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Growing Together as Allies Hosts Speaker Anjanette Young Speaking out on Racism and Trauma Inflicted by Police Misconduct

By Anna Gwiazda

On Tuesday, October 12, 2021, Monmouth University’s School of Social Work Growing Together as Allies (GTAA) hosted guest speaker, Anjanette Young, for her presentation titled, “Living Beyond the Trauma of Racism: #Iam Her.” The event was co-sponsored by the Institute for Global Understanding and was partially funded by the Diversity and Innovation Grant from the Intercultural Center. GTAA is a committee of faculty, students and alumni working to advance anti-racism within the school, university, and community.

Anjanette Young is a graduate of Jane Addams School of Social Work at The University of Illinois Chicago and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker . She is the President/CEO of Cafe Social Work, and the author of the book, 30 Days Until the Finish Line. The focus of this session was on the trauma caused by the United States’ broken criminal justice system, which disproportionately victimizes and inflicts violence on Black individuals and communities, and how to take action and get involved in addressing it.

Ms. Young courageously shared with the audience the most traumatic day of her life. She explained that on February 20, 2019, twelve white male police officers wrongly raided her house on a no-knock warrant based on incorrect information. The police officers forcefully entered her house with guns drawn at her and failed to acknowledge her humanity when they refused to allow her to cover her naked body before being handcuffed. Ms. Young highlighted that this was not only a failure on the part of the Chicago Police Department but a social issue that is deeply rooted in the racist criminal justice system. Ms. Young explained that she is a survivor, unlike Breonna Taylor and many other Black people, who faced the same situation but were shot and killed. All twelve police officers currently walk the streets of Chicago without any repercussions, while Ms. Young was left feeling traumatized.

Image of Anjanette Young


Fighting for social justice is Ms. Young’s legacy, in the footsteps of her grandmother who marched beside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement. She explained that after the events of the night with the Chicago police her faith guided her to step into the public arena and advocate for policy change within the criminal justice system. She has been speaking out through events like these and is working on passing legislation through the Chicago City Council called the Anjanette Young Ordinance to ensure that no one else endures the inhumane treatment that she received.

Ms. Young advocates that people educate themselves on systemic racism and use their voice through voting in local elections. She urged the audience to reflect to expand their social circles to include a racially diverse network of friends, so in that way we recognize race. She explained that when you fail to acknowledge race you fail to acknowledge the person. Ms. Young concluded the session with questions from the audience and encouraged students to contact her. Please click here to learn more about Anjanette Young’s Ordinance.

To learn more about the other sessions hosted by the School of Social Work Growing Together as Allies Fall 2021 Speaker Series, please click here.

Social media Handles for connection, smae links can be found in the blog entry as a hyperlink to click

Climate Crisis Teach-In “Eco-Wellness” Event, Featuring Dr. Megan Delaney

Group of attendees at the eventBy Kyra Velock

On Monday, October 4, 2021, Dr. Megan Delaney hosted an event at the Third Annual Climate Crisis Teach-In at Monmouth University. Dr. Delaney addressed “eco-wellness,” a fairly new concept that refers to how the current climate crisis impacts mental health and overall wellness.

As a professional counselor, Dr. Delaney has years of experience using this therapeutic approach, which involves the concept of eco-therapy. This unique form of therapy focuses on integrating the natural world into emotional health and well-being. Dr. Delaney strives to incorporate the natural world into her counseling sessions by having her appointments outside in nature. She also makes an effort to have her clients focus on the present sounds, sights, and smells of the environment as a way to relax and clear the mind of the past and the future.

As eco-wellness correlates to the current climate crisis, this event discussed ways to cope with climate-related grief and anxiety. The group discussion touched on individual experiences about overconsumption and waste, especially in America, and how it correlates to mental health and well-being. Delaney also talked about the seven factors of eco-wellness and how we can use them to our advantage when confronting climate anxiety. These factors are physical access, sensory access, connection, protection, preservation, spirituality, and community connectedness.

