Monday, December 24, 2012

Reflecting on my Higher Education Goals

In case this is your first time visiting my blog, I am currently pursuing a master's degree in higher education.  Previously, I recently completed my master's degree in social work (emphasis on macro practice, i.e. working with communities and organizations to effect social change). Although my original career interest was community interest, I began to explore diversity issues in higher education during my social work field placement. I had a strong desire to return to my educational roots (my undergraduate degree is in K-12 education policy) and decided to switch my career interest to higher education administration. I finished my first term in the higher education master's program with a 3.85 GPA (hoo-ray!). I am proud of this accomplishment because it made me realize that education could become my niche. My research and policy interests so far focus on these six areas:

  • Access and equity
  • Civic engagement
  • Institutional diversity
  • Social capital and social mobility
  • Social justice pedagogy
  • Student retention and success

Once I graduate, I want to work in student affairs as an academic advisor, project coordinator, or program manager at a four-year institution. Later, I will become an education policy expert on issues affecting access and equity among socially disadvantaged and underrepresented students. I may even pursue a PhD in Education and/or Sociology along the way to explore these areas in greater depth. If there are social work students who are strongly considering a career in student affairs, I will also try to obtain my full license in macro social work practice so that I can become a mentor to these students. I know the social work profession needs more licensed macro social workers who can train the next generation of social reformers!

To end on a good note, I am proud of myself and look forward to a good year in 2013. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Review: Creating a New Profession: The Beginnings of Social Work Education in the United States (2000)

Creating a New Profession: The Beginnings of Social Work Education in the United States (2000), by Leslie Leighninger, is the first monograph of its kind that gathered primary sources to narrate how the social work profession began in the United States. He gathered essays by the leading social work pioneers in the last century and the origins of social work centers in urban cities -- Boston, New York, Chicago, St. Louis and so on. Early social workers focused on organized training, scientific knowledge, the importance of field work, the significance of race and gender, the search for balance between client-focused and social reform perspectives, and attempts to keep up with technology and new techniques.

Selections included Anna L. Dawes, Mary Richmond, Jeffrey R. Brackett, George E. Haynes, Forrester B. Washington, Abraham Flexner, Edward T. Devine, Edith Abbot, Ziplpha Smith, and Mary Richmond. While these names are briefly mentioned in most standard social work textbooks, Leighninger allows readers the full flavor of social work pioneers' ideas, aspirations, and enthusiasm for a new profession. For instance, Mary Richmond is identified with the client based (social casework) perspective and Jane Addams is identified with the social reform (settlement house) perspective. Social casework provided a coordinated system of philanthropy where "friendly visitors" identified which families needed assistance, whereas the settlement house provided a community center in the heart of the neighborhood where workers and residents could engage together in social reform activities.

This book was insightful in three ways. First, I developed a deeper appreciation for the early social workers who developed a profession in response to many societal factors at the time (immigration, urbanization, industrialization, concentrated poverty, discrimination, and so forth). The Progressive Era (1890-1913) enlightened middle-class women and men to address the causes of poverty and reform the nation at the local, state and federal levels. Second, the philosophical perspective (client-based vs. social reform) in a particular city determined the direction of the social work curriculum (the Northeast adopted a client-based model based on social work casework whereas the Midwest adopted a social reform model from the settlement house movement). This perspective is still reflected today in the contemporary social work schools.

Finally, I was delighted to learn about the social work profession from an African-American perspective. The authors (Haynes and Washington) argued that black social workers were needed to "uplift" the African-American community since no one else would or could help black families. This mindset followed W.E.B. Dubois' approach to communal empowerment (also known as the Talented Tenth, the most talented and educated would give back and provide leadership to the African-American community during times of racial unrest and discrimination).

Overall, I am very happy that I read this book because it gave me a better understanding of the origins of social work education in the United States. I highly recommend it to social workers and social welfare scholars who want a grounded understanding of the theories that led to the development of the social work profession in the early twentieth century.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

InsideHigherEd: Many highly-talented, low-income students never apply to top colleges

I found this article on InsideHigherEd.com, and it begs this question: why don't highly-talented, low income students never apply to highly selective colleges and universities?

The nation's most elite colleges and universities have in recent years added numerous programs to help students from low-income backgrounds enroll. And at many such institutions, low-income students would not need to pay anything, or would have to make only very small contributions to the annual tab. So why, at some of these institutions, is one more likely to find a student with a second home than one with a Pell Grant?

A new study finds that a majority students with low incomes but high academic ability never apply to a single competitive college. Further, the study finds that many colleges are searching for these students at a very small number of high schools --and in the process are missing lots of other talent. The study -- by Caroline M. Hoxby, a professor of economics at Stanford University, and Christopher Avery, a professor of public policy at Harvard University -- was released Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research. (An abstract is available here.)

In their conclusion, Hoxby and Avery say that their work shows there are more low-income students of high academic talent out there. Broadening recruiting would cost more in time and money than the current system, they write. But colleges today appear to be "searching under the lamp post" for the small number of students that are visible, ratherthan searching "where the students are."

I also want to post another poster's comment about why low-income students do not apply to highly selective institutions:
If I am admitted to an elite school, and "everything is paid for", I am far away from family and my support network. I may not have the resources to go home over breaks, or for family to visit me. I may not have the resources to dress as my peers at elite school dress, or the funds to socialize as do my peers. There are many many outside of the classroom issues that are not addressed...and these are significant barriers.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Truth about Student Loan Debt in America


As someone with student loans, I dread the day when I have to repay my student loan debt. Below, I provide fifteen facts on why student loan collection is sadistic and needs major reform. Next year, Congress should act immediately on this financial aid crisis as well as remove the ban on student loans in bankruptcy.

  1. There is no way to escape student loan debt.
  2. Nearly one in every six borrowers with a loan balance is in default.
  3. Last year, the U.S. Department of Education spent over $1.4 billion to hire collection agencies to hunt down these defaulters.
  4. Government debt collectors can seize almost any kind of asset.
  5. In 2011, the government recouped more than $2.67 billion using these methods.
  6. High recovery rates have meant that less is done to prevent default.
  7. Penalties on loan defaults can be as high as 25% of the balance.
  8. Debt collectors hired by the government rarely explain the options debtors have for repayments.
  9. Debt collectors are rewarded for collecting as much of the money owed as possible regardless of the hardship that causes debtors.
  10. Collection agencies have little incentive to change because many receive huge commissions.
  11. Student loan collection contracts are gold mines for collection agencies.
  12. The average defaulted loan is worth about $17,000.
  13. If a debt collector hasn’t found a defaulting borrower in six months, the case gets passed on to another agency.
  14. Debt collectors are the subject of thousands of complaints every year.
  15. Loan collections have increased by 18%.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

CHE: On Students' Paths to College, Some Detours Are Desirable

I am a strong advocate of career and technical education in both secondary and postsecondary education. Sometimes, I think the growing emphasis on obtaining a college degree misses out on the fact that some students may want to pursue careers in the trades. Educators and policymakers need to provide greater postsecondary options for high school graduates. This Chronicle of Higher Education article reiterates my opinion about this issue.
The higher-education establishment in the United States has been obsessed with raising graduation rates ever since the Obama administration and two major foundations, Gates and Lumina, vowed to see that the country soon has the world's highest share of adults with college credentials. Getting students who start college to eventually finish is a noble goal. But we focus too much time, effort, and money on pushing students through a narrow, simplistic view of higher education—one that starts three months after high-school graduation and ends two or four years later with a degree. That vision doesn't reflect either the reality of today's students or the higher-level skills our economy needs in its workers to compete on the global stage.

