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Dean Robin Mama

Monmouth Social Work Day at the UN: A Look into IFSW’s Involvement with Dean Robin Mama

By Muge Gore

Dean Robin MamaOn March 16, 2021, the Social Work Society at Monmouth University participated in the 37th Annual Social Work Day at the United Nations (UN). This year, the group explored the new world of the COVID-19 pandemic, shining a light on social workers collaborating across borders to discuss education during this time. The event featured several discussion topics, such as online learning and field placements, self-care and socialization, and decolonizing the social work profession. In addition, the discussants addressed how social workers have prepared to work internationally because of the pandemic.

The panelists consisted of International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) representatives and UN representatives from the North American region. The following School of Social Work faculty members made special appearances: Associate Professor Dr. Michael Cronin (IFSW Regional Commissioner), Dean Robin S. Mama, Ph.D. (IFSW Representative), and Associate Professor Dr. Anne C. Deepak (UN Representative). Graduate social work students Shenae Osborn from Fordham University and Hannah Burke from Monmouth University joined as event co-chairs.

The IFSW strives to achieve social justice, sustainable social development, and human rights and inclusiveness through its promotion of social work practice and engagement in international cooperation. It has six different regions: Global, the African Region, the Asia-Pacific Region, the European Region, the Latin American and the Caribbean Region, and the North American Region. With 128 national members, each region holds commissioners who are tasked with coordinating with the UN. The commissioners regularly take part in the IFSW board meetings, supply necessary information about the two organizations, and network with other commissioners and with representatives in the process. They also lead report submissions and communications with the UN, all while handling the UN Commission budget.

In leading this discussion, Dean Robin S. Mama described the IFSW and her journey within the organization. Regarding Monmouth’s goals, the School of Social Work hosted an event on March 16 titled “Responses to COVID-19: Standing Together Makes Us Stronger.” The panelists spoke about the pandemic’s effects on their agencies to date. The panelists included representatives from the UN Development Program, the International Labor Organization (ILO), and the UN Research Institute. The panelists also addressed the pandemic’s implications for social workers moving forward. Normally, this annual event is held for select individuals to attend at the UN Headquarters in New York City, but due to COVID-19 restrictions the event occurred virtually. Dean Mama remarked that the virtual setting contributed to a better turnout than in previous years.

With her sustained involvement, the IFSW has impacted not only Dean Mama’s professional life but also the student body on Monmouth’s campus. Her affiliation with the UN has provided more experiences than she ever anticipated to develop and to reflect on her field. The program builds opportunities and relationships with members at the UN, therefore allowing Dean Mama to connect IFSW members to the Monmouth community in various ways. Her own introduction to the IFSW has influenced her work as well. Dean Mama shared a story about her time as a graduate student when the former Bryn Mawr College Dean of Social Work, who was the President of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) at the time, was asked to provide a name for the UN team in New York. Because she stayed connected with the NASW president and consistently networked on a macro level, her name was suggested. Dean Mama also emphasized how much she enjoys social work on a macro level because this dynamic field offers continuous inspiration and challenge.

In an interview, Dean Mama included a couple general tips. First, she suggested that no one should turn down an opportunity. By building experience and a strong network, one can reach goals beyond their imagination. Secondly, with Monmouth’s relationship with the UN, the university has enjoyed multiple opportunities to bring speakers to the university, to provide internships, and to connect faculty members with other UN events. In its ties to the UN and with the commitment of the faculty in the School of Social Work, Monmouth University continues to make strides in “standing together to become stronger.”

You can view a recording of the 37th Annual Social Work Day at the UN here.