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Advocacy Day offers ‘firsthand view’ of policy process

Feb. 19, 2020

Male and female university students pose for a photo in an auditoriumTwenty-two University of Alabama School of Social Work students attended “Advocacy Day” on Feb. 13 in Montgomery.

Though the originally planned NASW-AL Advocacy Day was cancelled, the SSW, through the help of Dr. Javonda Williams, associate dean for educational programs and student services, helped revise the agenda to create a transformative experience for SSW students.

Thirteen MSW students and nine BSW students from UA began the day by participating in team-building exercises with their counterparts from Alabama A&M University. The activity was organized by Shayla Smith, UA SSW BSW field coordinator.

The students then heard from a variety of speakers:

  • Jay Williams, Alabama census coordinator for the Hard to Count Initiative
  • Carol Gundlach, Alabama Arise policy analyst for taxes and budgets
  • Nanyamka Skukura, senior supervising community advocate for the Southern PovertyA female university student meets with a female policy advocate Law Center

“Our students had a great day of learning about advocacy and incarceration,” said Sherron Wilkes, SSW instructor who led the trip. “The students that attended gained a deeper understanding of legislative and children’s rights advocacy on all levels. Both Carol Gundlach of Alabama Arise and Nanyamka Shukura of Southern Poverty Law Center gave students practical advocacy tips for their toolkits.”

UA social work students also toured the Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration to learn about the history of racial inequality and mass incarceration.

“By attending Advocacy Day, I gained new knowledge of how social workers work in different capacities,” said Angela Smith, MSW student, “and I would suggest that other students attend. Usually, when we are in the classroom or at conferences, we do not see the people behind the scenes working to pass laws or change them. I believe that if you want to see change you have to be involved in working on solutions. By attending Advocacy Day, students get a firsthand view of the problems that affect vulnerable communities and ways to help.”