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Social work conference

Participants gather at the UW-Madison School of Social Work 2017 conference.

For the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Social Work, the call to reach out beyond the borders of campus comes not only from the Wisconsin Idea that animates the university community to public service, but also a professional code of ethics.

“It’s in our code of ethics to challenge social injustice,” said Jenny Braunginn, a social worker and field faculty instructor. “We’ve taken that to heart.”

To enable students and community social workers to better identify and respond to social injustice, the School of Social Work is offering its annual conference, “Confronting Racial Injustice” on Friday.

In keeping with the #MeToo movement sweeping the country, the theme of the conference is “Womxn at the Forefront.” Womxn is spelled with an “x” to be inclusive of transgender and non-binary community members.

The keynote speaker will be Symone Sanders, a CNN commentator who was press secretary for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. Sanders’ presentation, “Black History, American History,” kicks off the day-long conference at Union South on the UW-Madison campus.

Fifteen workshops will cover topics like:

  • Resisting Xenophobic Legislation Post-DACA through Social Work Services and Advocacy
  • Why History Matters: The Creation of the White Black Binary in the United States
  • Racial Equality and Treatment of the Elderly
  • Advancing Racial and Social Justice through Radical Social Work: Thinking, Tools and Allies

The conference, the school’s fourth, is supported by donations.

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“Private donors (alumni and friends) allow us to keep the conference free to students, at a nominal cost to community social workers, and have allowed us this year to bring in a national speaker,” said Jason Lee, marketing and development specialist.

Conference attendance can be used by licensed social workers toward meeting their continuing education requirements, Braunginn said.

Organizers hope the learning opportunities will inform social workers about what they can ethically do in their practices to confront social injustice, and how to do it in a way that respects the culture and autonomy of clients, she said.

The day may make them rethink “how they approach their clients and how to look through a social justice at programs and their impact,” Braunginn said.

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