MSW student Catie Bargerstock is the recipient of the 2021 MSW Student Leadership in Diversity Scholarship from the Michigan Chapter of the National Association of Social Worker (NASW). Bargerstock will be honored at NASW- Michigan’s virtual Legislative, Education & Advocacy Day on October 28.
Clinical Assistant Professor Justin Hodge, MSW ‘13, has been appointed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer to the Commission on Community Action and Economic Opportunity. The commission was created to develop policies and programs to reduce poverty in the State of Michigan. “I'm excited to be able to inform and influence policy at the state level to expand economic opportunity for our most vulnerable Michiganders,” said Hodge.
Assistant Dean for Enrollment Management Tim Colenback has received the National Deans and Directors of Social Work Admissions (NDDSWA) 2021 Years of Service Award. NDDSWA — a national organization affiliated with the Council on Social Work Education — established this award to recognize and honor exceptional individuals in the field of graduate recruitment and admissions.
The awards committee highlighted Colenback’s achievements in recruiting and cultivating the next generation of leaders and educators. They also recognized his creative and innovative approach to admissions, the ongoing support and mentorship that he has provided to colleagues, and his lasting impact on NDDSWA.
Colenback worked as a social worker before joining the School in 1993 as the assistant director for student services. In 1999, he took on the role of assistant dean for student services, and has successfully led the School’s Office of Student Services and Enrollment Management for 22 years.
Colenback is an incredible leader and mentor. Several of the staff members he has mentored have gone on to become directors in career services, student services, and diversity, equity and inclusion offices.
Colenback is a strong and vocal advocate for students. He is deeply skilled in educating prospective students about the profession, brainstorming with students to tailor their program to their specific interests, creating unique plans for students experiencing personal and financial crises, and at assisting alumni with professional decisions. Through his service on numerous committees, task forces and workgroups, Colenback always ensures that the student voices are represented.
Colenback is a true example of how the social work skill set can be applied in a higher education setting.
“NDDSWA has provided invaluable support to admissions directors and deans, including me, for over 25 years,” said Colenback. “The organization has played a critical role in the recruitment of new people into the professions of social work. It has been my pleasure to be a part of the organization since 1999 and I am incredibly honored to be the recipient of the Years of Service Award.”
Professor Brad Zebrack, PhD student Nina Jackson Levin and Assistant Professor Anao Zhang are researchers and leaders of the new Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Oncology program, which was recently established at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and the Rogel Cancer Center. They discuss the program, and why it’s important to have a program that addresses the unique needs of cancer patients of this age, with the U-M Lab Blog.
Professor William Elliott’s essay is included in the new book “Future of Building Wealth: Brief Essays on the Best Ideas to Build Wealth - for Everyone” which was published by The Aspen Institute Financial Security Program in partnership with the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The book provides policymakers and financial leaders with the tools, resources and innovative ideas to pave the way for economic growth and prosperity for all American families.
Each piece of vintage luggage in the installation performance tells a piece of Rogério Pinto's story. Crafted into sculptures, suitcases and trunks recount a period when he was consumed by the loss of his three-year-old sister Marília and his family's struggles after her death.
Born and raised in Brazil, Pinto, a professor and associate dean for research and innovation at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, found a way through the visual and performing arts to confront a painful past, find peace and forgiveness. He created an award-winning play entitled "Marília," readapted now as a new art project called "Realm of the Dead."
This community-based art initiative invites the audience to dive into complex subjects from death and parental molestation to ethnicity, race, gender and other issues. It premieres in October at the U-M School of Social Work, which celebrates its centennial. "Realm of the Dead" is an autobiographical project that uses self-referential theater as a vehicle for self-healing and advocacy. Based on pedagogy and theater of the oppressed, it intends to advance social work research and practice, as tools of critical reflection, personal growth and advocacy.
By exploring the nearly 30 sculptures in the installation, visitors will learn about Pinto's journey out of a childhood of poverty and the trauma followed by the death of his older sister, who was hit by a bus when he was just 10 months old. The audience also will revive the turmoil caused by his father's sexual molestation, the domestic violence during Brazil's military dictatorship and Pinto's arrival, at 21, as an undocumented immigrant in New York City in 1987 and the challenges he faced as a gender nonconforming gay man.
"I use autobiographical drama theater for personal growth and self-healing and to inspire the audience to find creative ways to resolve personal conflict," Pinto said. "I am particularly interested in inspiring people to think of poor immigrants in more humane ways. I believe that all of us engaging as a community might lead to advocacy around the issues dealt with in the 'Realm of the Dead,' such as the prevention of childhood accidents, sexual trauma and poverty."