Physical and sensory access involve the ability to interact with nature, as well as touch, smell, see, or hear nature in the absence of physical contact with nature. Connection refers to pleasant cognitions and emotions elicited by one’s relationship with nature. Protection, also known as “nature self-efficacy,” is feeling effective when navigating natural settings and having a sense of what might contribute to one’s survival and enjoyment when in nature. Preservation, also known as “environmental agency,” is acting on behalf of the natural world, such as doing one’s part with recycling or supporting environmental causes. Spirituality is feeling connected with one’s conception of a higher power and/or life-guiding principles elicited through one’s connection with nature – this could involve meditation, religion, yoga, journaling, coloring, etc.  Lastly, community connectedness refers to feeling connected with others in nature, perhaps coming together to support an environmental cause.

Climate-related grief and anxiety may be mitigated when practicing the seven factors approach to eco-wellness, but as climate change is an ongoing issue in the world that affects everyone, it is difficult to fully combat these feelings. The seven factors are simply ways to help cope with the climate crisis as the world continues to change. Dr. Delaney suggests that feeling connected to nature by spending more time outside and being active in the environmental community are some of the best ways to cope with climate grief.

According to EPA data, Americans spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors. Because humans spend so much time indoors, it is easy to forget our role in nature and the ability nature has to heal us. Over the centuries, humans have become very disconnected from nature and feel that nature is something separate from us. Humanity is not separate from nature, but merely an extension of it. Spending time outdoors and with others is very healing as we remember our connection to nature and see ourselves as part of it instead of separate from it.

Monmouth Launches 2021-2022 World Cinema Series with Sin Nombre

By Vicki Lekkas

Movie poster for Sin Nombre film

The 2021-2022 World Cinema Series began on October 6 with an engaging analysis and discussion of the movie Sin Nombre. Sin Nombre is a harrowing and moving story about a young man who attempts to escape from a cycle of gang violence towards a better life in the United States. Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, the film follows a young man, Casper, and his exposure to an extremely violent gang environment. His desire to break free of his gang ties is propelled by his encounter and friendship with a young Honduran woman, Sayra, who is traveling with her family to cross the U.S. border and ultimately connect with relatives in New Jersey. The movie illuminates the unfortunate and incomprehensible circumstances that immigrants must endure as well as how gangs wield control of their youth members in a terrifying fashion.

Dr. Pearson, the coordinator of the World Cinema Series, opened the event by providing context to the movie as it relates world events, anthropology, and the movement of peoples throughout the world. He discussed how the theme of this year’s series, “Living on the Edge:  Displacement, Identity, and Resilience,” focuses on people that are driven by war, political violence, poverty to migrate to new lands. He noted that the film contained scenes of extreme violence, which was thoroughly discussed by the group later in the evening. After this brief introduction, Dr. Pearson introduced the agenda for the evening, which included discussions from three panelists: Dr. Priscilla Gac-Artigas, Dr. Manuel Chavez, and Gustavo Gac-Artigas.

Dr. Priscilla Gac-Artigas, Professor of Spanish and Latin American Literature in Monmouth’s World Languages and Cultures Department, discussed the cultural and lingual context of the film. She explained that, even as a fluent Spanish speaker, there were linguistic details in the movie that she could not understand since the film did such an excellent job at displaying how the gangs in these environments invent their own language in a sense. She shared several examples of how words may be cross-lingual, often a combination of Spanish and English, and commented on the etymology of many of the key words in the movie.

Dr. Manuel Chavez, Lecturer and Director of the Philosophy Program at Monmouth, provided more context on the environment that the gangs create and how prevalent the violence can be. He also provided commentary on the geo-political circumstances that have led to the types of violence, corruption, and destitution that have been allowed to grow and have unfortunately continued throughout Latin America.

Finally, Gustavo Gac-Artigas, a writer, playwright, actor, theater director, and publisher, offered a poetic commentary on the humanity of these people and how that is an often-overlooked consideration when viewing the story of immigration. He discussed various groups of people that are seeking a better home throughout the world and possible solutions to advance their cause. He suggested that we need to consider the frame of mind of these individuals and how we ought to turn our hearts towards these people who need compassion more than anything.

