Club & Greek

The Social Work Society Hosts 9th Annual Teach-In

The Social Work Society and the School of Social Work hosted their 9th Annual Teach-In on Oct. 29 for the one year anniversary date of Superstorm Sandy. The event started nine years ago as a response to Hurricane Katrina and other disasters that had happened around the same time both in our nation and around the world.

The event takes place ever year with presentations surrounding various topics. The Teach-In is intended to mirror 1970s sit-ins in which presenters sought to educate their communities about important topics pervading the social strata. Presenters at the 9th Annual Teach-In spoke mostly about their work in the local area after the devastation of Superstorm Sandy last year.

Meredith Fleece, senior social work major, said, “I think the biggest takeaway for me was the many different roles that are needed during a disaster event. There are so many people and organizations that came forward in order to help with relief efforts and each one plays a vital role in the recovery process.”

This year, the Society’s purpose in hosting the Teach-In was to explore the impact of natural disasters on social justice, to define and explain why minority groups are often the “forgotten victims” of natural disasters, and to inspire people of all backgrounds to mobilize and help in any way possible.

Keynote speaker Dr. Ronald Marks from the Tulane School of Social Work in New Orleans, who was living in the city when Hurricane Katrina struck the Louisiana coastline, spoke about his experiences before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. His speech consisted of a string of stories, one of which involved he and his wife canoeing to their house to gather surviving belongings which was submerged in at least a foot of water.

Alex Lustig, junior psychology major, enjoyed the Teach-In, especially Marks’ presentation. “He was a great speaker with a great message,” he said.

Dr. Rosemary Barbera, associate professor and Master in Social Work (MSW) Program Director, feels differently than Lustig and was disappointed in Marks’ presentation. “He left out a really critical issue for social work – environmental racism.  He also was clueless as to the horrible devastation privatization is having on education in New Orleans. He knew nothing of disaster capitalism.  All of that, plus he seemed to forget that he was in a room full of people who lived through similar experiences just a year ago.”

Barbera presented about natural disasters in Chile and how the public only sees the trauma aspect of disaster when, in reality, a number of communities are able to rebuild. “We often hear only part of the story after disasters.  That aside from trauma and victimization, there is much resilience, solidarity and protagonism by those who are most affected,” said Barbera.

Beth Sidlow, MSW student, volunteers for New Jersey Hope and Healing. She spoke about their work with the newly founded organization in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

Another speaker, Dr. Michael Cronin, MSW International and Community Development director and volunteer for the American Red Cross, closed with a discussion of his work in local communities and a history of the Red Cross, Red Crescent organizations worldwide.

“In my opinion, I thought the event was a success and I wouldn’t change a thing. All of the presenters were very informative and I enjoyed learning about the many different areas of disaster work. The Social Work Society put together a really great event,” said Fleece.

When Superstorm Sandy struck the NJ coastline a little over a year ago, residents in the state had to wait on Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to grant them funds to rebuild, while thousands more remained homeless.

Organizations like Restore the Shore, Shore to Recover, and New Jersey Hope and Healing launched into action to help the local communities recover. These organizations, started by our own neighbors and friends, turned victims into survivors.

Fleece said, “Many of the speakers volunteered their services during Superstorm Sandy. I think that their personal stories will stick with me.”


Last week in an article titled “The Social Work Society Hosts 9th Annual Teach-In,” Beth Sidlow was credited with working with NJ Hope and Healing but the correct people were Meghan Cusack, a MSW alum, and one of her coworkers. Sidlow presented about her internship with Family Promise. The Outlook regrets this mistake and apologizes for any confusion, and all corrections have been applied to the online edition.