Month: May 2009

Social Work Team Walks to Stop Hunger

For the fourth year, a team from the School of Social Work gathered at The Hartford to participate in the Foodshare 26th Annual Walk Against Hunger held on Sunday, May 3, 2009. Foodshare’s Walk Against Hunger is the largest fundraising event in Connecticut to benefit local families and children in need of food. This year, close to 400 anti-hunger agencies – food pantries, community kitchens, shelters, etc. – will rely on Foodshare to provide for our hungry friends and neighbors.

Activities included music, prizes, and fun but most importantly, it was about the fight to stop hunger!

The School’s Team Leader was Eileen Boisseau who has been involved in raising funds for Foodshare for several years.  The School’s faculty, staff and students raised more than $2000 in donations! Eileen, commenting on this year’s success, said, “I want to express my heartfelt thanks to our UConn SSW Team walkers, as well as to our donors for their generosity in helping to end hunger in our communities, especially in an economic climate where we’re all feeling the pinch.  Also, an honorable mention to a team member, Pam Harrison, who has been a team member and walker every year with me but was unable to make it to this year’s Walk Against Hunger.

“I am inspired by Eileen’s commitment to service and grateful for her leadership of this effort, says Dean Raheim.  It was my pleasure to be a member of this team.”

The Walk engages a wide variety of individuals and organizations from area communities. Despite a cool rain that started about the time people were arriving at The Hartford for the Walk Against Hunger, about 3,000 people came and walked!  By the end of the day, $439,000 was raised!

HUNGER is a serious problem in our communities (facts from Walk for Hunger Brochure):

  • Over 100,000 people, including 40,000 children,are in need of emergency food assistance in greater Hartford each year.
  • Foodshare distributes more than 15 tons of donated food per day to nearly 400 local programs that serve hungry individuals and families in Hartford and Tolland counties.
  • For every $30 donated, Foodshare can provide enough food for one person for a month.

Funds donated to the Walk help Foodshare help its partner agencies feed the  hungry people in greater Hartford.

More about Foodshare.

New dean of social work puts focus on cultural competency

Salome Raheim, the new dean of social work, has earned a national reputation for her expertise in building diversity and cultural competency.

When Salome Raheim learned that a UConn diversity training program scheduled for the School of Social Work conflicted with the Jewish holiday of Passover, she wasted little time getting the training changed to a more appropriate date.

Raheim’s actions sent a clear message to her faculty and staff that, as the School’s new dean, she takes her commitment to diversity seriously.

Those who know Raheim from her days at the University of Iowa, where she was director of Iowa’s School of Social Work, say they were not surprised by that account. During Raheim’s 11 years in Iowa, she earned a national reputation for her expertise in building diversity and cultural competency.

It’s a mission Raheim hopes to continue at UConn – training future social workers, as well as her own faculty and staff, to be welcoming, respectful, and inclusive when it comes to working with people whose race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, or ability status is different from their own.

While the School of Social Work already has a good record in terms of diversity – approximately one third of its students, faculty, and staff are members of underrepresented racial or ethnic groups – there is always room to do more, Raheim says.

Salome Raheim, left, dean of the School of Social
Work, meets with representatives from the University
of the West Indies, including Peta-Anne Baker, in
her office at the Greater Hartford Campus.
Photo by Peter Morenus

“As the diversity of this school, this state, and this nation increase, we all encounter people from different cultures, and we need to build our understanding and develop new skills,” Raheim said during a recent interview in her office at the Greater Hartford campus. “And that’s even more important for a school of social work that is training students to work in the context of that diversity.”

Academic plan
Raheim’s commitment to cultural competency and diversity is also reflected in the school’s new academic plan, one of several major initiatives she has tackled since joining the University last August.

Raheim also sprucedup the school’s interior design, splashing fresh coats of paint in parts of the building that needed it and replacing worn furniture to freshen up the look and feel of the place.

A monthly “Dean’s Report,” through which she keeps faculty and staff updated on the significant accomplishments of their students and peers, is also new.

It’s all part of community building, says Raheim.

“I help pull people together, helpthem to develop a shared vision, and help them mobilize the organization toward accomplishing that vision,” she says. “I’m known for bringing out the best in people and helping to create in an organization a sense of community and mutual respect and appreciation.”