Monday, December 3, 2012

14 Tips Before You Start the Graduate Application Process

Many education and social work programs have priority deadlines around this time of year. The New Social Worker posted 14 tips on how to effectively prepare your graduate application. (This advice is also applicable for admission into education master's programs).

1. Don’t just download applications!

2. Read the application carefully, and follow directions!

3. Attend a pre-admissions meeting or ask to meet with a faculty member to talk about the program and your fit.

4. Give yourself ample time to think, write, revise, edit, get feedback from an impartial reviewer, revise, edit, and submit!

5. If you aren’t confident about your writing skills, during the application process, you might consider taking a writing class or working with an editor to improve your writing skills.


6. If you are applying in your senior year or are a new graduate, keep in mind that the coursework, volunteer experiences, and field practica you completed have increased your knowledge and skills.

7. If you have been out practicing at the bachelor’s level, use your educational and work experience to highlight what you have accomplished, where you are headed professionally, and what you will contribute.

8. Some programs request that a résumé be submitted along with your application.

9. Be honest in your application, your résumé, and your professional statement/essay.

10. Write your professional statement or essay for a specific program.

11. Do you have specialized experience related to a specific part of the program mission?

12. References are always required!

13. Avoid anything that can make your application and or professional statement or essay difficult to read.

14. Carefully review what should be mailed or done online, and by whom.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The real problem in encouraging reading: lack of access to books

This opinion was published in the Green Bay Press-Gazette on November 12, 2012. Libraries are a strong source of social and cultural capital. If want more children to engage in leisurely reading, elected officials and educators must support libraries in under-resourced areas. Too many leaders select to shut down school and branch libraries in budget crises. This short-term solution only hurts disadvantaged rural and urban communities. As an avid reader myself, I wholeheartedly agree with this statement:
I am a cross-over reader, an adult who loved Harry Potter and Hunger Games. But it isn’t true that “Books like 'Hunger Games' make reading cool again,” (Nov. 12). Contrary to popular opinion, reading has always been cool. Teen-agers today spend about the same amount of time reading as they did in 1946. Current data on reading includes reading from the internet, but book reading has not declined: In 1946, according the Book Manufacturers' Institute, 34% of teen-agers said they read a book yesterday; in 2005, according to a Pew report, 33% did.

The real problem in encouraging reading is that those who live in poverty have little access to books: they have few books at home, live in neighborhoods with lower quality libraries and few bookstores, and attend schools with lower quality classroom and school libraries. In most cases, their only chance to get access to books is the library. Research consistently confirms that library quality is related to reading achievement, but support for libraries has declined.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Job Seekers: Beware of These Social Media Traps

Do you want to enhance your professional presence on the Internet? Not sure how to improve your social profile? This infographic by Column Five Media provides good advice and tips on how to monitor your social media profile and increase your chances of securing interviews (and eventually employment!).








Friday, November 23, 2012

Bill Gates: Our College Crisis

Bill Gates presented at the Washington Ideas Forum that "shrinking state budgets have indeed made college less affordable and lead to ballooning student debt." However, he claimed the biggest problem in higher education was the low retention and graduation rates. He stated, "If we want to produce an educated, 21st century workforce, we need to focus on making sure more students who are currently dropping out of school instead make it to commencement."

This link will provide you access to the Gates Foundation's PowerPoint presentation .



Monday, November 19, 2012

Five Nontraditional Careers with an MSW

Are you a social worker who wonders what careers can you pursue in a non-traditional setting? The University of Southern California  School of Social Work is already helping MSW students secure positions in non-traditional settings. Check out these fields below from Careerealism:

  1. Community Outreach
  2. Program Development/Management
  3. Human Resources
  4. Managed Care
  5. Entrepreneur
Many social workers also pursue administration and public policy careers in government institutions. There is this perception that public-sector social workers only work in child welfare and veteran affairs.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

More General Graduate Admissions Advice

Before you apply to graduate school, ask yourself these seven questions:

1. Why do I want to go to grad school?

2. Why do I want to do this now?

3. What type of academic or professional degree am I seeking?

4. In what geographic region do I want to study?

5. What type of learning and student experience am I seeking?

6. Will significant others, a spouse, or children impact my plans?

7. Should I consider a full-time or part-time program?

Other related articles include four myths debunked and critical steps in finding the right graduate program. InsideHigherEd's GradHacker posted a two-part series: financing and selecting a graduate school program.

Although the links below focus on doctoral programs, I believe the admissions advice is also relevant for master's programs:

Monday, November 12, 2012

Richest Colleges: Michigan (7th) and Northwestern (9th)

TheStreet.com released the 10 richest colleges (by endowments) in the United States. Both Michigan (7th) and Northwestern (9th) made the top ten list. Harvard (as usual) is the richest college in the country.

  1. Harvard 
  2. Yale 
  3. University of Texas
  4. Princeton
  5. Stanford
  6. MIT
  7. University of Michigan
  8. Columbia
  9. Northwestern University
  10. Texas A&M University

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Smithsonian: The History of Voting in America

The Smithsonian Institution's Museum of American History has a virtual exhibition, Vote: The Machinery of Democracy, on the history of voting in America. This is a great website to visit just to expand your knowledge on why voting is important among Americans.

Check out this amazing Prezi presentation on the national election results.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Review: The Thinking Student's Guide to College (2010)

The Thinking Student's Guide to College: 75 Tips for Getting a Better Education (2010), by Andrew Roberts, is a practical college guide book that helps students understand ther rigors of academic life and take charge of their own undergraduate experience. It is the kind of valuable resource that I wished was in existence when I entered college nearly a decade ago. Fortunately, I followed most of his advice and chose to follow my passion. After all, college (whether public or private, large research institution or liberal arts college) is the only time in our lives where we can get a personalized education without restrictions and obligations.

