Over 4,000 Miles and Counting
By Andrew Calderaro, MSW Candidate
MSWSN’s Advocacy for Enhanced Macro Education in the Southwest
The Macro Social Work Student Network’s (MSWSN) mission is to enhance macro education by sprouting up student-led chapters at social work schools countrywide. Since I am based at Hunter College in New York City, I took advantage of flying down to the Council on Social Work Education’s (CSWE) Annual Programming Meeting in Dallas, Texas, by extending my trip to present to southwestern schools on the School Organizing Program. I learned that my colleagues are facing the same difficulties, frustrations, and systemic shortfalls that we’re facing in the northeast. (Indeed, the Rothman Report holds water.) It was also reaffirmed for me that students and professors alike are filled with more passion and ideas and potential solutions than there are challenges facing macro education.
In Dallas, MSWSN received the Student Recognition award from the Association for Social Administration and Community Organization (ACOSA). Later that day, ACOSA chairman Mark Homan and I sat in the hotel’s wide-open lobby. Collars loosened and catching our breath, we discussed both my upcoming trip and general organizing tactics. Our conversation yielded three tenets that fit neatly into MSWSN’s mission: Listen as intensely as you speak; don’t merely delegate – elevate others; and, find value in whatever you do and in whomever you work with. These principles in my back pocket, I was ready to hit the road.
At the University of Texas-Austin two impassioned MSW students – Elise Fleming, fiery and dedicated, and Jessa Glick, a demonstrative justice-seeker – led me to Dan Duncan’s class. A few days later I received a message that UT-Austin would start a chapter and focus on assessing the school’s macro curriculum using MSWSN’s assessment survey. Dan asserted, “I believe social work education and social justice must include a foundation in macro practice, and MSWSN is helping students learn those skills to strengthen macro practice.”
Jessa proclaimed, “I think of macro education as siloed. I don’t see clinical and macro as separate, but curricula enforce a false binary that they are. MSWSN is giving students a chance to collaborate and share experiences.” She continued, “MSWSN allows for sharing of information and innovations/trends within macro social work programs with a space for dialogue. Most importantly, the student voice has a professional platform.”
After Austin, I drove through the night and the Land of Enchantment to Arizona State University, where I met Judy Krysik’s Program Planning in Social Services class in Phoenix and Nick Taras’ at the Tuscon campus. Assistant Professor David Androff regarded this “as a huge opportunity for ASU social work students.” ASU’s Policy, Administration, and Community Practice (PAC) students expressed many concerns that would be echoed up north in Dr. Anne Medill’s BSW macro course at Northern Arizona University (NAU).
The NAU students, limited by an undergraduate generalist curriculum, threw up their hands for questions: Other than what was described, what else is macro social work? What sort of job can I get as a macro practitioner? What about the licensing? Can I actually be a social worker who writes policy? How can we get more macro classes in here? These are real questions that social work students face across the country. Not enough are getting the answers they need. They are disempowered and misguided by abundant myths, misinformation, and mere separation from the facts they need to make intelligent decisions about their social work careers. Ultimately, both the students and our communities suffer.
At the University of Utah I spoke both with MSW students in Dr. Lindsay Gezinski’s class and in a general information session, each organized by BSW students Carlos Rivera and Rick Reimann. Although Utah only offers a clinical track students still have macro options. One student, Katheryn Dennet, a dyed-in-the-wool clinician, pronounced, “I see great value in understanding and participating in macro level social work. Systematic change requires many minds – including clinicians – to provide information for our clients. Too often we feel powerless and if we communicate this to our clients we will have done them a great disservice. Learning how to work at the macro level as a clinician is empowering and a crucial part of the social work education. MSWSN’s presentation made me, for the first time, feel excited about a clinician’s role in a large macro setting.”
Now back in New York City, there’s no more desert or canyons or red rock. But, the real beauty is that MSWSN now has more work to do than when I left. The students’ sentiment is clear – we want enhanced macro education – and we’re determined to work for it. MSWSN facilitates this and elevates participants. Most importantly, there is deep value in this work; MSWSN has the ability to influence schools to produce more and better-skilled macro practitioners and thereby improve communities. After roughly 4,000 miles of flying and driving the trip has ended, but the work is just beginning.
Andrew Calderaro is completing his Master of Social Work in Community Organizing, Planning, and Development at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College and is also exploring doctoral options. He can be reached at CalderaroAndrew@Gmail.com. To learn more about MSWSN, its School Organizing Program, and to be involved, visit www.MSWSN.org or email the Network at MSWSNetwork@Gmail.com
Photo credit: Carlos Rivera