July 23, 2002
CLINICAL SOCIAL WORKERS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TO PRACTICE IN A CHANGED WORLD
The first Smith MSW graduates
since 9/11 will benefit from the School's longstanding expertise
in addressing trauma, as well as its deep commitment to cultural
and ethnic understanding
Editor's note: Reporters and
photographers are welcome to attend the Smith College School
for Social Work's 84th graduation, which will take place at 4
p.m., Friday, August 16, in the Indoor Track and Tennis Building.
To arrange interviews, contact Laurie Fenlason, (413) 585-2190,
NORTHAMPTON, Mass.-Carolyn Jacobs is
taking particular care in preparing her graduation remarks this
The acting dean of the Smith College School for Social Work (SCSSW)
is keenly aware that the 120 students slated to receive Master
of Social Work degrees on August 16 will be the first cadre of
Smith-trained social workers to enter the field since the terrorist
attacks of September 11.
"This is a changed world for all of us-but particularly
for those who will be on the front lines of helping people experiencing
unprecedented trauma," Jacobs explains.
"It's clear already that the populations that social workers
typically serve are experiencing magnified degrees of psychological
insult due to redoubled racism, racial profiling, ethnic stereotyping,
anti-immigrant sentiment and other forms of oppression."
"The challenges are immense," she notes, "as are
the possibilities for renewal and great change."
As she reflects on the preparation of this year's graduating
class, Jacobs is grateful for the school's historic strength
in meeting unexpected challenges. Founded in response to the
trauma facing shell-shocked veterans of World War I, the school
has continued to lead the field in developing innovative educational
and fieldwork responses to trauma, war, dislocation, violence
The school's MSW curriculum now includes courses such as "Clinical
Practice with Traumatized Children and Families"; "Violence:
A Systemic Approach to Assessments and Intervention"; and
"Collective Trauma: Effects of War, Low-Intensity Conflict,
and External and Internal Random Attacks on Civilian Populations."
In courses such as these, as well as through new modules incorporated
into traditional courses, the Smith faculty attempts to prepare
students for the new realities they will face as social workers
in hospitals, schools, prisons, clinics, and child and family
These challenges include a sharp increase in school-based violence;
heightened anxiety triggered by more visible security presences
in public places; a more ethnically diverse clinical population
with unique cultural histories and beliefs; and the need for
intervention not only on an individual level but with whole communities.
This year, students had the advantage of learning from at least
one faculty member with direct experience at Ground Zero. Shortly
after September 11, Joshua Miller, associate professor and co-chair
of the SCSSW's social policy sequence, was called to provide
structured group interventions known as "critical incident
stress debriefings" to survivors of the World Trade Center
attacks. (Initially developed for soldiers and emergency workers,
debriefings typically involve a semi-structured set of questions
and are designed to focus on normal reactions to stress and ways
to summon coping mechanisms.)
In a recent journal article titled "September 11, 2001:
Lessons for Social Work Practice and Education," Miller
addressed the imperative for the social work field (and social
work schools) to respond creatively to the "seismic shifts"
set in motion by the terrorist attacks.
"Social work occurs in a global context, and social workers
should be trained to practice in this international frame of
reference. Terrorism and other large-scale disasters are likely
to occur in the United States in the future, whether from domestic
or international sources, and the profession should anticipate
and prepare for this."
The SCSSW community also benefited from the wisdom of one of
its Muslim graduates, Khalilah Karim-Rushdan, a clinical social
worker. Karim-Rushdan works as a counselor at the Smith College
Counseling Service and also serves as chaplain to Smith's Muslim
community. She strongly endorses the school's commitment to expanding
its students' understanding of ethnic and religious issues and
the complexities of cross-cultural therapy.
"Social workers really need to have more than just a general
understanding of spirituality. They need to understand religion
in this instance, Islam and how it influences people's
thinking. If you have no understanding of the meaning of religion
in a person's life, then you are missing the totality of the
person, which encompasses their culture and their faith."
"As social workers," Karim-Rushdan emphasizes, "we
have a code of ethics that says we have to work toward social
justice. Helping communities of people who have been marginalized
is not new to us. But learning to comprehend religion not
just spirituality is new."
-- 30 --
Founded in 1918, the Smith College School for Social Work enrolls
some 325 students pursuing master's and doctoral degrees in social
work with a concentration in clinical practice. The school is
one of the oldest and most distinguished schools for clinical
social work in the United States.
Students in the MSW program alternate three summers of intensive,
on-campus classroom instruction with two eight-month periods
of extensive field work in agencies across the country.