Although Roberts is a political science professor at Northwestern University (my alma mater, woo-hoo!), he offers concrete tips on choosing a college, selecting classes, deciding on a major, interacting with faculty, and applying to graduate school. More importantly, he emphasizes why students should engage with faculty and how these relationships can help students achieve their educational aspirations. He also includes text boxes on hot topics

Friday, November 2, 2012

NYTimes: The New American Worker (Part-Time, No Benefits)

The New York Times published an article, "A Part-Time Life, as Hours Shrink and Shift," that discusses how technology and growing competition has many part-time workers struggling in impoverished conditions. There is also little possibility that these part-time workers can find full-time employment with their employer.

Technology is speeding this transformation. In the past, part-timers might work the same schedule of four- or five-hour shifts every week. But workers’ schedules have become far less predictable and stable. Many retailers now use sophisticated software that tracks the flow of customers, allowing managers to assign just enough employees to handle the anticipated demand.
“Many employers now schedule shifts as short as two or three hours, while historically they may have scheduled eight-hour shifts,” said David Ossip, founder of Dayforce, a producer of scheduling software used by chains like Aéropostale and Pier One Imports.
Some employers even ask workers to come in at the last minute, and the workers risk losing their jobs or being assigned fewer hours in the future if they are unavailable.
The widening use of part-timers has been a bane to many workers, pushing many into poverty and forcing some onto food stamps and Medicaid. And with work schedules that change week to week, workers can find it hard to arrange child care, attend college or hold a second job, according to interviews with more than 40 part-time workers.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Considering a Career in Student Affairs?

As National Careers in Student Affairs Month comes to a close, I found these wonderful Chronicle of Higher Education articles about the many possibilities that you can pursue with a career in student affairs.
Last updated in 2011, I highly recommend this StudentAffairs.com blog for career advice: Inside the Search

Prospective and current students should also become familiar with the two largest student affairs professional organizations in America:
  • American College Personnel Association
  • National Association for Student Personnel Administrators
[UPDATE: 02/05/2013]: NASPA released a webinar entitled "Successful Careers in Student Affairs." You can watch the video below.

Watch live streaming video from higheredjobs at livestream.com

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Review: Professionalism and Social Change - From the Settlement House Movement to the Neighborhood Centers, 1886 to the Present (1987) by Judith Ann Trolander

Professionalism and Social Change: From the Settlement House Movement to the Neighborhood Centers, 1886 to the Present (1987), by Judith Ann Trolander, is a historical research study on the controversies and decline of the American settlement house movement (1886-1986). The post-WWII settlement houses experienced rapid professionalization and change: black male staff replaced white female staff, and neighborhoods changed with urban renewal and and black migration to the cities.
Settlement houses historically fulfilled their purposes in two ways: it provided immediate educational and recreational services and brought about social reform (and thus alleviated social problems) in their respective communities. In the 1980s, the social work profession was transitioning from social reform and political action of the 1960s to psychotherapy and direct services delivery. This change corresponded to the growing conservative political climate at the time. In some ways, the timing and publication of Trolander's book encouraged further discussion about the future of settlement houses (and community social work in general) when its influence was diminishing in the new era of privatization and devolution.

Settlement houses participated in three major reform periods in the 20th century: the Progressive Era (1890s-1920s), the New Deal (1930s-1940s), and the Great Society (1960s-1970s). In my opinion, the settlement house movement was shaped by social, external forces rather than its influence on the community. In return, settlement houses adapted to new clienteles in order to influence social change. Settlement houses played a significant role in formulating the current social welfare structure as well as experimenting with social services. Professionalism and Social Change is an excellent book to read if you are interested in urban social welfare history.

Judith Ann Trolander is Professor Emerita of History at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. She received her Ph.D. in American History and M.S. in Library Science from Case Western Reserve University.



Monday, October 22, 2012

NPR: Detroit-Area Students Say They've Been Denied The Right To Read

Last year, I highlighted the growing illiteracy problem in the Detroit area. I also wrote a paper about how this was a social injustice issue in my social work program. Below is more evidence on how struggling school districts failed to teach remedial education to underprivileged students.
Eight Detroit-area public school students returning to classes this week are plaintiffs against a school system they say has failed them. Their families and the American Civil Liberties Union say that the Highland Park school system has denied the students the right to learn to read, and that the state has a responsibility to fix that. Michelle Johnson has five children in Highland Park schools. Her daughter is heading into the 12th grade, but can read at only about the fourth-grade level. "It's heartbreaking every morning when you get up and people look in your face and say, 'Oh, that's that lady, her daughter can't read,' " Johnson says. ... The lawsuit accuses the state of failing to enforce a Michigan law that says students who do poorly on standardized reading tests — which are given in the fourth or seventh grades — must receive remedial help to bring them up to grade level. Rosenbaum is asking a judge to enforce that law. "The fact is that this is the first 'right to read' case, but it won't be the last," he says. "The reality is that there are children throughout Michigan and throughout the country whose ZIP code is determining their educational opportunities."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Times Higher Education World Rankings 2012-2013

Below are the 2012-2013 Times Higher Education World Rankings of my alma mater, Northwestern University, and current university for graduate studies, the University of Michigan. In a previous post, both social work and higher education are ranked #1 at Michigan.

Northwestern University - 19th Place
2012 Word Reputation: 35th Place

With Ann-Margret, Warren Beatty and Charlton Heston among its alumni, Northwestern's annual musical revue, Waa-Mu, has launched scores on the thespian path. A private university on the shores of Lake Michigan, its 240-acre campus accommodates more than 16,000 students taught by around 2,500 staff.

University of Michigan - 20th Place
2012 World Reputation: 12th Place

A month before he was elected President, John F. Kennedy came to Michigan and first endorsed the ideal of public service abroad for young Americans that later found expression in the Peace Corps. In 2009, enrolments across 28 schools and colleges on three campuses numbered 58,089, and the institution had amassed 1,400 student organisations and 8 million library books.

Monday, October 15, 2012

50th Anniversary of the Port Huron Statement at the University of Michigan

The University of Michigan will host a conference (October 31-November 2, 2012) that marks the 50th anniversary of the Port Huron Statement.

In June 1962, dozens of activists belonging to Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) met in Port Huron, Michigan, to draft a manifesto for a new era of protest. The Port Huron Statement grasped the spirit of the Black Freedom Struggle, the peace movement, and the anti-colonial revolution abroad. It presented a radical vision of social justice and what democracy in action could mean—and it spread the word about an awakening New Left (1958-1965) that would soon shake the world.
“A New Insurgency: The Port Huron Statement in Its Time and Ours” is free and open to the public. Leading activists past and present as well as distinguished scholars will examine the radical movements of the late 1950s and early 1960s and compare them with today’s “new insurgency”—from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, the “indignados” and anti-austerity rallies of Europe, and mass student campaigns from Chile to Quebec.
Click here for the Residential College Summer Read of The Port Huron Statement and The Sharon Statement.

This would be a great event to attend for those persons interested in social movements, community organizing, and participatory democracy.

