From Classroom to Community

Students in the Greater Rochester Collaborative Master’s of Social Work Program, a joint degree program between Nazareth College and the SUNY College at Brockport, have been using their skills outside of the classroom—and making the Southwest neighborhood of the City of Rochester a better place to live in the process.

The Advanced Standing Integrative Seminar course, taught by Nazareth’s Beth Russell and Brockport’s Margy Meath, has scrapped most of its in-class time in an effort to put its students out in the field where they’ll likely be working after graduation. They’re teaming with community leaders and local residents to identify both community strengths and critical issues in order to create resources for the community that will continue to provide support long after the project’s completion.

Russell, assistant professor in social work at Nazareth, says the students are aiming to get those in the community thinking about their neighborhood in a different way. “So often, we look at what’s missing in a community…at what’s happening that isn’t putting people in a good light,” says Russell. “But what’s happening that’s positive? For example, many organizations offer free meals. How do we help people find out about it and access it? How do we connect these organizations and help them pool their resources together?”

“We’re working on seven discrete projects or areas of focus. One of them is developing information about summer resources for kids in the neighborhood. Another examines the health resources in the Southwest community,” says Meath, a visiting assistant professor of social work at the SUNY College at Brockport. “Another group is focused on food. One of the issues with urban living is that a lot of people don’t have good transportation. So they shop at local corner stores that sell lots and lots of junk. So they’re going to look at the healthy alternatives that they have to offer.”

Pulling from each of these seven different areas, students are building an asset map, which will serve as comprehensive resource for the entire community. They are partnering with a neighborhood geographic information systems expert to build an inventory of available resources that community members can access over the Internet. The map will allow residents to filter information by topic and, they hope, provide some detailed information about each resource.

The students are also working with the staff at the Arnett branch of the Rochester Public Library to create aids for job searching and employment opportunities.

“We’re creating single page resources that say—this is how you can get a free email address, here are some resume tools, here are some places that you can go looking for jobs,” Meath says. “These are things that many of us take for granted because we know how to do it. But many people don’t.”

The Greater Rochester Collaborative MSW program is an innovative response to a long-standing need for an MSW program in the Greater Rochester area. The program is the first public/private partnership in social work education, providing students with the best educational experience from two of the area's finest academic institutions. The program focuses on the delivery of collaborative, community-based practice using an integrative practice model that stresses a strengths-based, empowerment oriented, interdisciplinary teamwork approach to social work practice. The program is a direct response to community, student, and agency needs and provides opportunities for graduates of the program to be on the cutting edge of new directions for social work practice.

Social Work students

MSW students work on resume tips for city residents in the Southwest neighborhood. Back Row: Michael Slobbe, Sabrina Howland, Front (Left): Sabrina Wing, Amanda Tuttle