April 22, 2011

Professor Stephen Bainbridge and Implications for UCLA Diversity

Last month, UCLA student Alexandra Wallace was blasted by the University's administration for posting a YouTube video titled Asians in the Library, where she spouted ignorant and revolting comments about the Asian community on UCLA's campus. Astoundingly, UCLA is dealing with yet another expression of insensitive and hurtful language coming from one of the University's own: Law Professor Stephen Bainbridge.

As detailed in The Daily Bruin, Bainbridge's blog (which is endorsed by the American Bar Association) contained a "xenophobic" blog post that called a FedEx customer service representative a "moron with an impenetrable accent." Bainbridge pretentiously added, "What third world shithole do they have him penned up in?" Bainbridge has since removed the post, apologized, and called his words "offending passages." Ironically, Bainbridge is known as a pro-immigration conservative.

Bainbridge's language is both shocking and disrespectful, and raises concerns about how diversity is talked about and understood on college campuses. As many journalists and students have pointed out, UCLA might be statistically diverse, but it is clear that social exchanges between various groups is far from integrated. As Frank Shyong of the Daily Bruin so eloquently states, "We have effectively amalgamated different groups of people within a square mile, but diversity is more than the numerical presence of variety. A functional conception of diversity implies a meaningful cultural exchange that we sorely lack."

Wallace's video and Bainbridge's post are painful reminders that UCLA is far from where it needs to be in regards to ethnic and cultural integration. While I don't have any grand solutions to this systemic problem, I do believe students attending the Luskin School of Public Affairs can serve as an example to the rest of the UCLA community. Between lectures, student-run caucuses, and developing relationships with faculty and peers, there is tremendous opportunity to model what true integration can look like.

Photo Source

April 17, 2011

UCLA MSW Program: Winter Quarter

As mentioned in a previous post, faculty at UCLA rolled out a brand new curriculum for the MSW program for the 2010 - 2011 academic year. For the most part, changes appear to be positive. However, as expected with the rollout of any new program, students have a few qualms about the curriculum content and design. For example, many students feel that the program does not focus enough on topical issues such as the LGBT social rights movement.

While fall quarter was relatively stressful (transitioning back to a grad school does pose a few challenges), winter quarter definitely felt more relaxed. This was largely driven by the fact that we had the majority of Fridays off.

For those interested in learning specifics about the program's curriculum, the following is a brief rundown of my schedule and class experience for winter quarter.

M: Field Placement (8-5)
T: 240B (9-12), 201B (2-5)
W: Field Placement (8-5)
Th: 230B (9-12), 201C (2-5)
F: No scheduled classes

201B: Development, Risk, Resilience, and Attachment Relationships in a Multicultural Society
This human behavior course provided an overview of how empirically based theories can be applied to individuals, groups, organizations, and macro systems. The first five weeks was heavily focused on attachment theory, while the second five weeks covered ego psychology, object relations, and social learning theory. The teacher did an excellent job applying the theories to case vignettes and real-world examples. If nothing else, students gained a strong understanding of how secure and insecure attachment relationships play a role in the lives of our clients across the life span. The teacher, Sharon Chun-Wetterau, is also fantastic. I highly recommend taking a class from her.

Average reading/week: 50-80 pgs
Texts: Inside Out and Outside In: Psychodynamic Clinical Theory and Psychopathology in Contemporary Multicultural Contexts
Major Assignments: Midterm exam (case vignette); Final term paper (10-12 pgs)
Caveats: Those who majored in psychology or related fields in their undergrad might experience some repetition.

201C: Dynamics of Human Behavior: Community and Organizational Perspectives
While I am a micro student with a mental health specialization, I thoroughly enjoyed this policy class. Main themes discussed in the classroom included issues of diversity, inequality within the school system, and the dynamics of racism intersecting with other forms of oppression such as heterosexism, ableism, classism, ageism, etc. We spent a significant portion of the class evaluating Paul Tough's journalistic account of The Harlem Children's Zone, called Whatever it Takes. The final project required students to design an intervention utilizing a theory of change (my section was required to develop one for school-aged children in LAUSD).

Average reading/week: 40 pgs
Texts: Whatever It Takes
Major Assignments: Midterm reflection paper, Group intervention design with presentation and final paper
Caveats: Unfortunately, the sentiment I have of the class was not shared among all sections of my cohort. Numerous individuals felt the final group assignment was assigned way too late, and many felt expectations were not clearly delineated upfront.