Raheim says she is proud of the school’s “talented and committed” faculty and staff, who worked diligently to craft an academic plan that she believes will raise the School’s prominence through a renewed commitment to education, research, diversity, and public engagement.

“I believe there is an air of hopefulness and anticipation about the things we are going to accomplish together,” she says.

In the coming months, Raheim hopes to appoint a new associate dean of research, strengthen external funding efforts, and expand collaborations with state agencies and community organizations.

Faculty and staff have embraced Raheim’s leadership.

“Dean Raheim has been extremely well received by the faculty, staff, and students at the School of Social Work,” says Catherine Havens, associate dean for academic affairs.

“In spite of the fiscal challenges we are all facing, we are excited by her energy and ideas for the School’s future. Her leadership style is to focus on the positive and look for opportunities for us to change and grow. … This was an important characteristic as she led us through the academic planning process.”

Alex Gitterman, holder of the Zachs Chair in Social Work, says the School’s new academic plan illustrates Raheim’s distinctive leadership style. “Dean Raheim respected existing structures and processes and engaged all constituencies,” he says.

“The outcome is a dynamic academic plan in which everyone has a sense of ownership. Dean Raheim is a centered and positive person for whom being fair and principled is an essential quality of her leadership.”

National presence
Nancy Humphreys, a professor of policy practice, has known and worked with Raheim nationally for years. She praises the new dean for her “quiet, but forceful and thoughtful leadership style.”

Raheim was recently nominated to become the next president of the Council on Social Work Education, a nonprofit national association representing more than 3,000 individual members, as well as graduate and undergraduate programs of professional social work education. The council is the sole accrediting agency for social work education in the U.S.

Raheim has served on the council’s board of directors and was chosen as the council’s 2007 Carl A. Scott Memorial Lecturer for her contributions to social and economic justice.

A native of Baltimore, Md., Raheim began her career as a psychiatric social worker in Prince George’s County, Md. Her research interests include cultural competence, social justice, human rights, social and economic development, and organization and community practice.

Article credits to: UCONN ADVANCE,April 13, 2009 by Colin Poitras

UConn Class of 09 Graduating Students – Shazia Chaudhry

Shazia Chaudhry says the School of Social Work has been a perfect fit for her.

“I love the diverse community of students,” says Chaudhry, who is graduating with an master of social work degree with a concentration in administration.

Shazia Chaudhry, Social Work.

Shazia Chaudhry, Social Work

Photo by Peter Morenus

“The School is small, I’ve gotten to know people on a very personal level, and I’ve made lifelong connections. It’s been an amazing experience.”

She says the faculty has been “phenomenal. There are so many professors who really care and who are passionate about what they teach. They have so much knowledge to share, and give so much of themselves. I have really enjoyed that.”

She says her experience at the School of Social work has been far reaching.

“It’s not just a degree that you’re earning here,” says Chaudhry, whose GPA is 4.0. “You’re getting information that you really use and need. Some of the courses have been tough, but they’re full of practical knowledge.

“An example is the internships,” she says. “This year’s internship has been incredible. I’ve been working in the Superintendent’s Office of the Cheshire Public Schools and it has been dynamic, building on my administrative skills. I’ve absorbed so much.”

Chaudhry, who has four young children of her own, is also working at a middle school as part of the internship.

She says the international social work courses are “amazing. The courses connect you on a global level. They’re not just about our little worlds. There is so much we can do to build bridges across many communities. I like looking at the big picture, taking it out from the community, and looking at how you can effect change on a global level.”

Chaudhry says the School has empowered her to do just that.

“The professors, courses, lectures, and other programs show you that what you’re doing is meaningful and important.”

For her excellent academic performance, service contributions, and future potential, Chaudhry has been awarded the 2009 School of Social Work Alumni Association Student Award. The award will be presented to her during a ceremony on May 9.

Over a period of several weeks, the Advance is publishing short profiles of some of this year’s graduating students. Those featured were selected from among those recommended by each school and college.

Article credits to: UCONN ADVANCE, May 04, 2009 by Sherry Fisher