation. He will join BUSSW’s Human Behavior faculty in the fall.
Judith Scott is completing her PhD in Child Study and Human Development at Tufts University; she has earned her MSW from Boston College and a Master’s in Public Policy from Tufts University. Scott’s research focuses on family- and race-based trauma among children and families across cultures and the effects on child mental health. Her dissertation research, funded by a Doris Duke Fellowship, focuses on childhood physical discipline and child maltreatment among African American families. Scott has also conducted studies on parental disciplinary responses to child noncompliance among racially diverse parents in high-risk communities and on how families prepare youth to deal with discrimination and police harassment. She will join the Clinical Practice Department at BUSSW in the fall.
In solidarity with those who may be affected by actions that are inconsistent with our social work values, our Code of Ethics, and the standards of our profession, BU School of Social Work community members are leading the charge for social justice.
Following our NASW Code of Ethics, our community has and can continue to “engage in social and political action,” to “advocate for changes in policy and legislation to improve social justice”, and to “encourage respect for cultural and social diversity within the United States and globally.” This is critical to our mission and our practice–it is inspiring to see that so many in the BUSSW community are already taking action. Continue reading for some of their stories below!
On February 1, the BUSSW Equity & Inclusion Committee gathered with the community for “After the Marches: What’s Next?” Stay tuned for more details on action steps to continue the work towards equity and social justice for all.
Have you participated in recent social justice actions or marches? Please reach out to us, let us know what you are doing and how we can best support our entire community as we continue to move forward. Click to share your story!
“I marched because I have guilt around Trump being in office. Over the past year, myself and so many other young people started to assume and trust that a Trump presidency would never happen, so we didn’t advocate, protest, or fight as much as we needed to make sure it didn’t happen. Now here we are. So, as a young woman of color, and an ally to the LGBTQ+ community, Muslim-Americans, and any person who is oppressed by the Trump Administration, I knew it is my responsibility to be in D.C. on 1/21/17. No excuses.” — Amy Coole (’18), Women’s March in Washington D.C.
I marched for so many reasons! I just care so deeply about all of the things that are going on and protesting feels like a solid and concrete way to make changes and defend those whose lives are, have been, and continue to be under attack.” — Maggie Dobbins, Women’s March, Post Election Protest (Boston Commons), BLM Walkout (Marsh Plaza), Protest at Logan Airport
“Donald Trump has made statements that are misogynistic, he has been recorded stating that he sexually assaulted a woman, and various women have claimed that he sexually assaulted them. Further, I have my concerns about the members he’s chosen for his cabinet, and about their commitment to making decisions based on the good of the American public over their own personal gain. Finally, I see Donald Trump as an embodiment of hatred and self-centeredness. I marched because have concerns about his capacity to lead the United States in a positive direction.” — Ryushin Hart, Women’s March in Portland
“I marched for those who don’t have a voice, for the woman who inspire others with their bravery. I marched for the younger generation and for equality. I marched for me!!” — Julie Lemire (’09), Women’s March in Boston
“For me this is a no brainer. This is a human rights issue above all else. I am an able bodied white person and I believe those identities give me a certain sense of obligation to use my privilege for justice and basic human decency.” — Thea Rowan (’17), Women’s March, Copley Rally
“I believe the most important time to demonstrate your values through action is when they are challenged by events that place them a risk.” — Amanda E.Stevenson Sloan (’92), March in Ashland, Oregon.
