In response to the Stay Safe, Stay at Home order last spring, School of Social Work faculty members hosted zoom conversations to address that pandemic's impact through a social work lens. Professor Rogério M. Pinto hosted conversations on COVID and Racial Inequities; the School’s community engagement team held weekly discussions on field education, volunteer work and activism during the pandemic. Both of these conversations developed steady audiences and grew into a weekly series.
COVID and Racial Inequities Series
The Faculty Allies for Diversity committee and Professor and Associate Dean for Research Rogério M. Pinto hosted hour-long online conversations examining stigma issues connected with the COVID-19 pandemic. With the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May, the series evolved into broad, conversations on anti-Blackness, police brutality, and the social and racial issues still emerging around the pandemic. The conversations about stigma, prejudice, and healthcare failures were unscripted and often startlingly blunt and emotional.
The series demonstrated the school’s commitment to an in-depth conversation on breaking news of concern to social workers and social work researchers, as well as an unblinking examination of the country’s and of our profession’s racist histories. Frank, spontaneous and very much of the moment, this series helped all participants and attendees understand the full implications of what happened to our nation in an extraordinary year. The full series has been archived on YouTube.
ENGAGE Virtual Conversations
Early in the pandemic, Michigan’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order created particular challenges for MSW student field placements. Some organizations and agencies suspended operations or programs; in other cases, students found themselves unable to attend their placement. Many students had left Ann Arbor. In the face of these hurdles, the Office of Field Education worked together with the School’s Community Engagement Team (ENGAGE) led by Professor and ENGAGE Director Trina Shanks. Together they developed creative approaches to field education and community engagement in this time when stringent limitations have changed the way social workers can interact with the community. The result was a series of online conversations that supported student efforts to volunteer and engage in their own communities, whether online or in other geographic areas. These weekly conversations allowed students to connect, share experiences and debrief.
In the wake of George Floyd’s death and the resulting protests of racial injustice, the conversation series pivoted to discuss issues of racial inequity and police brutality, with a focus on action and policy. Many of these conversations have featured headlining speakers including Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and author and activist Tawana Petty. The full series has been archived on YouTube.