The University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) is committed to keeping students informed during this unprecedented period of rapid change due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. On Monday, March 23, the University of Maryland School of Social Work and the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law held virtual town halls to address students' questions.
Using Webex technology, the town halls brought students into the same virtual room with administrators and faculty for an informative discussion and question-and-answer period.
Speaking directly to students from his office at the School of Social Work, Dean Richard P. Barth, PhD, MSW, said he prefers to use the term “physical distancing” rather than social distancing. “We need to maintain social work’s historic commitment to social integration and integrating, not distancing,” he said.
“As social workers, we’re dedicated to strengthening society, and I know you’re looking for ways to do that,” he continued.
Barth, who was joined remotely by several faculty members and administrators, including, Amanda Lehning, PhD, MSW, associate dean for academic affairs; Cherita Adams, MBA, MS, assistant dean for administration and strategic initiatives; Dawn Shafer, MSW, associate dean of student affairs; Danielle White, MBA, MS, assistant dean of records and registration; and Samuel Little, PhD, associate dean for field education.
Barth said he was confident the transition from the field work required for graduation to remote field work would be successful. Options include videoconferencing, tele-behavioral health technology, and select volunteer opportunities in the community. “Every school of social work across the nation will be doing something like this,” he noted. “We’re in close contact with the Council on Social Work Education, and they’re very supportive of what we’re doing.”
Donald B. Tobin, JD, dean of Maryland Carey Law, addressed his students with words of pragmatic optimism during a town hall from his home that registered 175 attendees at its peak. “Our goal is to make sure that the remaining part of the semester is as academically rigorous and interesting as we can make it in this new world,” he said.
Tobin told students that online learning methods and clinics are being treated on a case-by-case basis by faculty. “We do expect that the faculty are going to work with their students and clinics to make this work,” he said, whether it’s with more projects, more research papers, or other experiences.
Despite having different career paths, UMB’s future social workers and future lawyers had strikingly similar questions. Grades, convocation, job fairs, technology issues, licensing exams, and questions about fees and tuition were on everyone’s mind.
Tobin and Barth emphasized that while administrators are working hard behind the scenes to make adjustments during this period of uncertainty, flexibility and patience from all involved is crucial.
“We will move through this crisis in a way that continues you along your academic journey while working to preserve the health and safety of our community,” Tobin said. (The Law School Town Hall can be viewed here. Questions can be submitted at a form found here.)
Barth encouraged students to keep the questions coming to email@example.com or to submit them here. “In the meantime, stay safe and continue your great work to strengthen your own skills to help those who need so much at this time,” he concluded.