“We have to stand up against injustice. We must resist illegal and immoral actions taken by our government. If not now, when? If not us, who?” — Allison B. Taylor (’99), Women’s March in Boston, the rally against the immigration ban in Copley Square
“I feel compelled to act. I would suggest collaboration with other organizations (i.e.NASW). Now is the time to unify our voices.” — Kristina Whiton-O’Brien (’95), Women’s March in Boston
“It’s critically important for us to take to the streets as we build social movements. I’ve been attending marches and demonstrations for almost fifty years, but this one was special—not just because of the unprecedented numbers nationwide, but because it was organized by women. As the proud grandfather of a girl born on Jan. 3, I’m more mindful than ever of the stakes we’re fighting for, from women’s control over their bodies to the very fate of the earth.” — Geoff Wilkinson (’85), BUSSW Clinical Associate Professor
Special Lecture: “The Sociocultural Context of Coping: Homicide Victims and African American Survivors,” with University of Maryland Professor Tanya Sharpe
On January 24 at the BU Castle, BU School of Social Work welcomed University of Maryland Professor Tanya Sharpe. Sharpe’s lecture, entitled, “The Sociocultural Context of Coping: Homicide Victims and African American Survivors,” focused on her work and research around the African American experience of homicide victimization.
“My commitment to build a legacy of research is a professional one but also a very personal one,” Sharpe told the audience. “African Americans experience homicide victimization more so than any other group in the United States.”
“When you think about who the majority of homicide victims are (young Black men living in urban areas), when you realize that while African Americans make up only 13% of the US population and yet they account for more than half of homicide victims, when you understand that on average African Americans experience the homicide of a loved one at least two times in their lifetime, you begin to realize that we are dealing with an epidemic that disproportionately impacts our most vulnerable.”
Through the use of qualitative and mixed methods research designs, Sharpe began to develop a culturally-relevant intervention and tool of measurement designed to support African Americans in coping with their grief.
Three research questions guided her work:
- What is the post-homicide experience of African American survivors of homicide victims?
- What supports do African American survivors rely upon to cope with the homicide of their loved one?
- How do African Americans cope with the homicide of a loved one?
Sharpe developed a pilot study with Roberta’s House Grief and Loss Center in Baltimore, called the Homicide Transformation Project. The program provides, “psychoeducation support for African American survivors of homicide victims in coping with the murder of their loved one.” Sharpe said one of the first challenges is getting participants to understand what grief is and how it impacts a person. From there, participants figure out next steps for coping and moving forward.
In 2014, Sharpe was asked to complete a coping with homicide violence training with Baltimore’s Safe Streets outreach program. “[Safe Streets] is built upon a public health model of intervention. The idea for Safe Streets outreach workers, who are individuals who have been involved in a life of crime themselves or are from extremely violent neighborhoods, is to hire them to engage with individuals who are involved in a life of crime or could be. The idea is to interrupt the violence.”
As a result of the needs identified, Sharpe and Safe Streets were able to receive funding to implement the Support Our Survivors project. The project was informed by the model for coping for African American survivors of homicide victims and aims to improve the delivery of trauma-informed care.
In an effort to bring researchers exploring this topic together, Sharpe recently launched a Homicide Research Consortium. The group works collaboratively to submit publications and grant applications. “There are a very small handful of us across the country doing this work,” Sharpe told the audience.
Tanya Sharpe, PhD, MSW, is an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work. Sharpe is the recipient of the Governor of Maryland’s Victim Assistance Award.
On December 12, 2016, friends, family, faculty, alumni, and members of the BUSSW community gathered to celebrate eight special students as they graduated from the Building Refugee and Immigrant Degrees for Graduate Education (BRIDGE) Program.
Recognizing that while immigrants and refugees make numerous contributions to the larger society, they often face significant challenges ranging from language and educational barriers to trauma and multiple forms of discrimination. The BRIDGE program hopes to increase the number of professionally trained social workers from underserved culturally and linguistically diverse newcomer populations, opening up access to graduate social work education for refugees and immigrants by providing a transitional bridge from these ethnic communities to academic communities where social work is taught.
“This is one of our special programs,” Dean Gail Steketee introduced the evening’s celebration, and with 100 percent of the class planning to pursue a master’s and career in social work, ” I am very proud and look forward to seeing where you continue on,” she said.
The evening continued with each graduate sharing their stories of where they’re from, how they came to social work, and their experience in the program:
“It felt like a family and a home here.”
Rand from Iran is currently a case manager, working with refugees in Jamaica Plain.
