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Courses I’m taking this semester

Public Affairs – The Search for Youth Policy

“Does the US have a comprehensive youth policy or set of policies? Do we have a common understanding of the rights and responsibilities of youth in our society and is this reflected in the policies that most impact young people? This course will explore these questions as we grapple with the impact of youth policy (or lack thereof) on questions of economic development, formal and non-formal learning, health and human services, housing, immigration, juvenile justice, national security, and youth engagement.”

The text is “Beyond Resistance! Youth Activism and community Change” by Ginwright, Noguera and Cammarota (2006)

African American Studies – Gender, Race, Nation and Policy: Perspectives from Within the African Diaspora

“The focus is on the agency by peoples of African and African diasporas to shape and restructure the public response to communities of African descent. Within the U.S. for example, we will analyze gender, race, reproductive rights. Within Africa, Europe, the U.S. and the Caribbean, we will examine the political economic underpinnings, racialized and gendered aspects of structural inequality and the human response to it.”

Social Work – History of Social Work and HIstorical Research Methods

“This class surveys the evolution of social welfare policy and social work practice in the United States and an introduction to historical research methods.”

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Newbie networking

Sswrlogo
I’m currently at the SSWR conference in San Francisco. I am fortunate enough to have friends in the Bay area, so I came a few days earlier and was able to spend some time with my friends. Then, another woman in my doctoral cohort arrived on Wednesday and we checked in to the conference and hotel. The two of us are the only two in our cohort, although there are several other students here (a few on the job market, they defended or are ABD) and some faculty.

Social networking via facebook and twitter and the like is easy for me. The more difficult part is the face-to-face networking. Although it doesn’t always appear this way, I am quite shy. I’ve really stretched myself over the past ten years so now I am at the point where, with a little effort, I can approach someone and say hi, even though internally I want to run away and hide. It’s actually a lot easier to network when the stakes are low. Here at this professional conference, my roommate/colleague and I had the same plan – to check out how this conference works, what kinds of papers and posters are accepted, and to get a general layout when the personal stakes were still low. Since both of us are a few years away from being on any job market and we likely won’t be submitting things for this conference until next year, it has been easier to just “be” here.

I have a lot more things I want to process about the conference, but need to wait until I have more time. I’m off to a Child Welfare interest group round table discussion in a little bit.

Social workers who blog

I’ve been blogging now since 2004 but the first years were pretty spotty. Since 2006 I have been regularly blogging with a few breaks in between. I was finishing up my MSW when I began my other blog, and it was a personal blog at first. I was writing about all the things that I cared about – what I was reading, what I was doing in school, my thoughts on my profession, being a parent, what I cooked and ate. It really started to change focus and became directed towards a specific topic (adoption) after I found out that it wasn’t just a few of my close friends who were reading.

I have friends who blog, most of them anonymously. But I’m not. People know who I am, where to find me, even though I used a pseudonym. One of the things I’m curious about is the intersection between the personal and professional in a blog. I often read social work blogs but I rarely comment. The faculty at my school and cohort in my doctoral program all know that I blog, some even read it occasionally. When I was working out in the field, my coworkers and supervisors all knew about the blog as well. I tried to maintain the combination of personal and professional with integrity, but it’s hard. But no matter how hard it can be, I think that it’s really beneficial.

I know that when I read about the world of others who share my interests and concerns it makes me feel less alone in the world. It also helps provide some larger context. You know how sometimes it seems like you just can’t make sense of something until you see that someone else has struggled with the same thing and you learn from what they have done. I have definitely benefited from that from both the other adoptees who write about adoption, and from other social workers who write about their work.

I came across this today, through the Social Work blog. I think it’s such a brilliant idea. I would like to encourage my department to consider something like this, however I don’t think anyone will take it on. It takes a lot of time to blog, I know that. Perhaps it’s because I have been doing it for so long that I don’t see it as being such a burden. I love the idea that this school has a dedicated site for their student bloggers! And wouldn’t it be awesome to have some of the faculty blog as well?

My university provides free blog hosting to its faculty and students and at one time I started a blog there. I left it mostly because it was too much work to do the coding even though it is free. Maybe I should reconsider and move this blog there. And get a few of my friends and cohort with me!

