On April 9, five MSW students, Sofie Aaron, Amy Belfer, Flavio Di Stefano, Hannah Lefton and Callie Torkelson, showcased Designing Access, a resource they created to promote the creation of events that are inclusive and welcoming to all. Their design was part of the Envisioning an Anti-Racist World Challenge, in partnership with the U-M Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
Designing Access was one of seven presentations at the virtual showcase. Participants were able to create an avatar and enter virtual rooms to experience the presentations. The team was awarded $1,000 in recognition of their innovative approach to creating a future world that is anti-racist.
The team was initially brought together by Clinical Assistant Professor Katie Doyle. The original project idea started as a class project with the insight that someone developing an event could use the DEI Checklist as a tool for ensuring that any event was fully accessible. The website takes users through the entire event planning process and provides resources for them, right on the website, to help them tackle the relevant planning questions.
Hannah Lefton, a Designing Access team member, remarked, “A big challenge of using technology to increase accessibility is that technology is not always accessible. There are a lot of pitfalls one can hit when trying to make a website (or any technology) accessible. But, our team also thinks technology can be used intentionally to make resources much more accessible. It's just a matter of putting in the time and effort to make it that way. As social work students, the Designing Access team was happy to put in that time and energy, because we know that creating more accessible spaces is an important goal.”
The team worked hard to create an online toolkit that can be used by anyone. They hope it will become a resource for event planners, teachers, administrators, nonprofits, small businesses, for-profit enterprises and even individuals who are interested in making casual social gatherings more accessible.
As many of you may or may not have seen, this week Arkansas passed a law banning health care providers from providing trans youth with access to healthcare. Along with Arkansas, there are similar bills being introduced in several states across the country including Michigan. Many are attacking the ability of trans youth to participate in sports, others are attacking access to healthcare and the ability of transgender people to participate in public life.
THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE.
This is a direct attack on the trans community. As social workers, we must make a commitment to organize in order to ensure that transgender youth have life-saving medical care by any means necessary.
Now more than ever, cis people must stand up for the rights and dignity of their transgender peers. The solution is and must be intersectional solidarity, advocacy, and mutual aid. The trans community must not face these attacks alone.
On this Trans Day of Visibility, we are asking everyone to make at least ONE call to either the Governor of Arkansas or to an Arkansas State Senator to call for an end to this inhumane legislation.
To view the anti-transgender legislation in other states, see the following links. It is vital we stay up to date and advocate alongside our trans friends and colleagues.
Finally, if you or a loved one are in need of resources, several are included below:
Queer Advocacy Coalition
Kaitlin Paxton Ward, Joint PhD Program in Social Work and Developmental Psychology student, will intern at Google this summer as a People Analytics Researcher in the People Innovations Lab. Ward will research how parents who are Google employees adjusted during COVID-19, and will explore how to improve work conditions/policies for parents.
Associate Professor Karen Staller, Joint PhD Social Work and Sociology Student Briana Starks and Visiting Scholar Håvard Aaslund co-edited the recent special double issue of Qualitative Social Work: Research and Practice, “Reflections on a Pandemic: Disruptions, Distractions, and Discoveries.” The double issue contains 86 reflexive essays submitted by authors from 35 different countries (and every continent except Antarctica). Taken together, the essays paint a portrait of the breadth and depth of social work during the earliest months of the historic pandemic from every corner of the globe. Other U-M contributors to the issue include Assistant Professor Odessa Gonzalez Benson, and current doctoral students in Joint PhD Social Work and Sociology Finn Bell and Angela Perone.
Congratulations to Lisa Larance, Joint Doctoral Program in Social Work and Sociology, for successfully defending her dissertation,”Talking Back to the Web of Power: Women's Legal, Child Protection, and Antiviolence Intervention Entanglement and Resistance.” Her committee consisted of Richard Tolman (co-chair), Elizabeth Armstrong (co-chair), Paige Sweet, Karen Staller and Alexandra Murphy.
The School of Social Work invites grant applications from MSW and PhD students to support individual student projects for anti-racism work, with a specific focus on confronting anti-Blackness, racism against Indigenous peoples and confronting white supremacy. The goal is to inclusively support students working within SSW or in communities seeking to confront racism to the greatest degree possible.
PhD student Charles Williams has been appointed chair of the Bipartisan Protect Michigan Commission African American workgroup by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Housed within the Department of Health and Human Services, the commission will help raise awareness of the safety and effectiveness of an approved COVID-19 vaccine, educate the people of the state, and help protect the health and safety of all Michigan residents.
Associate Professor Terri Friedline and PhD student So’Phelia Morrow call on President Biden to stop the predatory burden of student loan debt in an article in Ms.“To advance his promises of racial and gender justice and to better ensure an inclusive economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, President Biden should cancel all student loan debt—not just a meager portion of it.” Their article also cites research conducted by a team at Michigan Social Work, which focuses on the physical and mental health tolls women face due to their debts and outstanding obligations.
MSW student Olivia Stillman has been named a 2021 Dow Sustainability Fellow. Designed to support the next generation of sustainability leaders in business, government, and nonprofits, The Dow Sustainability Fellows Program is among the most prestigious and productive graduate programs at U-M. Fellows are selected through a competitive process from a pool of applicants nominated by their academic units.
During the year-long program, Stillman will work collaboratively with the cohort to solve real-world sustainability challenges. Each fellow receives a $20,000 stipend, along with sustainability skills-development opportunities and professional experience working on a team with an external client.
“I am excited and honored to learn that I was chosen for the Dow Fellowship. I consider myself to be a scholar and advocate of interdisciplinary collaboration, especially when it comes to issues of sustainability. It is impossible to be an expert on everything and I think it is absolutely essential to know where and how to find help from experts in other fields. I am also excited to bring the social work perspective into discussions of sustainability, especially since I believe the values of social work are often underrepresented in this area of study,” says Stillman.
Professor William Elliott III and MSW student Sophia Nielsen write about reducing poverty and promoting economic mobility through Child Savings Accounts and other short-term and long-term education investments in College Promise’s latest newsletter.
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