Our mission at the University of Kansas School of Social Welfare is an audacious one: A foundation of strengths. A vision of justice. A mission of change. Rooted in the Strengths Perspective, our direction is clear – to transform lives and social contexts and to promote social, economic and environmental justice. As social workers, we have dedicated our lives to the betterment of society and advocating for our most vulnerable populations. No other profession claims for itself such a broad mandate as social work!
As a profession committed to social justice, with deep heritage and a long history of helping people and being change agents, it is our responsibility to grow and continually improve the profession through growing the social work community by graduating strong social work leaders.
We continually hear news stories about children being torn from their families because their parents have been deported; overt racist behaviors against individuals and groups oftentimes resulting in violence and/or death; women being sexually assaulted or harassed in places they should feel safe; the government deciding if gay couples should be able to get married or adopt children; and foster care children not knowing if they are going to have a place to sleep at night. Even if you are not affected by these things directly, our community and society continues to struggle with these and many other social justice issues. As social workers, we have an ethical responsibility to advocate for these vulnerable populations and change societal norms for the better. We are calling on you to help us make these changes.
Last year, we asked for your help in launching the school’s first Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Scholars Program, and with your assistance, we raised $9,845, which allowed us to make this idea a reality. The DEI Scholars Program is designed to support students who take on the extra responsibility to assist the school in raising awareness, educating our communities and striving to make positive changes in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion. This year we were able to provide support for one DEI Fellow and two DEI scholars.
We ask again this year for your help to keep this program active. We have seen an overwhelming response to, and growth in, our diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives this past year, and we owe you all a huge thank you in helping us start something amazing. We believe it doesn’t end here as it is just getting started. With your continued support and partnership, we know our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, we can truly make a difference and move closer to our vision of all individuals, families, & communities utilizing their power to achieve justice, equity, & well-being.
Master’s students who are awarded with a $6,000 DEI Fellowship for the year will coordinate the Social Justice Programs in the school and on campus, guide the social justice scholars and collaborate with the school’s DEI coordinator. Bachelor’s students who are awarded a $1,000 scholarship for the semester will be asked to research and present on important social justice topics to the school, KU and our communities. Together, they will come up with unique ways to discuss hard to talk about topics such as hate speech, sexual assault, sexual identity and immigration. These activities are voluntary and not tied to a classroom experience; therefore, the funds they receive will help offset their income that they might have received from part-time employment.
This year’s DEI Scholars Program presentations:
The fall DEI Scholar, Paige Richardson, presented “Sex Trafficking: The Intersection of Oppression and Victimization” last November. Her presentation slides can be viewed here.
Upcoming events include the spring DEI Scholar, Sam Mitri, presenting on food gardens on March 27, 2020 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Kansas Union Jayhawk Room on the University of Kansas Lawrence Campus, and our DEI Fellow, Mohana Chakrabarti, presenting on environmental racism/justice on April 9, 2020 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the University of Kansas Edwards Campus in Overland Park. Check the School website for more details.
The photo used in the header image above is an art piece presented by Christina Aguirre and Viviana Patino during the art collective/final project required by SW 555 Diversity, Oppression and Social Justice: Cultural Competence. This course is a perfect example of using creativity to aid in the discussion and analysis of difficult topics. This particular artwork was described as follows:
We wanted to do our art project over a topic that we learned more about during the course of this class and do it in a way that we could showcase it in a creative manner. We both decided to do something over the LGBTQ+ community because of the powerful documentary we watched in class one day, which showed kids who struggled over their identities. Our project shows the colors of the pride flag bleeding down into small stick figures of varying shades of black. The reason the figures are in different shades of black is because we wanted to represent the level of oppression that obscures people in the LGBTQ+ from being able to come out and express themselves without being discriminated against.