January 2016
Celebrating New Graduates
On December 13, 2015, the School of Social Work welcomed another graduating class of 53 MSW students and 5 BSW students in a ceremony at Smith Memorial Music Hall.
Michael Chitwood, MSW '06, served as the keynote speaker for the event. He is the National Director of Team World Vision, the fastest growing charity endurance program in the US, having grown from 100 team members in 2006 to over 7,000 teams members per year and raising millions of dollars for World Vision's clean water projects in Africa. Read more about Michael and his newly released book, The Ability to Endure, here.
During the ceremony, Laura Butts was named the recipient of the Suze 
Orman Graduate Award. This award is presented to an MSW graduate who has excelled as a student despite family obligations and a burdensome loan debt. The award is generously donated by Suze Orman, BSW '77. 

Laura, who graduated with a concentration in mental health, completed her internship at St. Mary's Hospital in Decatur. Additionally, she participated in an independent study in the Decatur Correctional Center's "Moms and Babies" program. This program allows incarcerated mothers to keep their newborn infants with them for a specified amount of time, and supports these women in developing and nurturing bonds with their babies through effective programming and a safe and supportive living environment. 

*Photos provided by Memory Lane Photography 
BSW Alum Receives Award from Urbana Police Department
On January 6th, Paige Wisher, BSW '15 (current MSW student) was presented a Certificate of Appreciation by the Urbana Police Department. During Wisher's BSW internship, she was acknowledged for providing invaluable assistance in working with the victim of a violent domestic situation. Two officers independently nominated her for the award, recognizing that her expertise, compassion and overall demeanor set the tone for the victim of this crime to disclose the actions of the offender that would not have otherwise been uncovered. Chief of Police, Patrick Connolly shares his admiration for Wisher's contributions to the department. "During Paige's internship, she contributed a number of significant suggestions and actions that eased the pain of victims. I was sorry to see her graduate from the program, but I am confident that her contributions to the police and the victims of senseless crimes will benefit communities in the future."

View a video of the Urbana Police Department awards ceremony.
Illinois Reentry Guide Initiative Seeks Social Work Alumni

EJP alumni at a recent event. These individuals participated in EJP's college-in-prison program while incarcerated at Danville Correctional Center.
The Illinois Reentry Guide Initiative (IGRI) is seeking Illinois Social Work alumni who work in/with the criminal justice system who may be willing to join our team.
The IRGI was created just over a year ago, at the behest of Education Justice Project (EJP) alumni. They explained that many returning citizens reenter society after incarceration without adequate information on how to obtain vital documents, as well as their housing, employment, and higher education options. This undoubtedly has a negative effect on the lives of these individuals, as well as on our state as a whole (whose recidivism rate is over 50%). The IRGI is currently working to put the 2015-2016 Illinois Reentry Guide in the hands of returning citizens and their family members, free of charge, so that they can be prepared for the difficult transition from prison to home.
Affiliated with the University of Illinois, this initiative meets regularly to strategize distribution, develop reentry workshops, and to collect feedback in order to improve the guide for the coming year. The group is small, but committed, and is looking for volunteers to join us in this effort, especially to aid in distributing the guide to organizations already engaged in providing support to returning citizens. If you would like to contact the group, please email Nick Hopkins at IllinoisReentryGuide@illinois.edu.
Students in Action
A Note From BSW Field Education Director, Sherrie Faulkner
Social justice is the crux of the social work profession and the theme was particularly strong in the 2015 Fall BSW internship rotation. From the  Urbana Police Department to the Juvenile Detention Center, from working with insurance issues for the elderly to welcoming individuals new to our country; BSW students are out there championing the causes of some of our most vulnerable.

Thomas Nguyen is one of these students. Thomas completed his internship in the Human Rights Authority (HRA) investigations at the Office of Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission. Clients with disabilities (and their guardians) contact the HRA with complaints regarding rights violations. It was Thomas' job to piece together the story. In the end he created a written report of findings, which was published on the HRA website. The report detailed the investigative process from records review, interview, and policy review.  Thomas was then able to make suggestions for improvement based on various legal statutes such as the Mental Health Code and the Illinois Probate Act.
Thomas added that he had also "been working with many of the clients to advocate for access and make referrals to appropriate services that meet their disability needs. Through that, I was exposed to various service providers and really learned the importance of accessibility to social services, as well as social work concepts such as person-in-environment and community-based interventions."
His many experiences helped to solidify his plan to be a lawyer.  Per Thomas, "It's frustrating to see professionals outside the realm of social work inhibit social justice; it happens quite often. Because of my frustration, I am motivated to pursue law to affect swift and impactful change. I know my foundation in social work will help make that possible."
4th Annual LGBT Research Symposium
The 4th Annual LGBT Research Symposium will be held on May 19-20, 2016. This year's theme is Recentering LGBT Studies: Emerging Conversations in the Field, with Juan Battle, professor of Sociology, Public Health and Urban Education at CUNY as the keynote. Dr. Battle's research focuses on race, sexuality and social justice. Currently, Dr. Battle is leading the Social Justice Sexuality initiative, which aims to capture the experiences of LGBT people of color in America through exploration of sociopolitical themes.
Proposals for paper and poster presentations are being accepted until February 15, 2016. To submit a proposal, click here. For more information about the Symposium, please visit their website.
Questions about the Symposium can be emailed to lgbtresearch.uiuc@gmail.com.
CLL Project Highlight: The Pavilion    
Did you know other countries buy trash from the U.S.?
Did you know nearly 40% of paper recycling in the U.S. was exported to China?
Each semester student groups, paired by the Community Learning Lab (CLL) share presentations based on their project experiences. Recently, students from an environmental psychology class worked with the Pavilion Foundation School to identify a problem, determine a goal, and find a solution. 
The project goal was to educate faculty and students of the Pavilion about the importance of recycling. The student group set up recycling bins throughout the school and created posters, promoting recycling awareness.
With only 7 classrooms, 58 students and 14 faculty members involved, they were able to recycle over 5lbs of paper a day with an estimation of 900 lbs of paper per school year. These awesome results lead to  advantages of student/faculty involvement, global awareness, and an eco-friendly community.

Celebrating New Graduates
Alum Receives Award from UPD
IRGI Seeks Social Work Alums
Students in Action
4th Annual LGBT Research Symposium
CLL Project Highlight