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Studying global issues at the U.N.

Social work majors visit the Big Apple
By B. J. Bryson, social work professor

Clarissa Lynch, a student officer in JMU's chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, and Liz Riggin, Virginia NASW's student social worker of the year, visit with social work alumna Kacie Welsh ('05) at the United Nations.

Clarissa Lynch, a student officer in JMU's chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, and Liz Riggin, Virginia NASW's student social worker of the year, visit with social work alumna Kacie Welsh ('05) at the United Nations. Welsh (right) earned her M.S.W. at Rutgers University.

For thirty-three students from JMU's Department of Social Work the Global Social Work Conference held at Fordham University and Social Work Day at the United Nations in spring 2009 were opportunities to get a broader perspective on global issues facing the world community.

More than 300 students from across the United States and Canada attended the conference and more than 600 social workers visited the United Nations representing various areas of international practice, agencies and issues.

The conference focused on the social worker's roles in areas of international development, the impact of extreme poverty, issues related to child endangerment and UNICEF's role, climate change and the global economy. Additional workshops focused on human trafficking, human rights, international perspectives on LGBT issues, documenting the stories of the missing and disappeared persons of Chile, and torture. Speakers included Bernado Kilksberg, who has written more than 40 books on poverty and possible global solutions; Shulamith Koening from the People's Movement for Human Rights Education; and Margaret Kelley of the United Nations General Assembly and ECOSOC Affairs Division.

JMU students dine with Jennifer Ellis ('05), fourth from left, in New York. Ellis finished her Master's in Social Work degree and talked at length with undergrads (clockwise, l-r): Kelly Wilson, Jessica Davis, Meghan Hovanic and Kristy Kline.

JMU students dine with Jennifer Ellis ('05), fourth from left, in New York. Ellis finished her Master's in Social Work degree and talked at length with undergrads (clockwise, l-r): Kelly Wilson, Jessica Davis, Meghan Hovanic and Kristy Kline.

Students received an in-depth history of the impact and relevance of the U.S. slave industry on people of African descent and New York City at the African Burial Ground, which is part of the National Parks Service. It is the largest known burial ground of African descended persons in the country. Their stories represent a critical part of the history of the enslaved passage and slavery's existence in Northern states. This became the starting point for informing present-day issues related to forced migration around the globe, immigration, trafficking, human rights and issues of torture.

Students also visited the 9/11 Memorial Exhibit at Trinity Church where first responders were provided basic care. This illustrated how communities come together to address larger crises. One item that stood out for students were supportive responses from the global community including origami peace flags from Japan, boots from Mexican workers left with positive comments and hundreds of patches left by workers who came to volunteer.

Learn more about the 26th-annual Social Work day at the United Nations at http://bluehawk.monmouth.edu/swork/UN/.