 

Friday, October 12, 2012

DetNews: How Detroiters feel about their city

The Detroit News published a three-day series exploring the attitudes of Detroiters about their city, leaders and services.
The series will explore residents' outlook for the future as well as their opinions on the quality of public safety and transportation. It will also highlight their attitudes toward the leadership of the mayor, city council and governor. Finally it will provide a look into Detroiters' feelings about their available education options and hopes for their children's future.
Below are links to the articles:

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sign the petition: Reform Internship Requirements for Social Work Students

Deona Hooper, an MSW graduate from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, created this petition on change.org, which seeks to reform the CSWE internship requirements for social work students:
Social Work Students are paying high tuition and are going in debt to work for free. Higher education use to mean a better life. A better shot at the American Dream. Agencies are benefiting, Schools of Social Work are benefiting, but what about the person assuming all the debt and cost? The purpose of the internship is to gain work experience. However, students are being turned away from jobs and not being considered for positions due to lack of experience. Students are being told that their internships don't count as experience. It suppose to be a learning experience, right?

Working Practitioners are having to leave jobs as Social Workers to work free as Social Workers if they want that coveted degree. Where is the lesson in that? We do not live in an era where leaving a job is feasible when it can be avoided. No other profession demands the amount of hours required by a social work degree for no pay and no guarantee of health insurance benefits for all students. The profession that does, if any, are not paying the salaries that social workers will make when entering the job market. Those folks are going to much higher paying jobs.

....

A culture is being created where only those with privilege or who can live with their parents can afford a social work degree. Don't keep out compassionate people without means from entering the profession.

For those who don't understand the petition, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) handles accreditation for bachelor's and master's social work programs. It sets and monitors the social work curriculum in the Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards. Social work students must complete a minimum of 900 hours in field instruction with a licensed master social worker as their supervisor to become eligible for graduation. Yes, I said a minimum of 900 hours! Your current experience with an agency does not count if it is not listed under the social work program's approved list of field placement sites. Furthermore, some social work programs only accept students who can commit to full-time enrollment.

These strict requirements force social workers and prospective applicants to make tough decisions about whether this is the right career path for them. The MSW is preferred for administrative and research positions, yet it is very costly to earn this degree. While I was fortunate to have a paid social work field placement (and another paid campus job) in graduate school, I knew too many classmates who had unpaid internships AND applied for food stamps through the course of their study (4 semesters). I believe this is unacceptable because the social work profession doesn't attract affluent students (i.e., business, government, and law) who can afford to work for free with prestigious employers. However, most social work applicants come from working- and middle-class backgrounds who need the most financial assistance. The average entry-level master's social worker earns a salary of $37,000, but will owe more in student loan debt than they will earn in their entire first year on the job.

Social work has a proud social justice legacy, but the CSWE needs to revise its curricular standards so that it doesn't privilege one group of people (white, middle-class women) over historically marginalized populations (racial/ethnic minorities and the poor). According to NASW Workforce Center, the social work profession is currently 85% white women. Please spread the word about this petition to your classmates and colleagues. Continue this discussion because it will take all our voices to promote any real positive change to the internship requirements.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Teach for America: A Glorified Temp Agency (NYTimes)

Some readers are already aware that I am anti-Teach for America (TFA). For liberal arts graduates, TFA sounds good on paper: the brightest college graduates from the best colleges serve a two-year commitment to teach disadvantaged students in the nation's most struggling school districts). However, TFA actually weakens pubilc-sector unions and public education in general. In college, I saw TFA heavily recruit my classmates and promote the (false) advantages of charter schools. But my problem with current urban education policy began before I started college.

Here is my story: In 2000, the Michigan state legislature (at the time, John Engler was governor) voted to dissolve the union that represented school administrators (assistant principals and principals) in Detroit Public Schools. Essentially, DPS school administrators became at-will employees who lost 10 percent of their salary (under DPS superintendent Kenneth Burnley) and paid a higher percentage towards their health premiums. The passage of this law had negative consequences for my mother, who began her career as a teacher and became a school administrator through promotions. By losing the right to form a union, my mother and her colleagues lost their voice--they lost the power to protect themselves in the workplace. I was just a high school student, but I witnessed first-hand how a union-busting law could potentially hurt middle-class families. (You can read more about the Detroit case in Collective Bargaining in the Public Sector: The Experience of Eight States by Joyce M. Najita, James L. Stern.)

The New York Times opinion by Julian Heilig, associate professor of educational policy and planning and African and African diaspora studies at the University of Texas at Austin, eloquently states how I feel about TFA.

Teach for America is essentially a glorified temp agency. According to my calculations, more than 80 percent of the recruits leave for graduate school or another career before their fourth year, taking with them all the training and recruitment dollars taxpayers and universities have invested in them — as much as $70,000 a year. As I discuss in a 2010 National Education Policy Center research brief, the debate about whether these teachers produce gains or losses in their students' test scores rages on in academia. The high turnover among these temporary teachers undermines students' achievement at the schools where they are placed — a concern that civil rights and parent groups have raised repeatedly as Teach for America lobbies to have its teachers hired in the districts the critics' children attend, even when there are no shortages.

Sadly, Teach for America is a revolving door of inexperienced teachers for the students who most need a highly qualified one. As applications to the program at Harvard and other highly selective institutions of higher education are burgeoning, now is the time for the organization to start require corps members to make at least a five- to seven-year commitment and to become certified. Then Teach for America (and the districts that hire the group) would know which individuals are serious about making a difference in the classroom and which see a teaching stint with Teach for America as simply a résumé builder.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Back-to-back! Detroit Tigers crowned division champions for second straight year

Detroit Tigers, congratulations on the back-to-back American League Central Division championship! Good luck in the World Series!


The Tigers were crowned division champions for a second straight year Monday night, clinching a postseason berth for the 14th time in franchise history following their 6-3 win in Kansas City.

After trailing the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central for most the season, the Tigers gained sole possession of the division in late September and never looked back.

They became the first team in the American League to clinch their division en route to earning back-to-back postseason berths for the first time in 77 years.
UPDATE: Miguel Cabrera became the first player in 45 years to win Major League Baseball's Triple Crown after finishing the 2012 season on Wednesday leading the American League in batting average, home runs and runs batted in. The Detroit Tigers slugger, who had a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBI, is the first player to win the award since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.

UPDATE #2: Congratulations Detroit Tigers, for sweeping the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series

Monday, October 1, 2012

October Is National Careers in Student Affairs Month

October is National Careers in Student Affairs Month. The National Association for Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) has a website that serves as a resource for both students and administrators to increase awareness and appreciation for the field of student affairs. I also provide links below in case you want to learn more about student affairs:

For prospective students who are applying to higher education and student affairs master's programs, I wish you good luck in the admissions process!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Emancipation Proclamation is 150 Years Old!

