When classrooms were forced to adapt to virtual learning due to COVID-19, Adelphi's School of Social Work came up with a plan to ensure that students would still be able to gain experience in the field of social work.

Usually, students are given field assignments in which they work directly with human services agencies, but to prioritize the safety of students, these assignments were made virtual. This didn’t stop Adelphi’s social work students from coming together. In fact, one of the field assignments transformed into Adelphi Students for Change, a student-run organization dedicated to bringing awareness to social issues through live recorded conversations, panels and events.

“We have to do a certain number of hours of fieldwork, which would normally be in a traditional internship, but because of COVID-19, it was more limited,” said Master of Social Work student Noreen Sheehan. “So people ended up in alternative assignment groups where they were given assignments and projects. Ours turned out to be a podcast which turned into events.”

Adelphi Students for Change began in November 2020 as a self-titled podcast designed to discuss a variety of social work-related topics. The podcast started with only a couple of students but quickly grew into almost a dozen social work students increasing awareness on issues related to social work and promoting positive change within the Adelphi community. It has also become a safe space for graduate and undergraduate students to learn more about what they can do to shape a better future for everyone as future social workers.

“This is a great space for us as social work students. Because we’re all in different places, we get to see and hear different ideas,” said Master of Social Work student Mona Whitaker. “I can see the journey ahead of me before I even get there by listening to other members who are passionate about what they’re talking about.”

Putting Words Into Action

The podcasts are posted every month and can be streamed on Spotify and Google Podcasts. Episodes explore various topics such as immigration, voting, mental health and police brutality. Not only are students generating podcasts, they also hold events so they can walk it like they talk it.

“The podcast is us discussing research we’ve done on our own,” said junior Melissa Farmer. “[The events] are a continuation of the podcast conversations but involve us getting experts and coming up with solutions on what we can do as social workers as a call to action to these social issues.”

On February 23, they held their first event, Becoming an Ally and Understanding the Transgender Community. The guest speaker was Juli Grey-Owens, executive director of the Long Island Transgender Advocacy Coalition (LITAC). The event brought awareness of transgender issues and showcased how social workers can provide solutions.

Though the organization is student-run, it is made possible through the help of Adelphi faculty members, including Livia Polise, director of field education; Peggy Noel, adjunct faculty; and Schanica Pickens, director of student engagement and academic affairs and MSW program director. Members of Adelphi Students for Change were given the opportunity to be panelists for the Women, Power and Leadership in the Face of Social Justice conference on March 30. The conference examined the experiences of women leaders and how social justice shapes and informs their approach to leadership. As panelists, students led the discussion and learned from leaders in the field.

“We’re in the midst of a pandemic, so we can’t control the uncontrollable, but we can control what’s in our control… . That’s exactly what every single one of [these students] is doing,” said Pickens. “We want students to look at themselves as leaders in the field of social work.”

Social Work for Criminal Justice Reform

On April 20, Adelphi Students for Change will hold another event, focusing on the impact of mass incarceration and how social workers can reduce the number of people, especially people of color, who are incarcerated. The event will feature guest speakers involved in impactful organizations such as the Innocence Project, Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP), and the Leadership Training Institute. The discussion, “Mass Incarceration and Reintegration,” will be held virtually from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on April 20.

“I feel like social workers don’t get enough credit, but we’re in every field,” said MSW candidate Siena Sanches. “It’s very important to discuss these issues and let people know that we’re here. As leaders and as future social workers, we have to continue to make change.”

Adelphi Students for Change is excited to grow and continue to create change not only within the Adelphi community but in the world. Students running the organization include MSW candidates Kevin Lewis, Lauren Bayer, Mona Whitaker, Noreen Sheehan, Ricardo Rhoden, Siena Sanches and Victoria Urquia, and BSW junior Melissa Farmer.

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