Image of attendees over zoom

This World Cinema Series event provided the approximately 40 attendees with an evening of thoughtful and inspiring discussion not only on the film, but also on the global circumstances underlying the immigration of so many people throughout the world.

Adrienne Su’s Reading and Discussion of Peach State

By Anna Gwiazda

On Thursday, September 31, 2021, Monmouth University’s English Department graduate students from Craft Seminar (EN 615) and Literatures of Immigration (EN 533), along with Dr. Mihaela Moscaliuc, hosted a reading and discussion of Adrienne Su’s newly published poetry book, Peach State (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2021). Su is a critically acclaimed author of five poetry collections, and a Creative Writing professor at Dickinson College (PA). She earned a B.A. at Harvard and Radcliffe College and an M.F.A from the University of Virginia. Su has received many awards including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a Barbara Deming

Image over featuring words peach state

Foundation Grant, as well as residencies at Yaddo, MacDowell, The Frost Place, The Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and the Fine Arts Work Center. Her poems can be found on websites such as the Poetry Daily and Poem-a-Day, and they also appear in several anthologies such as The Hungry Ear, The New American Poets, Asian American Poetry, and The Norton Introduction to Literature.

Dr. Moscaliuc introduced Professor Su’s newly published book of poems, Peach State. Su’s poems are often described as food-centric. The poet described the rationale behind the creation of Peach State. She explained how the poems were based on foods to reflect on how the Chinese American community has transformed her hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, throughout her lifetime. She also mentioned that her poems addressed deeper social issues such as her identity as a Chinese American, classism, food waste, and immigrant challenges.

Audience members were then fortunate to listImage of Adriann Suen to Su read several poems from Peach State, including “Lychee Express”, “Kiwi Fruit”, “Maple Syrup”, and “Black Sesame.” The discussion concluded with Professor Su answering questions from the audience about crafting her poetry, advice for writing poetry, questions that were specific to poems she had written, and more.

Please click here to view Adrienne Su’s website.

Book Review – “Education Around the Globe: Creating Opportunities and Transforming Lives”

Blog entry by Kyra Velock

Based on Co-authored Book Review by Victoria Cattelona & Jiwon Kim

On September 6, 2021, Dr. Jiwon Kim and Monmouth University alumna, Victoria Cattelona (B.A., 2021; M.A.T., 2021), co-authored a book review titled, “Education Around the Globe: Creating Opportunities and Transforming Lives.” Dr. Kim and Ms. Cattelona highlighted key themes from each of the eight chapters in this publication, which addresses practical strategies that educators and researchers can implement to achieve the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This book discusses historical, social, political, and cultural experiences in education from many different parts of the world, generating diverse insight and perspectives.

The journal, Teachers College Record of Columbia University, first reached out to Dr. Kim to write a review on some recently published books in the field of global understanding and education. Dr. Kim decided to write the review on “Education Around the Globe: Creating Opportunities and Transforming Lives” because the UN Sustainable Development Goals reflect her passion for researching educational practices. She invited Ms. Cattelona, a former IGU graduate assistant, to co-author this book review as it also aligned with Cattelona’s passion for sustainable education practices. In particular, they wanted to inform educators and researchers on how to achieve sustainability in or through education (SDG 4) through this book review.