On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which established a date for the freedom of more than 3 million slaves of African descent in the United States.
The proclamation was a presidential order and not a law passed by Congress, so Lincoln then pushed for an antislavery amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ensure its permanence. With the passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865, slavery was eliminated throughout America (although blacks would face another century of struggle before they truly began to gain equal rights). - History Channel
This historical milestone (150 years!) is significant in two ways:

First, the Emancipation Proclamation recast the American Civil War as a fight against slavery rather than only to preserve the Union. This was a huge political gamble for President Lincoln because he was uncertain that the anti-slavery movement would prevail. After the South seceded, there was no political reason to tolerate slavery. The decree provided moral inspiration for the North and discouraged European countries from supporting the Confederacy (South). It also had the effect of permitting the recruitment of African Americans in the Union (North) army. By 1865, nearly 180,000 African American soldiers had enlisted in the Union army.

Second, the Emancipation Proclamation inspired future generations of African Americans to recognize the United States as their permanent home. This decree solidified the notion that African Americans could fight for equal rights and integration. During the next 100 years, African Americans established churches, mutual aid societies, and educational institutions and adopted nonviolent social change techniques (sit-ins, marches, and court cases) in order to gain political power at the community and national levels. African Americans also joined the armed forces to serve their country against fascism abroad and racial prejudice at home. These efforts would point the way to the rise of the American civil rights movement.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. highlighted the Emancipation Proclamation's legacy in his famous "I Have a Dream" (1962) speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. A hundred years later, King states:

“This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice.. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
Please visit the White House blog for more information.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Social Work Documentary, "American Winter"

This upcoming documentary needs your help! The production needs additional funding. The link also includes a trailer and donations.
The almost-completed documentary “American Winter” examines the plight of Portland, Ore., residents who are struggling economically in the wake of the Great Recession. The documentary includes footage of social workers who operate 211 call lines that help the needy find a variety of services, including groceries from food banks, help paying utilities and emergency shelter. The film is directed by Joe and Harry Gantz, the makers of HBO’s award-winning series “Taxicab Confessions.” The brothers also did Showtime’s “Sexual Healing,” a sex therapy show featuring National Association of Social Workers member Laura Berman, DSW.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Kolb Learning Styles Results: I am a Diverger!

In my higher education course on academic affairs, students filled out a Kolb learning styles quiz based on experiential learning theory. When I finished, my results revealed that I am a Diverger. According to Kolb:
"Divergers have characteristics opposite from convergers. Their greatest strengths lie in creativity and imaginative ability. A person with this learning style excels in the ability to view concrete situations from many perspectives and generate many ideas such as in a "brainstorming" session. Research shows that Divergers are interested in people and tend to be imaginative and emotional. They tend to be interested in the arts and often have humanities or liberal arts backgrounds. Counselors, organizational development specialists, and personnel managers tend to be characterized by this learning style."
According to this description, Divergers like to sit back and reflect on issues that they feel most passionate about. They are imaginative and are good at coming up with ideas and seeing things from different perspectives. Essentially, they are people-oriented brainstormers. Given my background in macro social work, the description does sound like me. I like to read novels, reflect about current issues, and brainstorm solutions to social problems.

If you have taken this quiz, what kind of learning style do you have?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Chronicle: The Problem of Hunger on College Campuses

Few people would think there is a hunger problem among college students. Whether they are ineligible for food stamps or feel shameful about their current financial situation, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, money worries keeps students going to campus food banks.
"Hunger on campus is part of a lingering national problem that grew after the financial crisis that began in late 2007. In an unforgiving economy, many students across the country struggle not only to pay tuition but also to buy food. Colleges and nonprofit groups have noticed, and more are reacting. Food pantries are cropping up on two-year and four-year campuses nationwide, including, in recent years, at Oregon State University, the University of Georgia, and Valencia College. At Bunker Hill Community College, volunteers from the Greater Boston Food Bank recently gave out truckloads of groceries to needy students."

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Chronicle: Today's Students - Same as Always, But More So

In the Chronicle of Higher Education, Arthur Levine and Diane Dean explore what concerns current undergraduate students in postsecondary education and how they differ from previous generations. Their research also analyzes how social, economic, and technological factors have shaped their worldview.
What is familiar is that current undergraduates are little involved in campus life, disenchanted with politics and government, more issue-oriented than ideological, engaged in community service, utilitarian in their goals for college, weak academically, frequenters of psychological-counseling services, eager consumers, and partial to sex and alcohol. Just more so, in each category, than their predecessors.

What is different is that there are stark contradictions between student beliefs and the realities of their lives; a gulf between their dreams and the diminished conditions of the world in which they live. Consider this:

  1. Most college students (89 percent) say they are optimistic about their personal futures but pessimistic about the future of the country (65 percent).
  2. Three out of four undergraduates expect to be at least as well off as their parents, but four out of five do not expect Social Security to be available when they retire.
  3. Current undergraduates have the most inflated grades in 40 years, but a majority (60 percent) believe their grades understate their academic ability, even though nearly half (45 percent) have had to take remedial courses.
  4. Undergraduates want change, but they are timid rule followers.
  5. Today's students are simultaneously the most connected and disconnected generation in collegiate history.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Social Workers in Congress and Upcoming 2012 Election

Did you know there are seven social workers serving in the 112th Congress?
Meanwhile, I found more social work news around the web:
  • The New Social Worker celebrated Jane Addams' birthday (September 6). The magazine also published a 1998 article about the legacy of the settlement house movement (see link).
  • How do President Obama and former Governor Romney compare on important social work issues? NASW released a 2012 Presidential Candidate Position Chart on the latest social policy issues, such as children and families, jobs and the economy, and civil rights. The Chronicle of Philanthropy also released a presidential candidate position chart on nonprofit issues.
  • A full text of First Lady Michelle Obama's terrific and inspirational speech at the Democratic National Convention is now available on the Huffington Post.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Freep: 27% of Michigan workers in low-wage jobs

More economic disturbing news has been released from the Michigan League for Human Services on the current job market in Michigan:
New data from the Michigan League for Human Services, a research and advocacy organization, show that 27% of all Michigan workers, or nearly a million people, are stuck in positions where they can barely earn a living.

Of the seven occupations that employ the greatest number of workers in Michigan, five have a median wage that will not bring a family of four out of poverty, according to the MLHS.

These occupations are: retail salespeople, cashiers, food preparation and service workers, waiters and waitresses and janitors and cleaners.

"In the jobs where most people are working in our state ... five of the areas don't support families," said Gilda Jacobs, CEO and president of the MLHS. "That's kind of a red flag."

Meanwhile, I hoped everyone had a wonderful Labor Day weekend. We, as social workers and educators, must help support and preserve benefits and working conditions for the middle class.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

NCES: Higher Education: Gaps in Access and Persistence Study

A new federal report by the National Center for Education Statistics highlights significant gaps that exist in access to and persistence in American higher education by race and gender -- but has little to say about inequalities by socioeconomic status.
The primary focus of the Higher Education: Gaps in Access and Persistence Study is to examine differences between males and females overall and within racial/ethnic groups. The racial/ethnic groups of interest include Blacks, Hispanics, Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders, and American Indians/Alaska Natives. The secondary focus of the report is to examine overall sex and racial/ethnic differences. In addition to the indicators, this report also includes descriptive multivariate analyses of variables that may influence male and female postsecondary attendance and attainment in different ways.

