How often have you heard the phrase “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know?” My guess is that you probably hear it every so often, especially when it comes to making progress and moving around in the professional and academic worlds. I never realized just how important and true this phrase was until a few months ago. I would always hear it, but I would never take the time out to really analyze the saying and try to apply it to my everyday life.
Last semester, I enrolled in an elective class, Managing Human Service Organizations with Professor Jennifer Battle (whom is freaking amazing and knows EVERYone in the Houston Social Work World), and I learned a wealth of helpful knowledge. One of the many highlights of the course was Networking and the power of it. We would spend at least 15 minutes each class discussing networking and “the who you know phrase” would always come up somehow. A part of our 3-hour session each week with Professor Battle included a guest speaker lecture on a different topic that we covered in class. Professor Battle would bring in a different colleague each week from various agencies and companies in the Houston area to speak with our class and give us their best advice. The thing that amazed me most every time a guest speaker presented was not actually the information presented, but instead was the relationship that Professor Battle would have with each of her colleagues. They all spoke so highly of her and you could clearly tell that our professor had built great relationships and rapport with her colleagues and that she was very well respected in the social work world. It was very clear that they would probably help her in any way they could if she ever needed it. It wasn’t until a random Tuesday night class when it finally clicked in me. “IT’S DEFINITELY NOT WHAT YOU KNOW, BUT WHO YOU KNOW!”
It seemed so obvious, but for so long I never really understood the saying. I learned that if one wants to grow, one must network. In the social work profession, it is nearly impossible to make change alone and without the help and cooperation of our entire community, we won’t be that successful. It is up to us as social workers to build our networks and help each other so that we can help our clients whom are the people that depend on us the most. Networking and connecting with other social workers is essential and I’m so glad that I finally realized the power of networking and connecting with other social workers!
By: Jarvis Corbitt
I have attended some truly excellent, scholarly, and renowned academic institutions in my past, but I have never felt quite the depth of connection to professors that I do here at the GCSW. I think many of my classmates would agree that, regardless of subject matter, we have some professors here who have the ability to not only enhance our professional futures but also our personal lives. I have a professor who speaks with such eloquence, poise, humor, and general realness, that I want to record everything she says and write it down for my personal daily review. I have had a professor who can explain complex, abstract, and/or pragmatic topics with ease in such a way that students leave her classes with a skillset that will last a lifetime. I have had a professor who makes policy interesting and even exciting, which I never thought possible. I have had professors with the most incredible wealth of knowledge from years and years practicing social work who impart their lessons learned in the field. My classmates and I are somewhat like groupies…we wait for our professors after class, we go to office hours, we chat in the hallway, and I’ve seen students give tearful thanks to professors at the end of the semester. When I have mentioned certain populations or projects I might be interested in to my professors, they have typically engaged me and offered ways to help. I feel comfortable going to many of my professors for professional advice, and they consistently provide invaluable new perspectives.
Taking social work classes isn’t just about absorbing theoretic knowledge but is also a process involving the internalization of life skills and constant self-discovery. I have been continuously impressed with my professors’ ability to facilitate a safe but demanding environment in which students can learn from the professor, classmates, and themselves. It’s hard to believe I only have one more semester of classes from some of the professionals I look up to most. The professors are here for YOU, and they are some of the most incredible resources you will have in your professional career. Take advantage of their time and expertise while you’re here.
By: Claire Crawford
This semester I’m taking global justice, taught by Jody Williams, and during the first class she talked about ‘righteous indignation’ and the difference between it and anger. Righteous indignation is a form of anger but in its essence, is a sense of mistreatment or injustice.
I instantly identified with those two words. I think mostly because I’m quickly becoming that friend/date/family member that talks about the (insert: terrible injustice) in (insert: community) with the passion most reserve for talking about Texas football. Yep, I’m that girl.
Most of the time my ‘righteous indignation’ is met with uncomfortable laughs, and eye rolls but when I walk into the GCSW all that changes. I’m surrounded by brilliant and passionate people that have not only identified what makes them ‘righteously indignant’ but are doing something about it. Gone are the uncomfortable laughs, eye rolls and complacency with the status quo. It’s comforting and terrifying all at once to have such a passionate study body. A student body that challenges you to ask “why” when it’s really tough to do and to speak out against social injustice when no one else will.
Although my second year is off and running with very little time to do anything but check the next assignment, reading or task off my ‘to do’ list, there are several projects that I am finding myself dedicating more and more time to this semester. With the help of a group of fantastic classmates I’m learning how to hone what makes me ‘righteously indignant.’
My advice to you is take advantage of this as a GCSW student. I love what my friend and classmate, Sara, said in a previous post about being a social worker and GCSW student. “Every social worker I have met, at the GCSW and beyond, is filled with so much passion and is intrinsically supportive. We help each other, learn from each other, enjoy each other’s company, celebrate each other’s success and support each other in times of need.”
In my experience, at the GCSW this is absolutely true and without the “righteous indignation’ of my colleagues and their help in cultivating my own, my MSW experience would be vastly different.
By: Dixie Hairston
This semester has been grueling with all the group work, internships, and papers. Although I am not quite yet in the burn unit from being burned out, the semester’s highlight has been taking the Global Justice course. This class is structured around learning about foreign affairs. We have discussed fistulas, violence, government turnovers, and human trafficking.
