The Office of Admissions works hard to recruit a diverse class of MSW students each year. This past year the admissions team attended a dozen different Grad Fair events geared toward recruiting diverse and first-generation college students.
In addition to holding multiple information events in settings where diverse prospective students are located, the admissions team held a Meet-the-Author event in Fall 2015 with incoming MSW students. Sherri Booker, author of “Nine Years Under” presented incoming students with a perspective of the diverse community in Baltimore.
MSW 2015-2016 Student Body
Our 2015-2016 MSW student body was the most diverse to date, with 49% of our student body being non-white.
The SSW has continued to grow its scholarship program, awarding a total of 59 scholarships to 53 females and 6 males in the 2015-2016 academic year
This past year, the SSW conducted a search for three Clinical Faculty, and the search committee actively sought candidates who demonstrated both exceptional teaching and effective skills in teaching content on diversity. We are thrilled to welcome to our faculty: Victoria Stubbs, Susan Westgate and Adam Schneider.
Victoria Stubbs, MSW
Adam Schneider, MSW
Susan Westgate, MSW. MBA
Student Course Evaluations
Overall, students in the MSW program continue to rate their instructors well on the two questions directly related to diversity found on course evaluations:
85% of Faculty received a 4 (agree) or 5 (strongly agree) for the item: “The instructor encouraged open discussion of diverse points of view.”
83% of Faculty received a 4 (agree) or 5 (strongly agree) for the item: “The course included content related to the experiences of the diverse populations with whom social workers work”
These results reflect an 80% response rate, and provide a fair representation of the perceptions of the student body. Nonetheless, qualitative comments on evaluations and during Dean’s Q & A sessions and other school-wide events during the 2015-2016 academic year indicate that students continue to be eager for more diversity content and skill building in their MSW coursework.
Faculty Teaching Development Series
In order to respond to student feedback, and build faculty skills, the Office of Academic Affairs organized a faculty teaching development series during the 2015-2016 academic year. Sessions were well-attended (attendance ranged between 15-20 participants).
Three of the sessions held (Navigating Difficult Conversations; Micro-aggressions in the Classroom, & Implicit Bias) focused specifically on issues of diversity and oppression and aimed to build faculty awareness of current topics and skills in facilitating effective classroom conversations.. The SSW is working to create on-line versions of these sessions, so all faculty who were unable to attend the in-person sessions can learn from each other and experts in the field.
In the past year, we have integrated additional items in the field evaluation completed by students and Field Instructors that relate to cultural responsiveness in field placement. Based on preliminary data from a small number of respondents, findings indicate that the majority of students perceived their field placement agencies and instructors to be respectful of diversity and as effectively fostering a sense of inclusion. Likewise, the majority of field instructors perceived liaisons and the Office of Field Education to be responsive to issues related to diversity and inclusion. Strategies are needed to improve response rates for these surveys in order to ensure a representative picture of student and field instructor perceptions.
Field Instructors and Liaisons
The Office of Field Education has also increased their efforts to equip field instructors and liaisons with the skills to foster inclusive field placement environments. In May 2015, the Annual Field Instructor and Field Liaison Appreciation Event, was titled “Navigating Conversations in the Field Concerning Race and Racism”. Speaker A. Adar Ayira, Project Manager, Associated Black Charities and founding member of Baltimore Racial Justice Action, worked with participants to build their skills to facilitate discussions of race, racism and privilege with graduate social work students placed in their agencies. The event was attended by 156 Field Instructors and Liaisons.
Curriculum Review and Revision
One new special topics course developed this past year and offered in Spring 2016 by two alumni, titled Perspectives on Racism and Racial Equity in Social Work Practice, successfully enrolled and received positive student evaluations. This course provided students with a critical understanding of institutional racism and the way concepts such as power and privilege impact institutions, social service agencies, social workers, and clients. The Master Program Committee will review the evaluations of this course and determine if it should become a permanent offering in the curriculum.
The SSW’s Promise Heights has been actively involved in several West Baltimore schools, including Renaissance Academy, the only high school in the Upton-Druid Heights neighborhood. Renaissance Academy faced an especially challenging year, as three recent or current students at the School died due to violence within several months. One of the efforts within the school that was spearheaded by Promise Heights is a mentoring program, Seeds of Promise. Adult male mentors are paired with a small group of students who are at high risk of drop out. Of the 40 young men who graduate from Renaissance Academy this spring, 35 were in the Seeds of Promise program.
The Washington Post reported on the story of one of the Seeds of Promise graduates, Khalil Bridges, and the work of Hallie Atwater, SSW alumna and social worker at Renaissance Academy (http://wapo.st/khalil). The press coverage resulted in dozens of offers of support to help Khalil achieve his goals. Ms. Atwater started a crowd-funding page that raised almost $40,000 from over 400 people near and far.
Caption: Khalil Bridges (far right) prepares to advocate for his school, with SSW graduate Hallie Atwater and mentor Antwon Cooper.
UMB conducted a climate survey in spring 2016, which asked various questions about campus and school climate and inclusion. The SSW will be able to use the data from this survey for future planning. The results are currently being compiled and are likely to be furnished to the SSW by fall 2016.
Diversity and Anti-Oppression Work Group (DAO)
The DAO was very active in the 2015-2016 academic year and initiated a new monthly “Chat and Chew” series, where different members of the committee (faculty, staff and/or students) facilitated informal conversations about timely topics related to diversity and oppression. This series was intended to provide an on-going safe space for SSW members to express their feelings about current events and foster a stronger sense of community and inclusion in the school.
The DAO also continued to support the MPC in their establishment of new diversity principles and review of diversity courses. It intends to continue the chat and chew series in the coming year and organize and host other diversity-related events.
Numerous forums, presentations and events were held within the school this past year that represent our commitment to fostering critical dialogue about diversity and a climate of inclusion.