230B: Theory and Methods of Direct Social Work Practice
This was a continuation class from the first quarter, and part of a year-long sequence that covers core concepts of generalist social work practice. Students do have the ability to select different professors and sections depending on availability. Class material focused on carrying out evidence-based practices with clients including case management, crisis intervention, brief and supportive therapies, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), solution-focused therapy, and motivational interviewing. Role playing was particularly helpful in grasping core concepts of each intervention. If you have a chance to take the course from Rebecca Danelski, I highly recommend her.

Average reading/week: 40 pgs
Texts: Direct Social Work Practice: Theory and Skills; course pack reading
Major Assignments: Midterm exam (case vignette), Final exam (case vignette)
Caveats: While this class is essential for micro students, course material is not as relevant to macro/policy students. Also, one quarter is not nearly enough time to cover evidence-based practices. As little as one class was devoted to a given theoretical perspective.

240B: Theory of Social Work Practice in Organizations, Communities and Policy Settings
This was another continuation course from first quarter. However, students were required to stay in the same section as the fall quarter in order to continue a macro project investigating mental health barriers in an older adult population. My particular section had a lot of flexibility to define the terms of our final project. We decided to create a market segmentation of underserved older adults who are in need of additional mental health services. The final "prezi" can be viewed HERE.

Average reading/week: 30-60 pgs
Texts: Social Work Macro Practice
Major Assignments: Program Logic Model, Community Project Final Report and Presentation
Caveats: As I mentioned previously, the macro project took up an overwhelming portion of time both in and outside of class.

April 13, 2011

The UCLA 2nd Year MSW Internship: Social Work Interview Questions and Other Resources

I am currently going through the dreaded second year internship interview process. While the first year internship is assigned, students go through a formal interviewing process for their second year. The UCLA MSW program limits its students to elect 2 agencies to interview with. For those interested, a list of possible placement agencies can be found HERE.

Preparing for interviews is definitely stressful, but having a solid list of interview questions from which to practice from is a great way to clam the nerves. Below is a compilation from various sources around the web, which I felt were particularly helpful in my interview prep:

Questions/interview prompts compiled from UCLA Faculty:

1. Please tell me about a particularly difficult case in which you felt challenged by.
2. Please tell me about a case/client, in which things did not go your way. How did you rectify the situation?
3. How do you visualize yourself as a social work professional after you graduate?
4. What are you looking for in a supervisor?
5. (Micro students) What theoretical orientation are you inclined to?
6. How do you typically handle countertransference?

Links to other helpful resources:

1. A Social Work World
2. The Social Work Career Center

3. Student Handout_Smith College

4. University of Texas Interview Questions

April 4, 2011

Food For Thought: An Extremist Perspective on Social Work Education

The National Association of Scholars produced an article titled, The Scandal of Social Work Education, which concludes that social work programs and affiliated organizations are “ideologically loaded” and are guilty of imposing "indoctrination to a scandalous extent." NAS supports these claims by evaluating ten social work programs (including UCLA), in addition to providing three case studies that demonstrate the supposed "politicization" of social work education.

While the article grossly overgeneralizes how universities approach social work education, I do feel the author begets the novice social work to consider his/her ideological, political, and religious viewpoints, and how they might interfere or clash with a profession that endorses leftist ideals. The article also heightens core aspects of the social work profession.

The Scandal of Social Work Education

April 2, 2011

It's Official: The Meyer and Renee Luskin School of Public Affairs

Last month, UCLA held a ceremony to officialize the renaming of The School of Public Affairs to The Meyer and Renee Luskin School of Public Affairs. As mentioned in a previous post, the Luskin family donated a generous $100 million to the University, $50 million of which is for The Public Affairs program.

In attendance was Dean Frank D. Gilliam Jr., Mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa, Chancellor Gene Block, Director of the Luskin Center for Innovation JR. DeShazo, Vice Chancellor of UCLA Scott Waugh, Meyer and Renee Luskin, their family and friends, UCLA faculty, and students.

After opening remarks and acknowledgements, Meyer Luskin delivered a speech that was both humorous and heartfelt. I especially enjoyed his explanation as to why he chose to donate his family's fortune to The School of Public Affairs, rather than other equally deserving academic departments.

"Gutenberg invented the printing press, but that magnificent achievement did not prevent a Hitler. Mendeleev developed the periodic table, but that great breakthrough did not prevent a Stalin. And the inventive genius of an Edison, did not prevent a Joe McCarthy. It is imperative that we develop the plans, techniques, and laws for a peaceful and productive society. Not only for this world, but for the one we leave for our children and our grandchildren. And thus, we are led to the School of Public Affairs."

It feels great to be part of a graduate program recognized for its contributions to society at large. Meyer's entire speech can be watched in the following video:

A few more photos from the event:

Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa

Meyer and Renee Luskin; Chancellor Gene Block

Chancellor Gene Block

Luskin Director JR. DeShazo
Naming Reveal