Friday, August 24, 2012

TIME: 10 Things To See in Detroit

Time Magazine lists ten must-see sites in Detroit. Which one is your favorite?
It's hard to think of the Motor City — a popular symbol of urban decay — as a vacation destination. But somewhere behind its neglected, graffiti-covered skyscrapers are charming reminders of a city that was once among the world's wealthiest. Today, rows of homes and stores that had been abandoned for decades are finally being demolished, making way for lush green spaces that give some sections of the city an odd rural vibe. Several new hotels, restaurants and art galleries have the potential to burnish Detroit's image further and revitalize the downtown area.

Detroit's premier event is, of course, the North American International Auto Show, held each January — but that's hardly the most appealing time to visit the Midwest. So unless you're an auto-industry exec, advertiser or journalist, it's better to visit Detroit in summer. Toward the end of the season, in August, you can catch the Woodward Dream Cruise, a one-day, multi-city celebration of the automobile, replete with parades, music and food. Or visit over Labor Day weekend for the annual Detroit International Jazz Festival. In any season, Detroit is a sports mecca, so be sure to catch a Tigers, Red Wings or Lions game during your stay. Read on for Detroit's other key attractions.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

How to Study for the Social Work Licensing Exam

Do you need to study for the ASWB social work licensing exams? In most states, MSW graduates take the Master's exam after graduation. In Michigan, MSW graduates only have to take two exams: Clinical and Advanced Generalist exams (passing score: 75%). The Social Work License Map contains more details about the social work licensing process and approved scope of practice in Michigan.

Since I concentrated in macro social work (i.e., management, community and policy practice), I am eligible to take the Advanced Generalist exam under the guidelines for Michigan social work licensure. However, it has a low passing rate (48.4%, as of 2011!) so I will have to study very effectively to pass on the first time. In my opinion, although it has been revised to reflect current practice, I still believe ASWB did not add enough macro and administrative content on the Advanced Generalist exam.

Do you suffer from test anxiety? Do you need exam advice? Ammu Kowolik, who works for the NASW-NYC chapter, wrote this excellent article on how she passed the social work licensing exam.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Michigan-Bound (Again!)

Previously, I was set to pursue my graduate studies at Penn GSE this fall. However, extenuating circumstances have forced me to successfully transfer to the University of Michigan School of Education.

I am a Wolverine student again! (Go Blue!)

There are benefits with the higher education master's program at Michigan. Full-time students generally finish in 2-3 semesters and pursue an internship (up to 20 hours per week) with a 9.0+ credits course load. I am also excited to pursue the new concentration, Diversity and Social Justice, that is being offered for incoming higher education master's students this fall. In Winter 2013, the university will also promote a campus-wide semester theme about Race in America. Talk about perfect timing!

If you consider the U.S. News gradate school rankings in higher education administration, Michigan (#1) is ranked higher than Penn (#9), and Michigan ($30,000, in-state tuition) is cheaper than Penn ($63,000, all students). Although I wanted to experience a new environment, I can always relocate for a job once I finish graduate school in 2013. It's a win-win situation for me: I am saving money and receiving a top-notch education. Ultimately, I want to pursue doctoral study in education hopefully five years from now.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Review: Career Opportunities in Education and Related Services (2006)

Career Opportunities in Education and Related Services - Second Edition (2006), by Susan Echaore-McDavid, provides basic general information about 103 professionals in education (school and non-school settings). Each profile summary includes information about salaries, related job titles, education and training, employment prospects, career advancement, job requirements (including licensure and certification), list of professional associations and unions, and tips for entering the field. It is a big book (300 pages) so you will find every career imaginable. Further resources and appendixes have been thoroughly updated and expanded to better serve students and career changers interested in the field of education.

  1. PreK-12 Teachers
  2. PreK-12 Teaching Specialists
  3. Post-secondary Educators
  4. Overseas Teachers
  5. School Administrators
  6. Higher Education Administrators
  7. Educational Assistants
  8. School Classified Staff
  9. Classified Staff in Higher Education
  10. School Specialists in Student Services and Special Education-Related Services
  11. Counselors
  12. Curriculum and Instructional Developers
  13. Educational and Instructional Technology Specialists
  14. Librarians
  15. Independent Instructors
  16. Health Educators
  17. Fitness, Recreation and Sports Professionals
  18. Environmental Educators and Animal Trainers
  19. Employee Training Specialist (Human Resources)
  20. Appendixes

Friday, August 10, 2012

Strengths and Weaknesses of Social Work

Last year, I earned my Master of Social Work (MSW) at the University of Michigan. Immediately following graduation, I became a Limited License Master Social Worker (LLMSW) in the state of Michigan. I have six years to complete two requirements in order to become a Licensed Master Social Worker (Macro Specialty): 1) pass the Advanced Generalist ASWB exam, and 2) receive a minimum of 4000 hours of supervision by a LMSW. After I finish my second master's degree in higher education, I hope to become fully licensed by 2015.

In this post, I will reflect on what I have learned as the strengths and weaknesses of social work in the past year.

Strengths

  1. The altruistic nature of the social work profession is both powerful and life-changing.
  2. Social work is a profession focused on empathy and empowerment of the individual.
  3. Social workers are committed to a social justice and social change framework.
  4. Social workers serve in a variety of roles: educator, enabler, advocate and activist.
  5. Social work utilizes various social science disciplines to improve human well-being and achieve social reform: sociology, psychology, political science, anthropology, economics, and education.
  6. Social workers have the ability to plan and implement interventions with and/or on behalf of a range of individuals, groups, and communities based on evidence-based practices.
  7. The history of social work is full of significant accomplishments, such as historical figures (Janes Addams and Francis Perkins), civil rights-era figures (Dorothy Height and Whitney Young), and contemporary figures (Barbara Lee and Barbara Mikulski).

Weaknesses

  1. Social work services are voluntary and poorly advertised to the general public.
  2. The media depicts the social work profession in a misleading way (e.g., “social workers only work in the interests of the child welfare agencies”; “anyone can be a social worker”; “social workers only work with the poor”).
  3. Social workers don’t receive the same level of respect as journalists and social scientists in addressing issues of poverty and discrimination in the news media.
  4. The extent of bureaucratization in the social work profession is problematic; social workers may end up harming rather than helping clients due to changes in government funding and rules.
  5. Since social work agencies are, on average, inadequately funded, many social workers are also poorly paid.
  6. People are unaware of macro social work practice (working with organizations to promote socially-just policies and services at the community, national and international levels).
  7. People assume social workers only work in mental health settings; social workers can also be found in community development, crisis intervention, criminal justice, health care, higher education, international human rights, human services organizations, and public policy.

