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Currents - March/April 2012 - “Why Should I Join NASW?”
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The Most Prevalent and Overarching Question Across the Schools

“Why Should I Join NASW?”

 Munib Raad, MSW Candidate, NYU Silver School of Social Work; NASW-NYC Student Membership Associate

The NASW-NYC Student Membership Associate Team (left to right): Maryann Hom, Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service; Yael Ramer, Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University; Munib Raad, Silver School of Social Work, New York University; Susan Bryant, Columbia University School of Social Work; Cheryl Bogan, Touro College. Not Pictured: Christina Stang, Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College.


Editor’s Note: This year, the Chapter has enlisted an MSW representative from six of the schools of social work to pilot a new structure to aid in strengthening its connection to social work students. The newly-formed team of Student Membership Associates work closely with staff member, Harriet Putterman, to increase NASW-NYC’s visibility in the schools, to connect with MSW students in a more personal way, and to expand efforts to recruit new student members. Below is a piece written in the collective voice of the team of Membership Associates that captures their experiences thus far, including their thoughts on the value of membership in NASW-NYC.

 Amidst the flurry of classes, papers, committees, and obligations of graduate school life, five students gathered in a room one Thursday evening downtown. I distinctly remember the anticipation I felt walking into NASW-NYC headquarters, filled with excitement of what it would be like as a school membership representative for NASW. What exactly would I be doing? What should I expect? Who would I be working with? Would I be able to add to an already full and busy schedule? As I looked around the room and we introduced ourselves from our respective New York City schools, NYU, Columbia, Yeshiva, Hunter, Touro, and Fordham, I knew this was going to be something like the city itself: special.

Looking back on that first evening meeting with Harriet Putterman, our fearless leader and community organizer, I could not have anticipated how much collaboration and community could be created out of such unique and diverse paths towards NASW membership. We all joined for various reasons, some for the excitement of something new, some because of past experiences with leadership and community organization, and for some, the desire to create change and excitement among our peers and fellow professionals.

But for all of us, NASW represents the unifying organization across our diverse interests, background, and passion for the work we do. As we sit and brainstorm once a month, we try to generate the kind of commitment to advocacy that can sometimes get lost among books, papers, and the sheer reality of time.

So here we are, six school representatives trying to reach our respective communities through collaboration and support. Susan, from Columbia, draws from her leadership at her undergraduate sorority to generate ideas regarding school participation and pride, encouraging us to reach out to student organizations. Cheryl, from Touro is a passionate speaker and policy buff who suggests we embrace public speaking by reaching out to our deans and administrators. Maryann, from Fordham, helps us navigate the tricky terrain of doing outreach and recruitment within a huge student body, utilizing online and social media outlets. Yael, president of Yeshiva’s student body, always offers us her organizational savvy and initiatives like contacting practice professors to distribute recruitment materials in classes, among her many other outside-the-box resources. Recently joining our group is Christina from Hunter, who will bring new energy and community organizing skills. And as usual, I have managed to fulfill my role as the resident writer, always ready with computer in hand, and probably why I volunteered to write about our experiences as an NASW membership associate.

What we have discovered throughout the year, is that recruitment is a challenge on numerous levels. The same diversity of the social work profession can sometimes be an Achilles heel when it comes to organization and outreach. We found that many students do not know much about NASW, including the professional development opportunities, Loan Forgiveness Program, and numerous areas of clinical expertise offered with membership. Many students are concerned about licensing, starting a private practice, social justice, healthcare, policy, and community organizing.

There are always many, many, questions, and luckily, through the wonders of technology, group emails and shared planning forms have kept us afloat. However, the most prevalent and overarching question we seem to get across our schools is: “Why should I join NASW?” The answer to this question is no doubt broad and deep, and I could spend pages telling you about the benefits of membership, the great discounted student rates, fantastic LMSW/LCSW licensing prep courses, continuing education, focused areas of practice, malpractice insurance, and so on. However, it really comes down to one fundamental and essential reason for a social worker: self-advocacy matters.

Even though we have different interests, passions, concerns, and career aspirations, we have all been taught about the power and necessity of self-advocacy within our profession. In a changing healthcare landscape, challenging economic times, and fewer resources, advocacy – both for ourselves and for our clients – could not be more important.

As we move forward in our professional roles, finding a route through many systems and obstacles while simultaneously helping others, sometimes its nice to know that there is a place to call home base – a place where we can have our questions answered, access available resources, and know there is an organization advocating for us, as well as for the profession at large. Join NASW today.



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