“It (the program) was really a bridge for me. It helped me to know where I have to go.”
Alima from the Congo is currently a translator for refugee families and hopes to continue on the be a trained social worker.
“With BRIDGE, I feel grounded and know this is the way to go. My community still needs a lot and it is time for me to use my voice.”
Dulce form Cape Verde came to America in search of better life opportunities and feels like social work is the right field for her. She currently works with Portuguese and Cape Verdean populations and victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
“I always look forward to coming here. I feel like my life has changed- I feel young again.”
Yvette from Haiti sees herself as a activist. While working for the department of revenue, she decided to make changes in terms of what she loved to do and made her way to social work.
“I want to make an improvement and be an asset to my community. I want to use the skills that I’ve learned to help others.”
Michael from Brazil studied Human Services at Springfield College and currently works at Boston Medical Center. He has applied to the MSW program and hopes to be a licensed clinical social worker.
“It was my calling to help people. I think I’m in the right place.”
Jane from Kenya came to the United States to study and work in special education and believes in the connection between special education and social work. She is sad her time with BRIDGE is ending, but is glad for the opportunity and hope it continues.
When Bibiana from Colombia, who currently works as a nurses aide in human services, was taking nursing courses she says, “something wasn’t fitting right.” Her experience in patient care sparked her passion for social work and the BRIDGE Program connected her to BUSSW. When looking at schools she says, “BU stands out,” because of its flexibility. Bibiana has been accepted to the Online MSW Program and will be starting in the Spring.
BRIDGE alumni and BUSSW faculty members Geoff Wilkinson and Luz Lopez offered their congratulations and advice to the graduates. “Don’t be afraid to go for it – the classroom is enriched by your experience,” said Lopez. The evening concluded with a certificate presentation ceremony, celebrating the graduates achievements and completion of the program.
“The lives and work experiences of these BRIDGE students have prepared them well for this next step in their educational journey. They will become great social workers committed to continue supporting diverse and underserved communities,” said Claudio Martinez, Co-Director of the BRIDGE Program. Congratulations to the graduates and well wishes as you continue on your journeys in social work!
Our School of Social Work stands in solidarity with those caught in the crossfires of the United States President’s recent Executive Order restricting entry into the United States and blocking resettlement programs for people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. These actions are inconsistent with our social work values, our Code of Ethics, and the standards of our profession.
This past Sunday, Boston University President Robert Brown issued a statement to the entire BU community describing the Executive Order as, “fundamentally inconsistent with the values that are the bedrock of Boston University and, indeed, of our pluralistic, welcoming society.” Please read his letter in full here. On Monday, January 30, University President Brown also published an op-ed detailing the potential impact of this Executive Order, “Trump’s Travel Ban Diminishes Our Nation,” in The Boston Globe.
Many of our community members, including students, part-time faculty, advisors, those at our field placement sites, alumni, and families are affected by these new unjust policies–whether through travel restrictions, inability to seek safety, or fear and anxiety about themselves and their loved ones. Our community is here to support you however we can.
I invite BUSSW students in all of our programs to reach out to Director of Student Services Cate Solomon with any questions or concerns about student resources and supports. Available campus resources include the International Students & Scholars Office and the Global Programs Office, which are monitoring ongoing developments.
In the days since the Executive Order, many members of our student body, alumni, faculty, staff and administrators have found ways big and small to resist, to speak up, to stand up, and to join in solidarity within members of our vibrant and diverse communities. I encourage you to continue to take action–call and write your legislators, participate in organized marches or rallies and/or other social action activities in your communities and make your voices heard.
Following our NASW Code of Ethics, our community can continue to “engage in social and political action,” to “advocate for changes in policy and legislation to improve social justice”, and to “encourage respect for cultural and social diversity within the United States and globally.” This is critical to our mission and our practice–it is inspiring to see that so many of you are already taking action.
As social justice leaders, I am confident that you will continue your work on behalf of equity and social justice for all. Please reach out to us, let us know what you are doing and how we can best support our entire community as we continue to move forward.