Megan Leys, U-M graduate student in social work, said she cried the first time she read Pinto's play. "I was left speechless by its power and impact. 'Marília' left me thinking about my own identity and positionality," she said. "It pushed me to think about parts of my identity I don't always share, and forced me to consider if and why I might be ashamed to express those elements. It allowed me to look inwardly and consider personal growth and explore my own identity." Last fall, Leys was a student in one of Pinto's classes, in which he incorporated activities based on his play. The course aimed to increase students' knowledge about diversity, anti-Black racism, human rights, and social and economic justice by encouraging students to explore the power of autobiographical approaches to self-healing and advocacy. "Despite living in the midst of a global pandemic, and the amount of grief I felt about lost loved ones, those activities provided me with a sense of connectedness and community and reminded me why I wanted to be in social work," Leys said. "This feeling proved to me that performance and autobiographical investigation is a wonderfully effective tool to improve our own social work. I look forward to seeing the installation in person this fall."
After visiting the installations and exploring Pinto's journey, students will be invited to participate in pedagogical exercises. One, called "The Hair Dresser," is based on Pinto's rendition of his work experiences in the United States, before he became a professor.
The goal is to help participants practice improvisational and collaborative empathy and develop listening and empathy skills around grief and loss of a loved one, poverty, immigration, gender identity and LGBTQAI2+ issues.
Another exercise called a "Marília Moment" is based on Pinto's evocation of his dead sister to help him face and address difficult moments in his life, for example, homophobic violence and lack of resources as an undocumented immigrant.
This exercise asks participants to embody a gesture or a characteristic of someone—who has passed away or is still alive—and develop a strategy for overcoming a personal issue based on the person in question.
"By sharing his personal experiences, his vulnerabilities and his successes, Pinto creates a safe space where all participants feel comfortable revealing their true selves," said recent social work graduate Megan Malaski. "Pinto has created an art installation that speaks to lengths about resiliency. His story takes the audience to parts of his past that have shaped him into the person he is today. "Through these activities, students can learn the intersectionality of a person, how people are affected through their lens of the world, and overall that a person's strengths and resiliency are not always identified by oneself."
What would you put in your "suitcase"?
Viewers will be encouraged to answer this and other questions: How do personal objects help you tell a story about who you are and about your many identities? How can specific art forms and practices support social justice in different contexts, considering demographic diversity, diversity, equity and inclusion?
"I recommend autobiographical exploration to all, and to social work students in particular, as a way to prepare them for 'use of self' in social work practice," Pinto said. "It is important to envision creative ways to help their clients engage in self-healing, community-level engagement, political involvement, letter-writing campaigns and more."
Marc Arthur, a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Social Work, has worked closely with Pinto on several projects, including the expansion of a social justice art collective including students from across the university. During a course he taught to immerse students in art-based social justice, Arthur used the play "Marília"—with Pinto's participation in the classroom—to discuss autobiographical work and process.
"As a homework assignment, I asked the students to create their own "suitcase" by using boxes and then to bring them to class for show and tell," Arthur said. "It was a very rewarding exercise that helped students understand some of the ways that self processes of introspection are useful forms of self-realization and community engagement." For Arthur, the community-based theater is a growing field with few boundaries. "Rogério's project is deeply interdisciplinary with an eye toward the fine arts, by bringing together a play and an art installation from his social work perspective," he said. "Seldom, the visual and performing arts come together in a community-based theater like the 'Realm of the Dead.'"
The installation will be on view Oct. 4-17 in the Lower Level Atrium at the School of Social Work.
Last week, we hosted an in-person (and virtually accessible) Centennial Homecoming and Reunion weekend. This was our very first in-person alumni event since the pandemic started over 18 months ago, and it was a lot of fun to see so many wonderful friends! The feedback we received from guests has been uplifting and inspiring. One alum stated that the weekend was like “chicken soup for the soul”. Thanks to everyone who joined us virtually and in person.
Fatima Salman, SSW Engage Program Manager was recently interviewed on WDET’s All Things Considered program about how for American Muslims, 9/11 changed life in America. Fatima said, “It wasn’t just worrying about our country, or worrying that that happened to our country, but it was also the worry of what’s going to happen to us as a community in America.”
PhD student Charles Williams II is featured in a video from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services addressing vaccine hesitancy and encouraging the COVID-19 vaccination. Williams, who is pastor of the Historic King Solomon Baptist Church, says “There is no invincibility to COVID-19. If it hits you, and it hits you wrong, you’re gone.”
Associate Professor Shawna Lee and Joyce Lee, PhD ‘21, are coauthors of “Longitudinal relations between coparenting and father engagement in low-income residential and nonresidential father families”, published in the Journal of Family Psychology. Their paper was awarded the Diversity and Inclusion in Men in Families Research Article Award from the National Council on Family Relations and was recognized for its contribution to advancing the science on the role of men in families.
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