“Education gives us the power to question authority, to challenge the status quo,” explains Ms. Cattelona. During her previous academic year while student teaching, Cattelona screened Malala Yousafzai’s, He Named Me Malala, for students in her World History course. She discussed with her students how the Taliban in the 1990s restricted girls’ educational access, and threatened to do so again in Pakistan. Restricting access and content facilitates opportunities for oppressive institutions to wield power and influence over certain groups of people. Cattelona believes education can be used as a political tool. Limited access to public education in areas of the world, such as Pakistan, hinders vulnerable groups’ ability to fight for justice and equal rights.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, Cattelona does not believe the UN or any entity can fully implement the SDGs by 2030. Because COVID-19 triggered a major setback for most educational systems around the world, it is unlikely that these systems can adopt the necessary changes identified in the SDGs within the next decade. However, she believes the pandemic may encourage policymakers and educators to consider equitable and sustainable means of instructional delivery more thoughtfully than before. She goes on to note that, “If anything, I believe many leaders are focused on stopping the bleeding in the short term. Perhaps reframing the problems and solutions in economic terms will capture leaders’ attention.” Focusing on the short-term issues that educational systems are confronting due to the pandemic is only half of the answer, and it is necessary to encourage leaders to develop more long-term sustainable resolutions.

Cattelona discusses the importance of participation from all stakeholders –s students, teachers, parents, administrators, and taxpayers – in seeking to reform the public education system and fulfill the SDGs. Cattelona described the vicious cycle that occurs when educational systems do not get receive adequate funding. Underpaid teachers work overtime to engage with students, students do not retain as much information and therefore earn poor grades, parents are frustrated with students, administrators face bureaucratic challenges, and taxpayers see little incentive to support underperforming public schools, which in turn drives down property values.

Educating youth is a globally shared responsibility – it is not just for those who decide to pursue a career in education. Cattelona mentions how her former high school building has a quote from Ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes above the auditorium stage that reads: “The foundation of every state is the education of its youth.” This requires educators to invest in the younger generations as they will soon become the leaders of the future.

Co-authored Book Review by Victoria Cattelona & Jiwon Kim

School of Social Work Hosts Listening Session on Voter Mobilization

Screen Image of Zoom meeting with four attendees on the right side. On the left and center part of the image there is a slide that reads "Fair and Inclusive Voter Engagement Register Be Counted, Vote!" Within hte text is an image of multiple hands painted red, light blue, and dark blue with stars on them.

Co-authored by Anna Gwiazda and Vicki Lekkas

 On Tuesday, September 14, 2021, Monmouth University’s School of Social Work hosted a listening session, titled “Social Workers, the Vote, and U.S. Democracy.” The event was co-sponsored by the Institute for Global Understanding and other organizations at Monmouth University. Dr. Sanjana Ragudaran, Associate Professor of Social Work at Monmouth University, moderated the session. The first speaker was Professor Mimi Abramovitz, the Bertha Capen Reynolds Professor of Social Policy at Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College,  and Co-Chair of the National Social Work Voter Mobilization Campaign. The second speaker was Dr. Terry Mizrahi a Professor (Emeritus) at the School of Social Work at Hunter College, Co-Chair of the National Movement to Advance Macro Practice in Social Work, and Co-Chair to the National Social Work Voter Mobilization Campaign. The primary focus of the session was on social workers’ role in advocating and making it accessible for all individuals to practice their civic duty of voting. This session was the first of a four-part series this fall, “Growing Together as Allies,” which addresses voting, advocacy, and action.

Professor Abramovitz explained how the current political system is plagued with voter suppression ideologies and laws that restrict voting accessibility.   She shared the troubling statistic that “80 million eligible voters did not register in 2020 or more than 24 percent of the eligible population,” which does not account for the individuals who were registered to vote but never showed up to the polls. Professor Abramovitz recommended that all social workers ask their clients in a non-partisan manner if they are registered to vote and provide them with resources to do so. Additionally, she encouraged social work students, practicing social workers, faculty, and all individuals to visit the following website ( to access free training, campaign activities, and other resources.

Dr. Mizrahi, a respected community organizer, explained a social worker’s responsibility for advocating against injustice on a larger scale. She referred to an ethical standard in the National Association of Social Worker Code of Ethics, which provides that social workers should “facilitate informed participation by the public in shaping social policies and institutions.” Dr. Mizrahi then described principles and tools of community organizing to combat laws that restrict voting and make voting less accessible. Slide from zoom meeting that reads, "Benefits of voting. For Individuals: Higher levels of health and mental health, stronger social connections, better employment outcomes, and a greater sense of individual efficacy. For communities: Communities with high voter turnout receive more attention, quicker responses, and greater resources from legislators than communities with low voter turnout. For the porfession. Voting elevates social work's visibility and voice. It supports programs and services that benefit out clients, communities, and wider society.