Do you agree or disagree? What would you like to add to this list?

UPDATE (August 2013): Don't forget to visit my more detailed posts on the problems affecting the social work profession:

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Review: Jobs That Matter: Find a Stable, Fulfilling Career in Public Service (2010)

Jobs That Matter: Find a Stable, Fulfilling Career in Public Service (2010), by Heather Krasna, provides job seekers with important tips on how to pursue a public service career in the non-profit, public, and private sectors. It also includes a foreward by Max Stier, President and CEO of Partnership for Public Service. Krasna is Director of Career Services for the University of Washington's Evans School of Public Affairs. She has more than 11 years of experience as a career advisor and employer relations specialist in colleges and universities.

This book helps you pinpoint the right public service career for your interests and talents.It provides details on major career areas in human services, health, education, civil rights, the environment, infrastructure, finance, international development, security and law enforcement, religion, and the arts. It also includes profiles of 26 professionals in all areas of public service, demonstrating how they got the job and what they like about their current position. It also includes listings of more than 250 professional associations, job search sites, and books, and career exploration exercises to help you pinpoint the right area for you.

In the last two chapters, content focuses on resume writing (including tips on writing a federal government resume!), cover letters, interviewing, salary negotiation, and getting offers in public service. This is a great resource for students, recent graduates, career changers, and veterans. I like the exercises in the beginning of the book that helps you unravel your personality type: What did you study in college? What kinds of issues do you feel most passionate about? What is your preferred work style? What are your personal and career goals? I also like the quotes by famous individuals throughout the book because it is both inspirational and uplifting.

Once you read this book, you will feel more prepared than ever because her advice and tips have helped hundreds of people pursue public service careers. If this sounds like the right book for you, I highly recommend it.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

More Career Advice from U.S. News

Job searching and interviewing for a new position in this economy is never an easy task. Do you ever wonder how can you ace your next interview? I discovered more valuable career advice articles from U.S. News below:

Meanwhile, Mother Jones recently published this blog post, A Good Job Is Hard to Find. Sadly, the news isn't positive:
A good job is one that pays $37,000 (the median wage for men in 1979), includes at least some health insurance, and some kind of retirement plan. It doesn't have to be generous health coverage or a generous retirement plan. Mediocre health plans with big copays still count, and modest 401(k) retirement plans count. The job just has to include something.
...
Overall, the number of workers with good jobs has declined from 27% to 24% since 1979.

If you love these tips, then visit the On Careers blog on U.S. News.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

SWT: ‘Case’ and ‘Cause’ in Social Work Education — A Balancing Act

In case you missed the March/April 2012 issue, Social Work Today magazine published a story about the challenges of teaching both micro and macro approaches in social work education.

I never read this book, Unfaithful Angels. However, I agree with Specht that contemporary social work has become too engrossed with clinical training methods and neglected its macro practice roots (social reform and political action). I believe social workers don't truthfully follow the NASW Code of Ethics because we're not visibly involved in political matters that resonates with millions of ordinary people in America (e.g., Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Student Debt).
In the preface of Harry Specht and Mark Courtney’s book Unfaithful Angels, Specht laments what he sees as social work’s drift away from social justice: “When I first came to know social workers half a century ago, they had a mission that was, to me, appealing and significant: to help poor people, to improve community life, and to solve difficult social problems. But times have changed. Today, a significant proportion of social workers are practicing psychotherapy, and doing so privately, with a primarily middle-class, professional, Caucasian clientele” (p. ix-x).

As long as states only mandate licensure for clinical training, many prospective social work students will not pursue the macro social work concentration route. For instance, while Michigan is progressive in providing licensure options for macro practice, a majority of social workers in the state still focus on clinical training. The dominance of clinical work programs across the country will continue to erode the perception and significance of macro social work in real-world settings.

Despite the historical debate about social work’s role as a case or cause profession, it is clear that the majority of students entering educational programs today want to pursue careers as clinicians. The popularity of clinical work may have more to do with practical matters than any conscious decision to reject social activism. For example, some students believe they will not be able to pass state licensing exams unless they take classes focused on service to individuals and families. Another concern is the earning potential to be had in a clinical career vs. one focused on macro-level service.

The predominance of clinical work also is reflected in the method concentrations offered by master’s programs nationwide.

How do you feel about this dichotomy between micro and macro in social work education? Should all master's social work programs offer a generalist program, or there needs to be greater awareness of macro social work among the general public? Personally, once state boards recognize the legitimacy of macro practice in the licensure process, this will encourage students to concentrate in management, communities, and social policies.

Friday, July 27, 2012

President Obama launches African-American education initiative

According to CNN and MSNBC, President Obama will issue an executive order for the establishment of an African-American higher education initiative. My academic background is improving access and retention to higher education for African-American students. Thus, I support the President's initiative wholeheartedly because education in this country should address the social, emotional and economic needs of African-American youth.
President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced an initiative he said will give African-American students greater access "to a complete and competitive education from the time they're born all through the time they get a career."

Speaking Wednesday night at a National Urban League gathering in New Orleans, Obama said he has issued an executive order establishing the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, saying, "A higher education in a 21st century cannot be a luxury. It is a vital necessity that every American should be able to afford," he said.

...

The official added that the initiative would be housed in the Education Department, which will work with the Executive Office and other Cabinet agencies to identify practices that will improve African Americans’ achievement in schools and colleges. The administration official did not yet know how much funding the program would receive but said more information would be released Thursday when the president signs the executive order.

Click here, here, and here for more information about the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Review: Careers in Education -- 4th Edition (2004)

Careers in Education -- Fourth Edition, by Roy Edelfelt and Alan Reiman, is a comprehensive vocational guide for job seekers who want to explore a wide range of opportunities in education. Currently, educational institutions employ over 12 million people, making it one of the largest employment sectors in the country. The authors state "... citizens and policymakers realize that high-quality education is related to a vibrant democracy, quality of life, innovation, and global competitiveness."

The first two chapters define the historical and contemporary development of education in the United States. Other chapters present a detailed description of different career paths in education, preparation for specific career (career patterns, how to find employment, related careers, nontraditional employment, and working conditions), salary and fringe benefits, and firsthand accounts (such as pros and cons and expert advice). Near the end of the book is a directory of national education-related organizations, professional associations and government agencies.

I think this book is a good guide for recent college graduates and career changes who need an introduction to careers in education. The descriptions are very detailed and covers a wide range of institutions (public, private and non-profit sectors). Once you have read this book, you will realize that the opportunities are endless and could help you discover your niche.

