Public Relations  >  News Center  >  News Releases  >  March 2017  >  March 28, 2017  >  As Social Work Month comes to close, Creighton Social Work Program reflects on its mission
As Social Work Month comes to close, Creighton Social Work Program reflects on its mission

The word “social” is bandied about a lot lately — social media, social networking, social class, social studies.

At Creighton University, as in life, the adjective conjures up pictures of people, culture, togetherness, organization, union, all building to the root word: society. And as society is a human institution — perhaps the most human of institutions — it is capable of great beauty and goodness and susceptible to all ills and failings. That’s when the work of society, oftentimes unseen and unheralded, begins.

For more than a quarter of a century, the Social Work Program at Creighton has been turning out men and women for and with others who are striving to widen that social order and work on behalf of the least of these. In March, Creighton celebrates Social Work Month with a reminder that this University, pledged to certain transcendent values, has students and faculty committed to doing that social work.

“Social work students and professionals fulfill the Jesuit charism of cura personalis — care of the whole person through their understanding of how the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” said Barb Harris, PhD, director of Creighton’s Social Work Program. “This is a proud but challenging calling.”

In the past year alone, Creighton social work students served as certified application counselors helping people sign up for health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act, an effort that earned them praise from President Barack Obama and also a call with Kevin Counihan, CEO of healthcare.gov. The junior and senior social work students who undertook the certification process did so of their own volition and spent several weeks undergoing a rigorous training and federal examination process.

Social work students have also found themselves on the front lines of helping resettle refugee families and place refugee children in schools. The work, as Harris likes to say, is of building on and being a part of something far larger than one’s self. And it can be difficult to qualify.

“There are many questions about what social workers do because much of the work is about the quality of the relationship with an individual, community, group or organization,” she said. “This immeasurable but invaluable relationship is not easy to explain. It’s hard to measure the look on someone’s face when they learn from the social worker how to build a resume to seek a job or better employment. It’s hard to explain the look on a parent’s face when you help their child, a refugee, prepare for kindergarten. It is hard to measure the look on someone’s face when you advocate for a procedure, service or policy that will help them become healthy. But we as social workers, we know what that immeasurable quality feels like. We know what it is like to plant a seed of hope without knowing if the ground is fertile, where the wind will blow it and when it will bloom.”

Harris said the month has been a reinvigoration for the Creighton Social Work Program and a celebration of the efforts of the past year. Looking ahead, the program is focused on social and family sustainability, a vision in keeping with the University’s mission.

The Social Work Program and Harris are posing students and the wider community a question about what sustainability means in a social context.

“Social and family sustainability changes the narrative from handouts and charity to becoming men and women for and with others,” Harris said. “As a culture, we talk about sustaining businesses and the environment. What would happen to the narrative if, as a culture, the focus was on sustaining families and communities?”

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Creighton University is a Jesuit, Catholic university bridging health, law, business and the arts and sciences for a more just world.