TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – As students from the School of Social Work at The University of Alabama analyzed the responses from a campus project at the Ferguson Center, there was a common thread: peace, love and unity.
Students from the School of Social Work at UA had hoped to create stronger bonds between students and the University community through a unique, anonymous survey. A student-led committee of graduate social work majors created two “unity/inspiration” walls in the Ferguson Center on UA’s campus where students and faculty could express their fears and hopes on adhesive notes and put them on two 4-by-4 boards. The idea was to create dialogue amongst members of the UA community and foster positive energy in response to police-related shootings and the Orlando nightclub attack.
Roughly 400 students participated in the four-day event.
“I don’t think we expected as much participation as we’ve received,” said Kionna Jones, advanced-standing MSW student. “We’ve had to add more boards because of the overwhelming participation. Explaining why we’re doing it and making people think about this and starting the conversation encouraged people to think deeply about their responses.”
Allison Curington, director of Field Education in the School of Social Work, and Dr. Tania Alameda-Lawson, assistant professor of social work, organized the first group meeting between social work students in which they shared ideas, hopes and fears following a summer marred by global terrorist attacks and domestic police shootings. The discussion was successful, so the group grew to include both undergraduate and graduate social work students, as well as roughly eight faculty members. After a second, more response-driven meeting, the group decided to take the format campuswide.
“We asked each student to write a statement about feelings elicited by the events,” Alameda-Lawson said. “We put it in a basket, passed it around and let them read different ones, anonymously. After everyone read the fears, we asked them about hopes moving forward. Students said they thought the conversation was very positive, and that it needed to continue.”
The students also held an informal meet-and-greet with a half-dozen UAPD officers recently at Bryant Jordan Hall on the Bryce Campus at UA. The meeting didn’t have an agenda or a particular format; students simply had a chance to build relationships with the officers, Curington said.
The committee called the week of activities “Reflection to Action.”
“I think I learned that a lot of people are in the same place,” said Alexis Ferruccio, advanced standing MSW student and project organizer. “I think that people think that everything is divided and no one agrees, but looking at the things on the walls, seeing the commonalities and the conversations I’ve had this week … this is a right step, we need to keep it going.
“We’ve had a couple of different conversations about where to go next, like qualitative research to look at the commonalities in the responses and how those things could be addressed. We’ve had some people from SGA reach out about doing some things in the future. We’ll take the boards back to the School and decide where to go next. We just don’t want to lose momentum.”
David Miller, UA Media Relations, 205/348-0825, firstname.lastname@example.org
Allison Curington, director of Field Education, UA School of Social Work, 205/348-5544, email@example.com