The Institute for Global Understanding recognizes the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the gold standard in the promotion of an equal, just, and prosperous world. Throughout the listening session,  the speakers highlighted the challenges our country faces with voter suppression and voting accessibility. This injustice conflicts with SDG number 16, which seeks to promote “peaceful” and “inclusive societies.” Urgent action is needed to protect and promote voting because democracy is the foundation upon which our government was built. For more information and to resources on how to encourage voting please visit the ( webpage.

Access a recording of the Social Workers, the Vote, and US Democracy Listening Session Here. To learn more about the other listening sessions hosted by the School of Social Work Growing Together as Allies Fall 2021 Speaker Series, please click here.

IGU 2021 Biennial Symposium Features Monmouth Student Panel

By Muge Gore

On Saturday, March 27, the Institute for Global Understanding (IGU) presented the Monmouth Student Panel during its biennial symposium, which showcased five students and their state-of-the-art projects revolving around the intersection between human rights and the environment. Dr. Melissa Alvaré, a lecturer in the Department of Political Science and Sociology, moderated the event. Hannah Burke, a graduate student in the School of Social Work, presented her topic, “Death and Sustainability: Post-Mortem Conservation”; Jessica Stos, a graduate student in the Department of Professional Counseling, presented her topic, “Nature’s Rights: A Discussion on Mother Earth, Cultural Sensitivity, and the Impact of Nature’s Constitutional Rights on Indigenous People”; Katelyn Snyder, a graduate student of English, presented her topic, “Intersectionality of Social Justice Concerns with Art and the Environment: A Case Studies of Pictures of Garbage”; Dan Conte, an undergraduate student in the Department of Political Science and Sociology, presented his topic, “Ocean Acidification as a Climate Change Harm in the Inter-American Court System”; and lastly, London Jones, an undergraduate student in the Department of Communication, presented her topic, “Keep the Culture, Change the Fate: Responding to the Threat of Climate Gentrification to Asbury Park’s West Side.” Together, these students informed and inspired the audience on their cutting-edge topics.

Hannah Burke's PresentationThe panel began with MSW graduate student Hannah Burke on the innovative and useful practice of embalming. During the American Civil War, physicians preserved the bodies of soldiers who had died in battle and prepared them to return home intact. However, the process involved harsh chemicals, and the funeral industry quickly turned into a funeral market. Today, embalming a human body typically costs between $500 and $700, and funeral costs range from $7,000 to $12,000. This industry makes about $15 billion a year from grieving families. Burke explained how the practice of contemporary embalming has led to deforestation due to harsh chemicals, including the release of carbon monoxide into our environment, and to the “death denial” phenomenon in modern American society. In relation to this, embalming today does not involve family and loved ones in the process. Burke suggested that instead of the mainstream tradition of funerals, some eco-friendly options are natural and conservation burials. Both practices are not only ecosystems-friendly but cost significantly less than traditional funerals. Burke’s strategy captures the true essence of environmentally friendly methods to promote a more sustainable future.

Student panelist Katelyn Snyder, a graduate student in the Department of English, delivered a presentation on a subject that dovetails with Burke’s approach. Snyder presented on the intersectionality of social justice concerns with art and the environment, diving into a case study of pictures with garbage. Capitalism has contributed to garbage’s proliferation and the tendency for people to physically throw stuff away, with feminism playing an important role in the rhetoric’s effectiveness on pollution. Through an analysis of the documentary titled Waste Land and with a collection of pictures of garbage, Snyder argued that aesthetic rhetoric and constitutive rhetoric regarding climate change and pollution allow for an intersectional recognition of how art can reveal the dynamics of class, racism, and gender in connection with pollution. An interesting outlook that Snyder addressed was an art piece of an Afro-Brazilian woman who depicts the normative gender roles of female frailty and women’s domestic labor in Brazil. Poverty, race, and gender set a true divide, as Brazilian history shows, because marginalized populations experience the most significant environmental challenges. Her presentation set the stage for addressing several different human rights and environmental concerns that left the audience searching for more answers.

