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RUSSW Faculty Members Join CSWE Environmental Justice Task Force
September 4, 2019

Mariann Bischoff, Management and Policy Field Specialist and Instructor, and Christine Morales, Assistant Director of Recruitment and Admission and Instructor, have joined the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)’s Environmental Justice Task Force to develop guidelines and resources for environmental justice curriculum. 

CSWE's Commission on Accreditation (COA) is responsible for developing accreditation standards that define competent preparation and ensuring that social work programs meet these standards. CSWE’s Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS) were recently revised to include environmental justice in its core competencies, and Bischoff and Morales – along with representatives from other American universities – are convening to share their expertise on the issue of environmental justice. The results of the task force’s work will serve as a curriculum guide for all CSWE programs nationwide. The task force is divided into subgroups focused on the nine core competencies. Morales will work on Competency 2: Engage Diversity and Difference in Practice, and Bischoff will work on Competency 3: Advance Human Rights and Social, Economic, and Environmental Justice. 

Morales and Bischoff have been passionate about this critical issue that affects human survival and disproportionately impacts disenfranchised people. Morales, who focuses on the experiences of marginalized groups as they relate to institutional and structural oppression, avoids a neoliberal feminist intervention that highlights personal responsibility over social construct. She is committed to eco-resilient interventions that are balanced, multidisciplinary, and actioned by self, others, and society. Bischoff’s personal experience, which involves growing up in nature, paired with her practice & study of mindfulness with Thich Nhat Hanh fuels her desire to address environmental inequality. Her research on water resources and use in the Middle East as part of her Master's in Agricultural and Biological Engineering positions her to cultivate interdisciplinary work around environmental justice.

“When the call for volunteers for this task force came out, we were compelled to apply,” said Bischoff and Morales. “We had sensed a critical need for social workers to address environmental injustice. As faculty with the ability to influence the direction of social work education, we devised an environmental justice course in 2017. We are excited to share our experience with the task force’s work in developing environmental justice curriculum so that others will be able to scaffold and improve the knowledge provided to students.” 

Bischoff and Morales also created a continuing education course on environmental justice through the School of Social Work’s Office of Continuing Education and were sought out by Somerset’s Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a workshop on the same topic for their annual conference. There they met Jeff Feldman of NASW-NJ, who later asked them to develop an article on water insecurity for the October NASW-NJ magazine.  

Currently the two are creating the Environmental Justice Action Group (EJAG), an interdisciplinary group open to all inside and outside of the University who are passionate about achieving environmental justice. The first meeting will be held on Wednesday, September 18 on all three Rutgers campuses and virtually. For more information, visit https://socialwork.rutgers.edu/news-events/events/environmental-justice-action-group.   

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