Some of our discussions have been very interesting. Recently we read a book titled A Force More Powerful, which was about the power of non-violence. As a future social worker, I feel like I am expected to always act non-violently; but reality has taught me that it is not always a possible response. Many people in the class feel that non-violence is always the way to go, but I on the other hand contend with the idea that it is always the best choice. There are many times where you have to present a threat toward the opposing force in order to make an impact. I am not saying that it has to always be a violent act, but most of the time violence is what shakes people up. Throughout history many dictators, leaders, and governments have used violence in order to impact a group of people in the attempt to suppress and oppress them. This leads me believe that if you want a seat at the table, you have to be willing to use the opposing force’s tactics against them.
In addition to our controversial discussions, we have the honor of being taught by Jody Williams who is a Nobel Peace Prize Recipient. When you think of Nobel Peace Prize Recipients our thoughts tend to think of gentle, sweet, holier-than-thou people. That is not what you get with Mrs. Williams. She is a firecracker who boldly and forcefully fights for what is morally right. She is very opinionated which leads the class into a deeper way of thinking. If you have not thought about taking this course I highly recommend it. Your life will be thoroughly enriched.
By: Kimberly Willis
Can you think of a 5-day class that you had to take in the summer and found yourself nostalgic afterwards because it came to an end a bit too soon? Well, I can think of one. I feel privileged to share my personal experience and participation in this class: “Core Concepts in Trauma for Children and Adolescents” taught by Professor Lopez and Dr. Taylor.
“Core Concepts in Trauma for Children and Adolescents” is a course designed to help train students to be trauma informed, especially when working with children and adolescents who are living through traumatic experiences.
I entered into this class with a positive attitude, putting aside all fears and doubts of completing a course successfully in a very short amount of time (the course was held over 5 full days of class), especially when one has to attend to other outside responsibilities. I remember feeling enthused about the content described in the syllabus. I was eager to learn from the textbooks and other required readings resources such as the FREE online Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy Web Course, and from the personal experiences of my student colleagues in the class.
The class began with a warm welcoming by the professors, setting a safe and comfortable environment for everyone with the most relaxing ton. However, serious expectations were set making everyone aware that “we’re going to take care of business”, and that’s exactly what we all did. This intensive course included: required readings for each day of class, high expectations of engagement and participation in class discussions pertaining to case vignettes, independent learning through our own research and reflective papers, and the best part—being mindful about our personal process and developing our own self-care plans at the end of each day.
The teaching style of this course was phenomenal. The professors used an inquiry based learning approach, which made everyone in the classroom become an integral part of the course. This means, every student had the opportunity and responsibility to explore the real life situations of our clients guided by the core concepts and seek solutions through a framework of intervention all while keeping in mind ethical obligations, implications and using best cultural practices. This learning approach made it possible for me to acknowledge the missing core concepts and identify the ones being presented in the pertaining case. It enhanced cohesiveness in the class, which made it even more difficult when it actually came to an end – a bit too soon!
By: Deysi Crespo
Can we all agree on one thing about Houston and its population? Would you jump on my bandwagon to say that it is a multicultural city with a variety of different languages and cultures, even within a particular race? I often think of the projected increase of Latinos in America and the complexities that professionals in the social work arena may encounter in order to ideally provide the most effective social work practice, primarily in a clinical setting. The reality is that for best social work practice to occur, cultural competence with the population with which we will work is our ethical obligation. One of the things I recognize and always say is that being a Latina does not make me competent in working with Latinos. Therefore, it is this sense of self-awareness that definitely makes me want to learn more about Latinos and the cultures in different subgroups.
For these reasons, I am compelled to immerse myself in the studies of social work practice with the Latino population by pursuing a specialization in Trabajo Social. This may not make me an expert, but is definitely helping me to develop knowledge and skills, identify barriers, and seek the best cultural framework when working with Latinos and other groups by only taking three courses out of a list of choices! So, ask questions at your orientation, seek help from the academic advisor, or talk to the professors to get an insight of what Trabajo Social entails. I have to say that my experience in Clinical Social Work Practice with Latinos/as from last semester was an amazing one! I can only expect the same from the specialization courses I am currently taking, which are Multicultural Practice and Practice in Latino Communities. I am looking forward to every minute of new learning regarding multicultural groups, community engagement, mapping local Latino communities, and the best of all – having fun while taking Trabajo Social to heart!
By: Deysi Crespo
“Fan-friggin-tastic” is the only way I can describe the book I’m reading for my Aging and Spirituality class. Richard Rohr’s Everything Belongs speaks to what I’ve felt for a long while but have never been able to articulate.
Aside from its obvious spiritual life guidance, I feel it has direct application and affirmation for the everyday life of social workers. Within the first chapter, Rohr speaks on the importance of doing works that bring a person closer to their true center as opposed to works that only satisfy superficial needs such as the ego or surface identities (i.e. money and prestige). For me this is the true essence of the role of social workers as advocates. These professionals are one of the few to initiate the unpopular fight. Social workers speak up for individuals that the rest of society rather not see and take on the problems that most would choose to ignore. They do these things at great risk of losing respect and credibility simply because it’s the good fight.
As the title indicates, Rohr also focuses on the need to accept that everything belongs. I apply this to social work in accepting that all populations are valuable and have a place in our society. Therefore, those struggling with addiction have something to teach us all about pushing through boundaries to find our true centers. Immigrants have a story about preserving through discrimination, language barriers, and poverty to make a better future for their children. Gay and lesbian populations teach us about being your true self despite the consequences so that you can be your best self. This list could go on forever.
Rorh’s work is acclaimed for its spiritual lessons. However, I feel that it also has practical applications for how to maintain a joy and passion for not only social work but any type of profession. Imagine a world where financial bankers, politicians, insurance companies, and so forth acted on what was right and just and centered around something bigger than themselves. What if we did actually live in a world where simply Everything Belongs?
By: Felicia Latson