After digging into several complex research topics this year, University of Michigan-Flint social work students presented their facts and findings to the public Wednesday during the Social Work Department's Second Annual Evening of Excellence.
Students enthusiastically described their projects, methods, and results to attendees. The learning process included developing their own surveys and informational flyers, gathering information from members of the community, organizing a panel, or attending community meetings addressing their topic.
Brianna Distefano presented her group's work of implementing a new student organization on campus this year: Students for Recovery. "It's a place for students to meet and to provide peer support for students struggling with addiction," she said. The future goal for the organization is to designate a "sober living" floor in student housing and also to open the organization to other area college students.
Molly Moerman and her group looked into mentorship needs on campus, seeking to build social and emotional support for struggling students, which in turn will raise academic achievement and retention. "We found that students want a mixture of faculty and peer mentoring," Molly said. "We hope to implement this program in the Social Work Department."
Kevin Brown presented his group's educational project with school children and bullying. "We were able to educate the children about treating others with respect who have a physical disability or facial disfigurement. A lot of parents said they hadn't talked about it with their kids before."
Anthony Funsch talked about barriers relating to LGBT youth homelessness, noting the topic was out of his comfort zone and that's one of the reasons he decided to learn more. The group conducted a mixed-method survey with good response and created a visual display.
"I found there has been slow progress from a state policy standpoint," Anthony said. "People are interested in creating policy but they want to know more."
David Courter examined issues involving social welfare and policy from the workings of the Electoral College to legal restrictions involving marital rape. "We need to bring people together and realize that we all need one voice to truly address all the needs," David said. "As social workers we need to think outside the planet and beyond the box."
One group researched the interest of veterinarians in hiring social workers to help pet owners dealing with grief and loss, hoping to increase awareness about the benefits of this specialized field.
Other topics included combating the effects of lead poisoning with early childhood programs; minimizing stereotypes by enhancing cultural humility; developing a student e-mentoring program; the Feeding NICU moms program; human trafficking panel; and a food pantry on campus.
Faculty also recognized each graduating senior with a special, personalized plate and department pin during the event. "Your class is very special to me personally," social work chair Otrude Moyo said. "As you go your way, let us remember we are the change that we desire."