Burke’s and Snyder’s presentations were followed by compelling climate justice presentations from London Jones and Dan Conte, which addressed local and global dimensions of these challenges. If we continue to conduct these important educational conversations locally and globally, we may proactively address issues such as environmental degradation, intersectionality, carbon emissions, a shifting death culture, and climate gentrification.

IGU’s Intracampus Synergies Committee Seeks to Engage Students and Build Interdisciplinary Partnerships Across Campus

By Chelsea Franchette

“Intracampus synergies” is a complex phrase that can be simply explained by examining each word in the phrase. The first word, intracampus, means within a college or university, and synergy means to have two or more entities interacting and cooperating with one another to achieve a common goal. These terms as a whole signify collaboration among various organizations on a campus to accomplish a larger goal, namely, the IGU’s mission of promoting awareness of global affairs and cross-cultural understanding issues both on and off campus.

The Intracampus Synergies Committee was established in July 2020 as part of the IGU’s official relaunch. The IGU Faculty Advisory Council created this committee because it identified a need for an organization that could bridge the gaps among faculty, staff, students, and student-led organizations. The Intracampus Synergies Committee encourages unity among these different groups and will assist the organizations in reaching the goals that they might have struggled to achieve on their own. This committee facilitates synergy through outreach to student and faculty leaders on campus who are involved in the various organizations.

The Intracampus Synergies Committee has three members: Professor Claude Taylor, a lecturer in Communication Studies and the Director of Academic Transition and Inclusion; Dr. Lisa Daniella, Professor of Psychology and the Director of the Program in Gender and Intersectionality Studies; and Associate Professor Jing Zhou of the Department of Art and Design. The IGU Faculty Advisory Council collaborates with the committee to advance the committee’s mission of connecting with students, student organizations, faculty, employees, and institutes at Monmouth University to develop ways for people within the campus community to become involved with the IGU’s work. The committee seeks to support organizations at the university in their global thinking in the hope that these organizations can increase their engagement with the IGU. The institute seeks to amplify students’ and student organizations’ voices on subjects worldwide.

The importance of a committee like Intracampus Synergies at Monmouth University lies in its significant capacity to promote cross-cultural and global conversations outside of the students’ classrooms. Students of any major can apply what they are learning in their courses to their lives outside of the classroom. This allows students to grasp how they fit into the world around them on local and global scales.

One of the committee’s immediate goals is to introduce itself to the Monmouth community. Doing so will raise campus and community awareness of the IGU and of global issues with local opportunities for education and engagement. Although the current COVID-19 pandemic has complicated the committee’s efforts, the committee members are conducting and joining virtual meetings to reach students and faculty to inform them about the committee’s — and the IGU’s — mission.

“The most important task we have had as a committee in year one is to get connected to student leaders interested in the work and mission of IGU. Our series of spring semester virtual meet-and-greet sessions served as a great way for student leaders to get to know IGU and to brainstorm together on ways we can create student-centered synergies.” – Prof. Claude Taylor, lecturer in Communication Studies and the Director of Academic Transition and Inclusion

IGU Presents Monmouth Faculty Panels on Human Rights and the Environment in Biennial Symposium

By Madison Hanrahan and Emily O’Sullivan

On Friday, March 26, the Monmouth University Institute for Global Understanding (IGU) hosted faculty panels discussing human rights and the environment as part of its biennial symposium. Dr. Catherine Duckett, Associate Dean of the School of Science, moderated a panel featuring Dr. Melissa Alvaré, Dr. Kathleen Grant, Dr. Eric Fesselmeyer, and Dr. Abha Sood. Tony MacDonald, Esq., Director of the Urban Coast Institute, moderated a panel featuring Dr. John Comiskey, Dr. Tom Herrington, and Dr. Robin Mama. The presenters covered a wide variety of informative and engaging topics, ranging from climate gentrification to sustainable development goals.

