Professor promotes community progress

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Evie Cotton | Contributer

Members of the new Southern student club, Social League of Lions, volunteer at Watered Gardens. 

Submitted by Dr. White

A familiar quote from activist Mahatma Ghandi resonates with Dr. Renee White, the head of the new social work program at Missouri Southern. 

Ghandi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” and White has taken that admonishment to heart in her career as a social worker.

Although new to Southern’s faculty, White has been part of the Joplin community since 1983. 

During that time, she has been involved in over 20 community level change initiatives, including as the founding president of Children’s Haven of Southwest Missouri, a home for children who come from families experiencing crisis. 

Most recently, she led the humanitarian tornado recovery effort, as the chair of the Joplin Area Long Term Recovery Committee. 

These community experiences enhance the coursework she is developing for the new social work degree. 

Southern established the social work program in 2015. 

The program is only in its second semester and the students have already been exposed to many opportunities of making a difference in the community. 

Recently, the social work students assisted the Jasper/Newton County Homeless Coalition with their biannual “Point In Time Count.” 

The students canvassed locations where homeless people congregate and reside. 

Students report this was one of the best learning experiences they have experienced. 

Currently, the social work students are working in partnership with United Way of Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas to repopulate and update the online resource directory known as “2-1-1,” which is a free, confidential social service resource listing.

Additionally, the club organized and served breakfast at the feeding site Watered Gardens.

White said community activism is central to the profession of social work. 

NASW’s Code of Ethics states that all social workers have a responsibility to assist individuals and families in need, and to respond and resolve community level trends that impact family functioning. 

To this end, White and Dr, Jeremey Wolfe, assistant professor of social work, are developing educational experiences to teach students the skills to assist individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities in the change process. 

Prior to graduation, each student will spend at least 450 hours in a local non-profit organization practicing social work skills. 

Students will be matched with a seasoned social worker in a variety of settings: hospitals, child welfare, mental health, domestic violence, substance abuse, juvenile corrections, adoption, veteran’s affairs, schools, early childhood and geriatric care, to name a few.

All other social work courses are limited to students who have been accepted into the social work program. 

The application process is completed each spring and the admitted students begin coursework each fall. 

For more information go to mssu.edu/academics/arts-sciences/social-work/.