Each year, Boston University School of Social Work (BUSSW) offers three scholarships to a City Year member or alumnus who provided at least one year of service to City Year. Texas-native Erika Gaitan ’13 was selected from an international pool of candidates for a BUSSW “Give a Year” Scholarship for outstanding academic merit and commitment to service in her graduating year.
Erika began working full-time at Health Resources in Action as a Research Associate. Currents caught up with Erika to learn more about how her City Year experience propelled her into the field of social work.
Why did you choose Boston University School of Social Work?
Originally, I got into the program in 2012 actually. I was really drawn to the school’s mission and I knew I was going to be a macro person. BU’s faculty in macro practice were really people I wanted to work with—professors like Lee Staples and Melvin Delgado. But I couldn’t afford to attend at that time, so I deferred.
So, you took some time off to complete a year of service with City Year?
I met Ken Schulman (Associate Dean) at a BUSSW event in Austin, Texas. He recommended applying to the City Year program and told me about the scholarship opportunity for alumni of the program. I got in [to City Year] and decided to take the opportunity—I was really passionate about educational equity and City Year seemed like the perfect route. I wanted to get more experience in education reform and community practice. I participated in City Year in San Antonio from 2012-2013.
What was your initial transition to BU like?
Moving to the East Coast and Boston specifically really forced me to confront myself. I mean, the weather, the language, moving from a minority-majority state… all of these things propelled me forward. I really became more interested in race, identity, and intersectionality after moving here.
What interests you about macro practice?
I really enjoy looking at things from the balcony—bigger picture stuff. I’m definitely a strategic thinker. And I’m also interested in the management side of things—which is why I decided to pursue a Human Services Management Certificate here at BUSSW. I think combining the values of social work with a fact for business—to be equipped with those skills is a great asset. I always tell prospective students to look into the Human Services Management Certificate!
You take all of your electives over at the School of Management. It’s just very interesting to be sitting in courses with folks from such a different background—to be able to get that experience, it’s very useful. Plus, you still pay SSW tuition!
Did you have a favorite SSW course?
I really loved Melvin Delgado’s Planning and Program Development Seminar—it was an intimate class and he really has a way of explaining things. I really respect the work that he does. Another class I really loved was Racial Justice with Michelle Walsh.
Outside of the classroom, what kinds of work were you involved in?
I was a research assistant at the Boston University Center for Addictions Research & Services. One project I was working on with examining how technology can reduce relapse among Latinos with substance abuse and mental illness with Renee Spencer. I was a Program Coordinator at Zumix—an East Boston nonprofit dedicated to empowering youth through music. I was actually a music major at Texas State—I played the saxophone. I enjoy working with kids and getting them to be civically engaged and think more critically about the world around them.
Boston University School of Social Work Partnership with City Year
Each year, Boston University School of Social Work offers three scholarships to a City Year member or alumnus who provided at least one year of service to City Year. City Year is an education-focused nonprofit organization, based in Boston that partners with high need public schools to provide full-time targeted student interventions.
In the wake of last week’s national election results, I wanted to take a moment to re-affirm our community’s shared commitment to the core values of our social work profession.
The NASW Code of Ethics includes the social work values of:
- social justice
- dignity and worth of the person
- importance of human relationships
In the wake of ongoing conversations about the implications of the election that have taken place across our school and across the country, I know that many of you may feel uncertain and anxious at this time. I want to reiterate that BUSSW is committed to fostering a safe environment, free of harassment based on any form of discrimination, including race, religion, immigration status, national origin, gender, LGBTQ+ status and disability. In our commitment to our social justice mission, I encourage each of you to find ways to take care of yourselves, and to advocate for those who may be most vulnerable to attack and harassment at this time.
As social workers, we are called upon to lead in our commitment to economic and social justice. As we head to practice settings and to classrooms in the coming days, please listen carefully to one another while also speaking thoughtfully about your own experiences. I have no doubt that our work – to champion the rights of all people – is more essential than ever.
