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MSW Students Gain Hands-on Experience in Policy & Advocacy During Trip to Washington
May 29, 2019

Earlier this semester, MSW students enrolled in “DC Experience: Policy and Advocacy in Action” visited Washington, D.C. to gain hands-on experience to prepare them for their future as advocates and change makers. The course, taught by Associate Professor Eric Lock, teaches students about the legislative process and the roles of relevant governmental and non-governmental actors, providing a better understanding of the current policy landscape, examining the policy construction of a focal social problem and potential policy reforms, and actively engaging in policy advocacy practice by meeting with legislators, lobbyists, and activists to discuss their proposals.

Students Carly Nelsen and Michelle Scrofani share their thoughts on the trip and the impact it’s made on their education and career paths.

“As a Management and Policy (MAP) student new to, but very interested in, policy, I found this trip both enlightening and inspiring. Spending three days in D.C. as an aspiring professional was a fantastic experience. Several students on our trip had never been to D.C., and most of those who have been, such as myself, had only gone once in middle school. It was a wonderful opportunity to experience D.C. after receiving extensive education on welfare policy and advocacy.

As a MAP student, I found meeting with human service policy and advocacy leaders was very helpful. Before this trip, most students, if not the entire class, expressed their struggles to understand what a career in policy and macro-level advocacy looks like. This trip provided an excellent opportunity to actually view different work environments, agencies, and career paths related to our passions.

All of the activities and meetings were incredibly insightful and inspiring. Our exclusive tour of the Capitol and meeting with an MSW doing her fellowship with the D.C. Social Work Caucus offered a new perspective on politics and macro social work.

I personally found the trip to be a fantastic networking experience. I have been in contact with two of the three nonprofit agency representatives we visited (Kerry Desjardins, Policy Associate at APHSA and Dr. LaDonna Pavetti, Vice President of Family Income Support Policy at CBPP).  Furthermore, I set up an interview with the state branch of the third agency (AARP) we visited.

I cannot speak for all the students, but for me, this trip was quite literally life-changing. Previously, I hesitantly focused my career toward research or government management for lack of knowing what else to do. However, this trip provided a new lens through which to view a macro-level social work career, and I learned it is exactly what I am looking for. I hope to move to D.C. and start a career in human service policy and advocacy by next May.”

-Carly Nelsen

“I am a first-year clinical MSW student. Not to come across as corny, but the D.C. trip was life-changing. It sparked a fire within me to choose policy as my pathway as a career choice for when I graduate in May 2020. I had entered this program with a plan of becoming an LCSW with my own private practice. After taking the Social Work Policy I course in the fall, I found myself intrigued by what social workers could do besides therapy, and when I heard about the D.C. class, I jumped at the opportunity to take it.

Additionally, in my first-year field placement, I saw how macro-level policies trickled down and affected the students on my case load on a micro-level. These experiences began to make me want to work with policy. I had always toyed with the idea of law school, but the D.C. trip showed me that law school isn't required to work in policy. It was inspiring seeing social workers working first-hand implementing policies and helping to create change in D.C., where change is needed most. 

I wish the public would have better knowledge about what social workers can do and that they are not just case managers or therapists. This trip made me want to advocate for that concept and help the public understand what social workers can be. Social workers can also be policy makers and, additionally, work with lawyers to create real change in this country. My goal is to graduate with my LSW and work on implementing policies regarding sexual violence and work on changing current policies that are in place. I would highly recommend the D.C. course to anyone looking to create change on a greater scale.”

-Michelle Scrofani

The trip is funded by the generosity of Maury Lieberman MSW ’66 and Leslie Scallet.

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