Dr. Alvaré, a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science and Sociology, was the first panelist of the afternoon. She discussed how sea level rise brought on by climate change has led to challenges for coastal communities, such as flooding. As a result, wealthier coastal communities relocate inland to escape the flooding into low-income and minority communities. This process is known as climate change gentrification. As it is impossible for everyone to move inland, one proposed method to alleviate the risk of flooding in coastal areas is to create green infrastructure such as wetlands and rain gardens to hold stormwater. Dr. Alvaré explained that utilizing green infrastructure in areas prone to flooding can actually cause more gentrification in these areas because this infrastructure, which contributes to the utilities and aesthetics of an area, raises property values, further gentrifying the area and displacing existing communities from their homes. Some examples of cities that are currently affected by climate change gentrification include Southbridge in Wilmington, Delaware; Philadelphia; and Boston. Dr. Alvaré proposed a variety of ways to prevent climate change gentrification, such as utilizing organizations focused on environmental resilience, sustainability, and clean energy initiatives; enforcing rent control and tax freezes; preserving and building affordable housing; and most importantly, organizing within local communities to address gentrification.

Next, Dr. Kathleen Grant, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Counseling, gave a presentation on the link between advocacy for climate change and social justice. She explained white people’s domination of resources and belief that the Earth itself is a resource to be extracted, utilized, sold, and discarded. She compared this view to how groups treat people of color. Dr. Grant provided an example of this issue with a description of the Flint, Michigan water crisis and the construction of pipelines through Indigenous communities. Both examples show how society has neglected to fund and invest in basic life-sustaining infrastructure in many communities of color. This lack of basic human rights toward people of color is evident throughout the United States; from the lead water crisis in Newark, New Jersey to the higher frequency of flooding and natural disasters in low-income communities, and to the industrial and waste sites that are primarily located in poorer neighborhoods. Dr. Grant explained that dominant groups typically have more political and economic power, and since older white males are the dominant demographic in positions of authority in the United States, they protect themselves against these harms, which leads to institutional racism.

Dr. Eric Fesselmeyer, an Associate Professor of Economics, followed Dr. Grant, and presented his work on whether heat affects certain populations disproportionately. His theory is that people trade environmental quality for lower housing costs, which puts many people of color in neighborhoods with more concrete and less nature, thereby increasing the temperature in those communities. Using the 2000 and 2010 U.S. Census data, Dr. Fesselmeyer provided multiple maps and graphs outlining the connection between higher temperatures and factors that define lower-income neighborhoods. He concluded his presentation with substantial evidence that shows a connection between race/origin, rent, income, and college education.

The last speaker on the first Monmouth faculty panel, Dr. Abha Sood, who is a Lecturer in the Department of English, gave her presentation on the displaced community of the Isle de Jean Charles. This island used to be part of the marshes of southern Louisiana, but due to sea level rise and the effects of drilling and infrastructure along the Mississippi River, it is now no more than 320 square acres. The inhabitants were primarily Native Americans who integrated with a small French community. According to Dr. Sood, “Since the inhabitants are a mix of Indian and French Acadians, the government did not recognize them as Native Americans,” which led to the loss of the state government’s financial assistance. In the 1900s, communities along the Mississippi River began to flood, so engineers installed infrastructure such as dams, locks, levees, and floodwalls to protect them. As a result, however, the flow of freshwater and rich sediment that traveled down the Mississippi River to the marshes where the Isle de Jean Charles is located was interrupted which turned the marshes into saltwater and prevented crop cultivation. In 1950, oil companies appeared around the marshes and destroyed the land in search of oil. Additionally, multiple hurricanes in Louisiana further damaged the region, leaving the marshes unrepaired. Due to the Isle de Jean Charles’ poor condition, almost all the residents of the island have left. Louisiana is more focused on the residents who still reside on the island rather than on the tribe. This case study of the Isle de Jean Charles seems to parallel the tribe of Kivalina, Alaska, as both struggled to secure the government’s assistance. As Chief Naquin stated, “The plan is no longer meeting the goals and objectives set out by the residents and IDIC tribe.” The Isle de Jean Charles is just one example of many that show how detrimental climate change can be, especially when multiple parties disregard human involvement’s consequences on the surrounding environment.