Reframing the “problem” of too-many choices

For a little while, I thought that maybe this year things wouldn’t be so crazed. I’m taking one less class this semester, although I traded that extra class for a 20-hour research assistant position, which I am absolutely loving. I think I got a little lazy, which was not so smart. A few weeks ago I realized that I need to get my rear end back in gear. A big part of my self-induced laziness happened because I wasn’t being very good about structuring my time and using my thoughtfully created “to-do” list. I had to blow the cobwebs off of the list and was mostly reacting rather than planning. I’m a planner, I do better with structure. I haven’t had enough external structure this summer and I do much, much better with concrete deadlines. How am I going to survive after next year when I’m off to do my own research and dissertation writing? Without imposed deadlines? That, my friends, is going to be a challenge and I need to start thinking now about how I’m going to keep motivated.

Another “problem” I have (knowing full well that any “problem” is really a luxury in disguise) is having too many ideas. I went into the program with a pretty clearly defined idea for my research. Except that during and after every class I take, I get another “brilliant” idea (or two or three). All these ideas are piling up on each other and as I start to get closer to thinking about actually doing one of these ideas, I’m finding that having too many options is starting to freak me out. Which idea am I going to do? What if it’s not the BEST idea? What if I regret it and wish I’d done something else?

It’s like what author Barry Schwartz writes about in The Paradox of Choice. The more choices one has, the more unsatisfied one becomes and the more difficult it is to make a decision. And then whatever decision one makes, one continues to think that there’s a better option “out there.”

A week ago, I was talking to one of the faculty members at my school, and he asked how I was doing this year. I explained that my biggest concern was trying to figure out which of the many ideas I have would be the “best” project for my dissertation. He gave me some great advice. First, he advised that I take each of these ideas and actually start to flesh them out a little bit. Right now they’re all pretty much just “ideas” – a research question or two and a vague idea of how it might be structured (and by vague, I do mean vague – like, “quantitative study” or “historical research”). The Professor suggested I start writing a mock description of the research, like a proposal draft, writing down how long I think it would take, who would be involved, would I want to write apply for funding and who would fund this project, etc. etc.

The other piece of advice the Professor gave to me was more of a “re-framing” of my “problem.”

“Instead of thinking of having too many ideas as a problem,” he said, “once you begin to flesh out these ideas, think instead of having a collection or portfolio of ideas that could be your legacy of your future academic career.” He suggested that having solid ideas on a wide variety of potential projects could make me a very “compelling candidate” (his words), as a search committee would be able to see that I’d be bringing with me a lot of projects and potential funding sources too.

The cover of the Schwartz book is an egg carton with 11 regular eggs and one golden one; I feel that is a pretty accurate description of the Professor’s advice. I have the carton already, the framework of study (adoption/foster care) and now I want to start to place the eggy ideas in the carton. At some point I’ll have to pick one, but as the Professor advised, I don’t have to throw any of these other ideas in the trashcan. Just because I pick one now doesn’t mean the others are bad ideas. At some point in my life, any one of them might be the “perfect choice”

I like this quote

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.

– F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Welcome to my sandbox

What is the “Sandbox?”

As a self-described late-bloomer, I “discovered” social work in my mid-thirties.  Currently, I am a graduate student working towards a Ph.D. in social work. This blog is a place for me to explore, discover, and basically think aloud about social work – practice issues, research (especially insider/outsider themes), ethics, theory, education and policy and politics.

I think a lot about social work history and social work current issues. I question whether this chosen profession is more about social control than social justice. I think a lot about race, power, privilege and the impact “professionalization” has had on the work we do.

As a first generation immigrant to the United States, as a person of color, as a feminist, as a former recipient of child welfare and social work services (in two countries), and as a mother, all of these experiences impact my social work perspective.

This blog is the place where I will process my thoughts, opinions and feelings about being a social worker and about social work education and about being a future social work researcher and teacher some day.

I like to think of this blog as a “sandbox” because it’s a place to explore and discover, not a place to be authoritative and have all the answers. What I’ll be expressing here are my thoughts and ideas and opinions about things. I don’t claim to have all the answers or any of them.

Along with that metaphor, I ask that visitors to the sandbox be respectful, play nice with each other, and have the same spirit of discovery and self-reflection. Comments will be moderated to prevent spam and trolls, but will otherwise be published as long as they are respectful to others.