Opportunities for Social Work in New York City During a Time of Crisis
Dr. Jacqueline B. Mondros Delivers Keynote Speech
On the evening of May 14, 2009, over 450 social workers gathered in the UFT Auditorium for NASW-NYC’s Annual Meeting entitled: A Community Organizer in the White House: Discerning Opportunities for Social Work in New York City During a Time of Crisis. Featured Keynote Speaker, Dr. Jacqueline Mondros, Dean of the Hunter College School of Social Work, highlighted the significance for the social work profession of having a community organizer as President of the United States, noting the ways in which President Obama’s hands-on experience as a grassroots organizer is closely related to the practice, skills and values of social workers and the social work profession. She drew attention to the lessons that social workers could learn from President Obama’s ability to use the opportunity of crisis to effect positive change. She suggested that the social workers could emulate his methodical and pragmatic approach to help rebuild the profession. Her remarks were sobering and at the same time, struck a chord of hope and offered concrete steps for action.
First, Dean Mondros underscored the importance of reducing the divisions within the profession. She cited the need for consensus among social workers if the profession is to stay alive, much less flourish. Second, Dr. Mondros encouraged social workers to embrace “interdisciplinarity” – collaborating with other related professions in order to better serve clients and communities.
Finally, Dean Mondros spoke of the necessity to ensure the continued vitality of the social work profession. “Social workers are in the thick of the action, but the public and the people in power don’t know [they] are there,” she stated as she articulated the need for social workers to communicate what they do every day to address issues at the forefront of the Administration’s agenda. She also spoke about the need for the profession to be seen as relevant and exciting by young people, and noted that many who would be poised to enter an MSW program, based on their undergraduate degrees, ultimately choose to pursue other professions.
The Chapter’s Executive Director, Dr. Robert Schachter, began his annual report by inviting attendees to re-invoke the feelings they had on the evening of November 4, 2008, when Barack Obama was elected as our 44th president. He suggested that a similar kind of energy and hope was needed to deal with the challenges confronting the world, as well as the profession of social work, and he pointed to the steadiness and professionalism of President Obama to serve as a model for social workers in facing the challenges at the forefront of our profession.
The evening unfolded and honorees were acknowledged, student award recipients were recognized, and the profession was celebrated. Joan Serrano Laufer was the recipient of the Chapter Service Award. Ms. Laufer has made numerous contributions to the profession, including her work at the Chapter as Co-Chair of PACE.
Dr. Megan McLaughlin, First Vice President of the NASW-NYC Board of Directors, presented four Social Work Image Awards this year to social workers who exemplify outstanding leadership and service. Honorees were Cynthia Wolff of 1199, Susan Lob of Voice of Women Organizing Project, Jenny Crawford of Bronx Defenders and a team of six social workers at Coney Island Hospital: Lorna Campbell, Anna DeSantis, Charmaine Gentles, Tim Martin, John Prakasam and Wendy Gemelle.
The NASW Student Award was presented to ten students including: Ronald Assue, Adelphi University School of Social Work; Allison Brown, Hunter College School of Social Work; Ivaldo Costa, Long Island University School of Social Work; Joan Edwards, Touro College Graduate School of Social Work; Deirdre Drohan Forbes, New York University Silver School of Social Work; Raquel Fraser-Martinez, Yeshiva University Wurzweiler School of Social Work; Justin Freitas, Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service; Kristina Lehmann, Lehman College School of Social Work; and Lauren Polakoff, Columbia University School of Social Work. The Georgia McMurray Award was presented to Columbia University School of Social Work student, Julianna Gwiszcz.
As attendees stood at the end of the program for a collective reading of an affirmation, led by Executive Committee member, Gwendolyn Butler, the room swelled with hope and pride in recognition of the myriad roles that social workers play in their work, every day.