Leading off the second Monmouth faculty panel, Dr. John Comiskey, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice, presented a talk titled “Climate Insecurity: An Anthropocene Security Approach to a Sustainable Global Future.” A professor in the Criminal Justice Department, Dr. Comiskey offered a perspective that linked climate inaction to “systemic security risks,” explaining that environmental degradation “undermines our security ecosystems.” Citing Hurricane Katrina as an example, Dr. Comiskey illustrated that natural disasters pose as significant a threat to the nation’s security. Accordingly, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security must “securitize” climate change and consider it of the highest priority. In doing so, the U.S. could achieve climate security, a term Dr. Comiskey defines as the “sustained implementation of prevention, mitigation, and resilience measures necessary to permit the responsible management of climate change risks.”

Dr. Comiskey constructed climate models in which he created several scenarios based on the climate change realities experienced today. He provided attendees with the long-term consequences of such models, which include but are not limited to hospitals stretched beyond capacity; food and water shortages, instigating looting and violence; soaring unemployment; and a nationwide increase in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety. Since the United States’ current policies are insufficient to prevent these outcomes, Dr. Comiskey underscored the urgency of bringing the climate crisis to the forefront of security discussions.

Following Dr. Comiskey, Dr. Tom Herrington, the Associate Director of the Urban Coast Institute (UCI), shared his research titled “Climate Change-driven Coastal Migration: State of Our Knowledge and Required Research Questions that Need to Be Answered.” Dr. Herrington began by identifying coastal populations as the most vulnerable to climate change due to sea level rise. Indeed, it is estimated that, by 2100, 13.1 million people in the United States “may be displaced from the coast due to up to six feet of sea level rise.”

With this in mind, Dr. Herrington asked three core questions: Where will this population relocate to, when will the relocation process begin, and what resources are necessary to prepare? First, he found that people will likely move to an area in close proximity to their original home given relocation’s difficulty. Similarly, he concluded that there is a class component for internal migration: those who come from well-resourced communities have an advantage over those from under-resourced neighborhoods. “Where we have highly resourced or privileged populations, they have a lot of capacity to move or to affect their own outcomes whereas, where we have marginalized, under-resourced communities, they are vulnerable and left with few options,” Dr. Herrington explained, echoing Dr. Grant’s presentation. Furthermore, there is minimal data on the whereabouts of those whom natural disasters have displaced. For example, little is known about what happened to the people who Hurricane Katrina devastated, underscoring the need for further research in this area. Thus, Dr. Herrington encouraged increased research on the matter and emphasized the value of learning from past experiences.

Finally, Dr. Robin Mama, the Dean of the School of Social Work, offered a perspective from her field through her work titled “Sustainable Development Goals: Action Comes Alive!” As an International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) Representative to the United Nations, Dr. Mama discussed the IFSW’s efforts toward sustainable development. The IFSW represents over half a million social workers spanning 141 countries, and the federation possesses special consultative status with the UN. According to Dr. Mama, the IFSW’s focus as an international organization is to “promote social work to achieve social development, to advocate for social justice globally, and to facilitate international cooperation.” As a representative, Dr. Mama advocates for the social work profession and assists the UN in attaining its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), explaining that social workers are critical components of the latter due to their holistic, interdisciplinary skill sets. For example, social workers are always present in natural disasters and conversant in the discipline of disaster mental health. Therefore, it is clear that social workers are essential combatants in the war against the climate crisis.

To view the recording of the faculty panels, enter the following passcode: @?N0$sY


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.