If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly or to our Director of Student Services Cate Solomon.
A Center for Promise Research Fellow, Professor Linda Sprague Martinez Prepares Youth in Five US Cities to Lead Community Health Assessment
“This is really about asking the question: ‘To what extent do youth have power and agency to inform the policies impacting them?’” Professor Linda Sprague Martinez told Currents about her new project “Barriers to Wellness: Voices and Views from Young People in Five Cities.”
Sprague Martinez set out to engage youth people in the identification of threats to their health and well-being. Current research shows that young people of color and young people from low-income communities are at heightened risk of experiencing poor health throughout their lives, yet policymakers rarely engage with young people in the communities most impacted by these issues.
“Young people are often overlooked as potential stakeholders in research and assessment,” Sprague Martinez said. “Given that their interactions with living and social environments are different from those of adults, excluding youth from the decision-making process poses real challenges to improving health outcomes.”
With the goal of conducting research that might meaningfully inform public policy, this project was launched during the summer of 2016 in five major US cities: Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver, and Minneapolis/St. Paul. In May, cities and partnering organizations/grassroots organizers were first identified. At the project’s conclusion in September and throughout October, results and findings were disseminated.
Each city’s site developed research teams of 6–8 youths largely between the ages of 16 and 25 to engage in this project.
“We started with really basic questions like, ‘What is health?’” Sprague Martinez said. Over a period of several days, she, with the support of CfP staff, trained site teams. The training explored a number of topics, including health inequities, determinants of health, methods in community health assessment, and community research ethics. Participants also viewed Unnatural Causes: Place Matters, an episode from a PBS documentary series exploring the socioeconomic and racial inequities in health.
From there, the teams set out into the field to collect data in their communities, which they later met with Sprague Martinez to analyze and contextualize. Ultimately, teams developed local dissemination plans and sent representatives to Washington, DC, to present their findings and make recommendations to the project funder. Each site identified different factors influencing health in their own communities, including stress, safety, substance use, and sexual health. Across all five sites, interactions with police and police brutality were identified as threats.
“We were really able to create a meaningful youth leadership opportunity for youth people of color,” Sprague Martinez said. “At the same time, these findings actually reflect
their lived experience.”
Click to read the full report.
“A columnist for my local newspaper said, ‘The only thing that America dislikes talking about more than class is race.’ Well, we [the social work profession] must prepare ourselves to be comfortable talking about both,” University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work Dean Dr. Larry E. Davis told an audience of nearly 150 during an October 24 afternoon event.
Davis presented a lecture and discussion, Engaging Our Communities: Dialogue and Action on Racial Justice, sponsored by BUSSW’s Dean’s Office, the Equity and Inclusion Committee, and the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground at Boston University.
In his lecture, Davis explored the complex issues surrounding wealth, inequality, and racial justice in America. In a rapidly changing multiracial and class-divided society, Davis told the audience, we need to talk about “America’s taboo topic.” Davis called attention to many national statistics which continue to highlight economic disparities along racial lines. In America today, Davis said, the average Black family has about 5 cents for every dollar that the average white family has. The average Hispanic family has about 7 cents. The Walton family has more wealth than 42% of American families combined.
“We must move behind the feel good discussions of celebrating diversity and talk about the real issue, which has much to do with disparity. Perhaps we should move away completely from bumper stickers that say celebrate diversity and replace them with ones that say challenge disparity.”
“As social work students, educators, and community leaders we must not be afraid to confront these issues and talk about race and class, ” Davis said. “We must always remember that we are only as good as the causes we support and the values we uphold.”
Dr. Larry E. Davis is the Dean of the Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh, where he is the Donald M. Henderson Professor and also the Director of the Center on Race and Social Problems. He has long been recognized as a leading scholar of the narrative about race in America and its role in social justice. Dr. Davis has spent his life and career dedicated to issues of race, civil rights, and social justice and his academic life has been dedicated to the creation of solution-based dialogues that promote a more racially equitable society.