On November 4th, a seminar room was filled with curious and ambitious Management and Policy (MAP) students awaiting a lecture from Serena Rice, executive director of the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey, as a part of the Center for Leadership Management’s “Lunch and Learn Series”. Rice, who is also a School of Social Work Class of 2004 alum, engaged students in an interactive and informative lecture about the devastating poverty problem in New Jersey.
Rice began her lecture by shocking the audience with facts about poverty. Students learned that 1 in 4 New Jersey residents are currently struggling to live above the poverty line which is $1,649. Families of 3 who are on welfare receive a monthly benefit of $424, far less than what a family of this size need for quality of life. These facts stimulated the audience to ask Rice questions and discuss perspectives on policy that affects poverty.
To inspire the audience Rice explained, “Information is powerful. If MAP students are shocked about this data, we have an information problem. There is a huge gap between what the public knows and how bad these issues really are. These issues need to be talked about to the public.” She then discussed her current research on structural racism and poverty and how she plans to correct these policies, through her current role with the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey.
Prior to working for the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey, Rice held several social worker positions that gave her a background in creating solutions for the less fortunate.
In addition shedding light on an issue that she is passionate about, Rice also provided students with an opportunity to learn more about her career. She discussed the many pros and cons of her position, but noted where the heart of her work originates. “Just because I have this color skin and have an educated mother who pushed me to do well doesn’t mean someone with a different color skin and fewer opportunities to do well should suffer and have fewer privileges. It is my moral duty to allow them to have the same privileges as me. I help guide my organization in the right direction and allow anyone to come to my table and be heard,” Rice says.
Rice’s “Lunch and Lecture Series” motivated MAP students and allowed them to see where their studies can take them and how much change they have the power to enact. MAP student, Jessica Grolman admired Rice by saying, “As someone who is on the MAP track and who wants to be an executive director someday, this lecture shows how much room there is for growth in the MAP program. Serena allowed me to see how I will be able to apply what I am learning to direct practice someday.”
To learn more about the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey or to become a member visit: http://www.antipovertynetwork.org/