Gifts to the Steve Hicks School of Social Work produce powerful, lasting returns. They help create knowledge, advance research, strengthen communities, and enrich student experiences. Most importantly, they help educate social workers who will go on to make a positive impact in the lives of countless individuals, families and communities.
These are three examples of recent initiatives that have enhanced the Forty Acres experience of many future social workers.
In Fall 2018, a group of undergraduate students in professor Diane Rhodes’ social justice course assessed classroom accessibility in the Steve Hicks School building. They presented the results to Dean Zayas, showing the need for furniture that was accessible and facilitated movement to fit different learning methods—from role-playing to discussion to collaborative tasks. Dean Zayas encouraged them to write a proposal to raise the necessary funds.
This past Spring semester, students successfully fund-raised through the university-wide Forty Hours for the Forty Acres campaign and made an effective presentation before the school’s Advisory Council.
As a result of these student-led efforts, five classrooms have now accessible, movable chairs and new whiteboards.
Philanthropy Education Program (PEP)
The PEP program was launched in 2017 to train social work students in development skills such as fundraising, donor cultivation, event planning, and gift stewardship. During a full year, PEP students attend development workshops, participate in Philanthropy Week, volunteer in events, and take leadership in one PEP activity. Admission is competitive and participants receive a stipend.
“I think I am a more desirable candidate for employment because of my familiarity with development,” MSSW student Katie Ray said. “Thanks to the PEP program, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and learn from donors and high-ranking university officials. I’ve also had the opportunity to explore development as a potential career option for myself.”
Washington Calling is a career-development seminar for undergraduate and master’s level social work students that takes place during Spring Break in Washington, D.C. During an intensive week, students meet with alumni living and working in the area, explore federal internship opportunities, and learn about job prospects in policy, advocacy, clinical work, and professional organizations. Since its launch in 2017, 21 social work students have participated in this program.
“Washington Calling allowed me to learn about social work on a broader scale: not just in Austin, not just in Texas, but at the national level,” MSSW student Alissa Sughrue said. “I learned that social workers can be leaders both in programs that they are running and at the Capitol; and I learned about the importance of serving people beyond political party lines.”