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School of Social Work  |  University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
June 2014 Strengthening Vulnerable Families  
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Ceremony Welcomes 117 New Social Work Grads
On May 17, 2014, the School of Social Work celebrated 117 new graduates in a convocation ceremony at Smith Hall. Congratulations to each of our graduates!

The Honorable Naomi Jakobsson, Illinois House of Representatives 103rd District, served as speaker, welcoming these students into the social work profession. Jakobsson also serves as Chair of the House Human Services Committee and as the Vice-Chairperson of the Higher Education and the Telecommunications Committees. As a legislator Naomi has been active in sponsoring and supporting legislation that concerns the University of Illinois, the environment, and social justice issues concerning children, senior citizens, and women.
Paying It Forward

Kristen Speagle
was the recipient of the 2014 Suze Orman Graduate Award. This award is presented to an MSW student who has excelled as a student despite family obligations and a burdensome loan debt. The award is provided thanks to Suze Orman, BSW 1977, and is given as a surprise during the social work convocation ceremony. Suze, thank you for your support of our students!

Congratulations Kristen!
Maternal-Infant Health
A Minute With Expert Karen Tabb Dina
School of Social Work Assistant Professor, Karen Tabb Dina, is a member of the Global Burden of Disease Expert Collaborators. Tabb Dina's research focuses on racial and ethnic health disparities, and includes collaborative projects with maternal health clinics to combat postpartum depression and suicide.

Professor Tabb Dina spoke recently with News Bureau social work editor Sharita Forrest about the problem of maternal mortality in the United States. While maternal and child death rates have declined in recent years in many countries, the U.S. is among eight nations in which these death rates have actually increased over the past several years.

Read the full article here.
Ability to Finish College Affected by Family Debt
A new study by School of Social Work Associate Professor, Min Zhan, and PhD student, Deirdre Lanesskog, suggests that family debt diminishes students' prospects of graduating from college, and is particularly detrimental to black students' chances of earning degrees.

The study indicated that family assets and debt during college enrollment are similar to factors such as academic readiness and parental education in that they are related to young adults' chances of graduating and are critical to reducing racial and ethnic disparities in graduation rates.

Read the full article online.

The paper, "The Impact of Family Assets and Debt on College Graduation," is available online in advance of publication in the journal, Children and Youth Services Review.
Students Study Abroad in Greece
Illinois Study Abroad and the School of Social Work have come together to offer service learning in Greece.

Accompanied by Clinical Assistant Professor in Field Education, Hellen McDonald, students traveled to Greece to complete the second portion of their service learning. First, students completed service learning opportunities in the U.S. for approximately eight weeks and then set out to Athens and Corfu. The course gives students the opportunity to integrate and make cross-cultural
comparisons between 
social services in the U.S. and Greece, as well as become exposed to Greek social welfare issues, healthcare disparities, poverty issues, and the negative impact of the Greek economic depression on local residents. Students are able to immerse themselves in the culture and learn hands-on how access to social services are connected to and impacted by economic disparities. 
Social Work Alumna Speaks About Student Debt
Mabinty Tarawallie, MSW 2014, recently spoke at a press conference held at the Illini Union, led by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, on May 28, 2014, regarding an issue many students face: the burden of student loans.

Senator Durbin is working to introduce legislation that would allow borrowers to refinance their student loans at lower interest rates. Mabinty, a native of Sierra Leone, moved to the United States with her family when she was eleven years old. Despite struggling financially, her family stressed the value of education. When she arrived to the U.S., Mabinty didn't know how to read or speak English. With hard work and dedication, she graduated from high school, attended Parkland College, and completed her undergraduate degree in sociology at the U of I. She received her MSW in May from the School of Social Work. This success came at a high cost; she and her husband wound up with crippling debt in student loans. She was able to make it through her undergraduate years without much debt, but had to spread out her graduate studies and use student loans to finance her education as she raised three children.

This is a challenge faced by many students across the country. New proposed legislation would help students pay down the principal rather than just making interest payments on their loans. Burdened with debt, some people aren't able to buy cars or consider buying a home. Senator Durbin adds, "I've had people tell me that 'We can't have kids because of our student debts.'" 

Mabinty said she had always wanted to be a social worker so she could help others pick themselves up out of poverty, and an undergraduate degree wasn't enough. With modest pay and uncertainty of jobs in this field, she's worried about how her family will cope with a debt three times what her annual salary is likely to be.

Read the full article here.
Lions and Tigers and Social Media, OH MY!
You can now join the School of Social Work on Twitter and Instagram!

Get connected with us:

The School is also in the process of upgrading our LinkedIn page to a University page, making it easier than ever to stay in touch with alums and network with students. Stay tuned!
2014 Welcomes New Social Work Grads
2014 Suze Orman Award
Maternal-Infant Health: Assistant Professor Weighs In
Impact of Family Debt on College Graduation
Social Work Students in Greece
Alumna Speaks Out...
Lions & Tigers & Social Media, OH MY!

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