  1. An Introduction to Careers in Education
  2. Teaching in K-12 Schools (public and private)
  3. School Administration (principals and superintendents)
  4. Central Office Administration and Supervision
  5. Special Services (This includes art/music teachers, physical education teachers, school library media specialists, school counselors, school psychologists, school social workers, reading specialists, ESL teachers, special education teachers, school nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech-language pathologists and audiologists)
  6. Teaching, Research and Administration in Higher Education (two- and four-year colleges and universities)
  7. Adult and Continuing Education
    (This includes independent learning programs, professional development programs, and federal graduate programs)
  8. Education in Business and Industry (training and development)
  9. Careers in Governance and Control of Education (federal education agencies and councils and associations)
  10. Directory of Education Organizations

Saturday, July 21, 2012

LA Times: Retooling Teach for America

The Los Angeles Times has an opinion piece that resonated with me on why I think the current format of Teach of America is bad for both college graduates and the most disadvantaged children in America's schools. It demonstrates further proof that Teach for America needs major reform, possibly lengthening it (in my opinion) to a minimum of three years because it takes time and practice to become an effective teacher. TFA also hurts teacher recruitment and retention for those school districts who desperately need professionals who are highly committed to the teaching profession.
Being a great teacher has to be one of the hardest jobs in the world. I knew I had found my passion the first time I stood at the front of a classroom at Jordan High School in South Los Angeles during my TFA summer training five years ago. But it took me several years of teaching psychology, government and world history to feel truly competent. Those first couple of years in the classroom are a huge learning curve for any teacher, and it seems arrogant to think that just because the TFA kids went to good schools and got good grades, they'll instantly be able to teach. It's no wonder the longtime teachers at some schools resent these upstarts. The two-year commitment means that many of the program's participants leave just as they're getting to the point at which their students will really benefit.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Levine: Could Civic Engagement Be the Key to Economic Success?

In the Huffington Post, Peter Levine, director of the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), believes more civic engagement will improve the economy in the United States. His research focuses on civic engagement and deliberate democracy.

Thomas Ehrlich, editor of Civic Responsibility and Higher Education, defines civic engagement as
"...working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes."

Levine uses these five factors to measure civic engagement: attending meetings, helping neighbors, registering to vote, volunteering and voting. A new report, Civic Health and Unemployment: Can Engagement Strengthen the Economy, has been released that explores the relationship between civic engagement and economic resilience. I think the results of this report coincides perfectly with the upcoming presidential election. I also believe educational institutions and community organizations need to do a better job in promoting civic participation in young people. A well-educated citizenry will preserve democracy and improve the future direction of this nation.

In September 2012, the National Conference on Citizenship will hold its annual meeting in Philadelphia. The 2012 theme is "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: Exploring the Link Between Civic Engagement and Employment."

[UPDATE: 10/16/2012]: Campus Compact released a white paper, Engaged Learning Economices: Aligning Civic Engagement and Economic Development in Community-Campus Partnerships, that focuses on the impact of merging campus civic engagement and economic development in local communities.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

If You Decide to Go to Graduate School

If you are considering graduate school, think about the advantages and disadvantages of more schooling. Make sure the program of study is right for you. Don't go into a field just because it is hot or prestigious. It may be very dismal in a few years from now. For instance, familiarize yourself with the current career prospects of law school graduates.

First, I must praise 100 Reasons Not to GO to Graduate School. Although the blog is targeted towards doctoral students in the humanities and social sciences, some of their advice also pertains to professional students. It makes you seriously consider the pitfalls of graduate life before you apply.

I will list the blog's reasons, other posters' reasons, and my reasons on what you should know before you decide to go to graduate school:

  1. Stay out of debt.
  2. Go to a prestigious school.
  3. Finish as quickly as possible.
    -------------------------------------
  4. If you are a recent college graduate, give yourself time to adjust in the real world (i.e., get a job, volunteer, or teach abroad) before jumping back into school.
  5. Treat graduate school like a full-time job.
  6. Seek advisors who have a successful student placement record.
  7. Pursue every professional development opportunity you can in graduate school (e.g., internships, co-op programs, writing workshops, and field practicums).
    -------------------------------------
  8. Graduate school is NOT an escape from reality.
  9. Don't apply for the wrong reasons.
  10. Pursue graduate school because the career path you want requires it.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Review: 101 Careers in Social Work (2009)

101 Careers in Social Work (2009), by Jessica Ritter, Halaevalu Vaakalahi, and Mary Kiernan-Stern, is a comprehensive career guide that highlights the interdisciplinary nature of social work and unconventional, cutting-edge career options with a social work degree. For current and advanced social work students, this book may not meet your expectations because it only provides basic career information. Overall, it is a very reliable resource for career services and library bookshelves.

This book is an essential career guide for those new to social work. It summarizes the origins of social work, explains educational requirements and licensure process, and provides financial aid and job hunting tips. The career sections include an overview of the practice area, sample job titles, practice area competencies and skills, best and challenging aspects of the job (including firsthand accounts), compensation and employment outlook, self-assessment checklist, recommended readings and websites, and exercises to test your knowledge of the specific social work area. I highly recommend this book for career planning and exploration.

This book covers 101 social work career paths in the following areas:

  1. Child Welfare
  2. School-Based and School-Linked Services
  3. Older Adults (Gerontology)
  4. Health Care
  5. Mental Health and Addiction
  6. Crisis Intervention
  7. Criminal Justice and the Legal Arena
  8. Forensic Social Work
  9. International Social Work and Human Rights
  10. Poverty and Homelessness
  11. Politics and Public Policy
  12. Community Practice
  13. Human Service Organizations
  14. Research and Academia
  15. Non-Traditional Social Work (Journalist, Attorney, Mediator, and more)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Census: More young adults live in big cities than suburbs

According to the U.S. Census, for the first time in a century, most of America's largest cities are growing at a faster rate than their surrounding suburbs. In a weak job market, young adults are shunning home-buying and staying put in bustling urban centers.
Driving the resurgence are young adults, who are delaying careers, marriage and having children amid persistently high unemployment. Burdened with college debt or toiling in temporary, lower-wage positions, they are spurning homeownership in the suburbs for shorter-term, no-strings-attached apartment living, public transit and proximity to potential jobs in larger cities.

While economists tend to believe the city boom is temporary, that is not stopping many city planning agencies and apartment developers from seeking to boost their appeal to the sizable demographic of 18-to-29-year olds. They make up roughly 1 in 6 Americans, and some sociologists are calling them "generation rent." The planners and developers are betting on young Americans' continued interest in urban living, sensing that some longer-term changes such as decreased reliance on cars may be afoot.

This is the reality: emerging as a new generation of renters due to stricter mortgage requirements and mounting student loan debt. If you can live in a city with a superior mass transit system, you won't need to heavily rely on a car. Big vibrant cities also have a greater concentration of career-advancing jobs. It is also difficult to qualify for a credit card or line of credit from a financial institution if your debt-to-income ratio is too high. Are we Generation Debt?