From the State Capitol

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Like many in her field, assistant professor of Social Work Laurie Cook Heffron believes that policy advocacy around social justice issues is part of every social workers' ethical responsibility. This ethos was on full display at the National Association of Social Workers’ (NASW) Social Work Advocacy Week at the Texas Legislature, which included rallies, advocacy trainings, talks with legislators, and more. The advocacy week focused on mental health, healthcare, LGBTQ+ rights, immigration policy, and social workers as essential workers. St. Edward’s hosted the first event. Jessica Riley ’21, a Social Work major and NASW intern, helped organize the event and many others during the week. Looking back on the event, Cook Heffron said it “helped students and professionals practice advocacy skills, learn new ways of engaging in a virtual format, and increase their awareness of several contemporary issues that impact their clients.”

From the Social Work Class

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Natalie Beck, assistant professor of Social Work, says the school-to-prison pipeline, which disproportionately targets students of color, with disabilities, in the LGBTQ+ community, and in immigrant families, is made up of structural inequities that put certain students on a path toward incarceration. Inside Beck’s new class “Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline,” students are learning about these structures through virtual field trips, guest speakers, a documentary screening, and various community events. Beck also connected her social work class with a journalism class: Together, the students are working on interdisciplinary teams to create infographics about different aspects of the school-to-prison pipeline. These infographics will be shared with local advocacy organizations, potentially to be used in current community advocacy work. Beck hopes the class and their project will create leaders that can transform our current systems.

From the MAC Program

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Counseling educators have long noted a need for multicultural mental health counseling. Still, language somehow fell through the cracks. After recognizing that language and cultural barriers can turn clients away from counseling, more educators are seeking to provide training to counseling students that will prepare them to work with bilingual clients or to supervise other counselors who work in a bilingual environment. Cristina Thornell, assistant professor of Counseling, is at the forefront with her research on bilingual counseling and her new Introduction to Counseling in Spanish course for the Master’s in Counseling (MAC) Program. In this advanced elective course, which is open to students of all fluency levels in Spanish, future counselors have the opportunity to practice in both languages.

From the Spanish Course

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Even though Texas is far from monolingual, many social services are still only offered in English. So when Emily Bernate, assistant professor of Spanish, teaches Introduction to Translation, she incorporates projects from the community so that students can see the value in their translation skills, while also learning about language and social justice. Most recently, the students helped the nonprofit Raíces with a translation project that will be used to help build an asylum case. The class also translates materials for mental health clinics, which often are behind other health services in offering Spanish language materials. Students build a professional translation portfolio, and nonprofits improve their services by receiving professional-quality translations.  

From Angers, France

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Freshmen taking Sustainable Food Systems and Intro to Sustainability are talking with French students at an agricultural university about how to share ideas on protecting our natural environment. Throughout the semester, the French and American college students meet in small groups over Zoom talk about ideas and experiences around sustainability: where they get their food, what kinds of food they most enjoy eating and more. The virtual exchange program is made possibly by a grant through the U.S. Embassy in France and the Angers English Language Library.

From the Civics Lab

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Political Science students are bringing civics lessons to life. Professor David Thomason and his students recently launched the Civics Lab at St. Edward’s University, a podcast that shines a light on how civics life is evolving in Texas and nationally. For one episode, students traveled to the small town of Llano, Texas, and discovered how the Vietnam War shaped present-day public distrust of government. For another, they interviewed Rep. Stephanie Klick, chair of the Texas House Elections Committee. The Civics Lab will continue to highlight civics at a crucial time in the nation’s history.