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Financial Social Work Initiative Gains Momentum

The nation's widening wealth gap and how social workers can best grapple with its impact were intertwined topics that drew a large crowd to the Southern Management Corporation Campus Center at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) on March 10.

The event included the screening of an award-winning film, Inequality for All, sponsored by the Financial Social Work Initiative (FSWI) of the University of Maryland School of Social Work (SSW). An audience of about 150 heard from a panel of four and then engaged in a question-and-answer session (photo, above) with panelists and moderators representing the FSWI.

Established in 2008 during the Great Recession, the FSWI advances economic stability through research and the education of students, alumni, and their clients and community partners. The initiative reached the latest milestone in its work in March, with the creation of a new scholarship and a challenge grant provided by the Woodside Foundation.

SSW Dean Richard P. Barth, PhD, MSW, made the announcement at the event, acknowledging the leadership and generosity of Meg Woodside, MSW '07, MBA, a member of the School's Board of Advisors. Barth thanked Woodside for her role in "creating the FSWI and for being its guiding force and champion."

Barth called the issue of income disparities "a critical topic with great public resonance." He said the impetus for the event came from the FSWI and the School's Alliance for Workforce Development and Empowerment Student Interest Group. "I hope this screening and panel will generate new activities that lead to greater equity," Barth said.

The film, described as a passionate argument on behalf of the middle class, is based on data such as the fact that the 400 richest Americans own as much wealth as 80 million families, or 62 percent of U.S. residents. Directed by Jacob Kornbluth, Inequality for All features author, educator and former Clinton cabinet member Robert Reich, JD, MA.



A lively narrator who appears in portions of the film in his role as Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, Reich raises many troubling points about impacts of the wealth gap on people and politics.
The task of addressing those points fell to a panel of SSW faculty and alumni whose scholarship and practice give them expertise in the evolving field of financial social work.

The panelists: Wendy Shaia, EdD, MSW '01, director of the School's Social Work Community Outreach Service; Michael Reisch, PhD, MSW, the School's Daniel Thursz Distinguished Professor of Social Justice; Diane Bell-McKoy, MSW '75, president and chief executive officer of Associated Black Charities; and Sara Johnson, MSW '02, director, Baltimore CASH (Creating Assets, Savings, and Hope) Campaign. Johnson was substituting for Robin McKinney, MSW '01, director of the Maryland CASH campaign, who was unable to be present.

Moderators were Jodi Frey, PhD '04, MSW '98, LCSW-C, chair of the FSWI and an associate professor at the School, and Christine Callahan, PhD, MSW, who is the FSWI research lead specialist.

Callahan and McKinney will be the instructors for a new course developed by the FSWI for the fall semester 2014. Students in the Macro and Clinical Advanced Year at the SSW will be eligible to enroll in the course, Financial Stability for Individuals, Families and Communities.

Johnson will be the instructor for the next in a series of Continuing Professional Education offerings in financial social work. Online Tools And Techniques To Enhance Financial Stability will be taught April 4 in Baltimore. CEU credits were also offered to those who registered and attended the March 10 film screening and panel discussion.

The Woodside Foundation funded the screening, complete with freshly-made popcorn during the movie. "The film did an outstanding job illustrating the effects and consequences of our economic and social policies on the opportunities available to entire generations. It was so exciting to engage an audience of young social workers in these issues, and hopefully inspire them to become advocates for advancing economic stability and equality in their work," said Woodside.

The Woodside Foundation's challenge grant for the new scholarship will match donations at 100 percent and can be paired with a matching gift by the UMB Foundation that matches donations at 50 percent. As an example, a $500 gift to the endowed scholarship will receive a $500 match from Woodside and a $250 match from the UMB Foundation, yielding a $1,250 gift to enable students to study at the school in the field of financial social work.

The UMB Foundation has allocated funds to increase endowed student scholarships at each school at UMB. To qualify for the match, commitments must be made before December 2015 and paid within five years.

Woodside, McKinney, and Frey are pictured in the photo, below, that accompanied the article, "Financial Social Work," in the Fall 2013 issue of the School's Connections magazine.

FSWI leaders
Posting Date: 03/14/2014
Contact Name: Patricia Fanning
Contact Phone: 410-706-7946
Contact Email: pfanning@umaryland.edu