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Students and faculty from School of Social Work attending conference in Madrid

School of Social Work Students and Faculty Present at International Conference in Madrid

Three current MSW students — Jenna Basto BSW ’24, Darian Constantine BSW ’24, and Brooke Murphy BSW ’24 — presented and volunteered at the International Association of Social Work with Groups Symposium (IASWG) in Madrid, Spain, June 12–14. They were mentored by Erin Nau, Ph.D., lecturer, and supported by Specialist Professor Jamie Nappi, MSW, both School of Social Work faculty members who also presented at the conference. 

“I presented at my first IASWG symposium in 2015 as a doctoral student, so I know firsthand how meaningful it can be for students,” Nau said.

Basto, Constantine, Murphy, and Nau presented “Planting the Seed to Grow,” about their time together forming a task group in class and how it informed their senior-year social work placements at various agencies around Monmouth County. They discussed their experience as group members and how they also grew personally from the endeavors. Nau shared how she incorporated activities to support a comfortable learning environment and modeled her class after facilitating a group. 

“We feel deeply about the importance of creating a safe space for people to talk about struggles, opinions, and feelings such as anxiety and fear. Not only in the classroom or workforce, we have implemented the lessons of group work into our personal lives as well,” the students shared in their presentation. “Working on issues with others helps to develop empathy and an understanding of different points of view, which helps improve our ability to communicate with others.” 

Basto, Constantine, and Murphy also volunteered at the conference while attending workshops and learning more about group work. Murphy said she learned about and became interested in oncology social work and made connections with several other social workers who work in this area. “ It is a privilege to witness our students’ educational evolution manifest through their presentations and be part of a collaborative co-learning experience,” said Nappi.

Nau and Nappi’s presentation was titled “Addressing Microaggressions in a Group Using an Antiracist Intersectional Feminist Lens.” Nappi shared the historical causes of microaggression and how to infuse anti-oppressive approaches that cultivate an environment of bearing witness. Nau discussed techniques to interrupt microaggressions in groups and the classroom. A robust conversation erupted regarding the topic, with all attendees practicing interrupting microaggressions and creating positionality statements they could use in their own practice. 

Nau also co-facilitated the Roselle Kurland Memorial presentation with colleagues from around the world about best practices for teaching group work. This presentation is the first step in a research project to learn where, when, and how students learn about social work with groups.

“I was incredibly proud not only of the well-received presentation given by the students but also of the ways that they engaged in networking and learning at this international conference,” Nau said. “It was an experience I will never forget as an educator,  that I hope was as meaningful to them.”

The symposium has been held virtually since 2020. This was the first in-person symposium held since 2019. Nau mentored students who presented at the 2022 and 2023 symposium as well.