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Student Projects

Rachel Peterson and Emily Williams of Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota advocated for the Governor’s Mental Health Initiative. This bill addresses federal cuts in spending for mental health by targeting investments to build up Minnesota’s mental health infrastructure, including school-based mental health services. The bill is currently stalled in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

Amy Stroman, Alecia Lubinus, and Melissa Behrens of Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota investigated homelessness and insufficient housing in Minnesota and organized an event to increase student awareness of the issue. A display, Portraits of Home, put a face on homelessness and insufficient housing, and students were given an opportunity to sign the Housing Solution Act petition. If passed, the Act will significantly increase funding for available housing.

Caroline Holmes, Jason Fagan, Heather Lewis, and Tiffany Brewer of Capital University in Columbus, Ohio addressed the importance of increasing the minimum wage in Ohio. They collected petition signatures to help get a “Fair Minimum Wage” amendment to the constitution on the November 2006 ballot. They also met with Senator C.J. Prentiss’ legislative staff to advocate for legislation. If passed, the wage ballot proposal would affect 14% of Ohio workers.

Whitney Mallow and Wendy Steinhauer of Indiana University of Social Work in Indianapolis researched the dangers associated with methamphetamine production, abuse, and availability. They pursued their goal of educating the public on the devastating effect meth has on children and society by presenting information on current laws and outlining a plan to broaden support for additional legislation.

Kaela Byers, Lisa Crook, Lis Sojourner, and Chris Veeh of University of Kansas in Lawrence tracked a bill that addresses the large number of minority youth in the Kansas juvenile justice system. Recognizing that the issue was not well understood, they devised an educational strategy by developing relationships with legislators, bureaucrats, and religious leaders and advocating for SB47, which is aimed at reducing racial, geographical, and other biases in statewide programs and awarding grants to county programs. SB 47 is awaiting the governor’s signature.

Kendra Mueller, Kassie Meyer, and Noreen Carter of Loras College in Dubuque Iowa created a program to enhance training for workers in Iowa youth homes. Their project calls for mandatory yearly attendance at a two-day seminar to be held quarterly at universities, colleges, and other locations statewide.  They spoke with social workers and contacted local legislators, and confronted issues of money and politics. This program has great potential to affect children, youth workers, and families.

Jean Dutton, Gabby Richardson, Kady Steger, and Jenna Unsen of Lorcas College in Dubuque Iowa took social action in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students who were being harassed and bullied in Iowa schools. They supported a proposed bill in the state legislature that would mandate that all school districts include sexual orientation and/or gender identity anti-harassment or anti-bullying policies. They participated in the “LGBT Student Day at the Capital,” where they broadened their base of support.

Ann Chisholm and JaVonda Palmer of University of Missouri in St. Louis researched the effects of problem debt on low-income families in Missouri. They represented their university at the annual Undergraduate Research Day at the Capital State Rotunda, where they testified on minimum wage law reform. They identified key causes of debt and created a poster that outlined their findings and proposed solutions. As a result of their project, one of them has been selected to participate in the 2006 21st Century Leadership Academy at the Sue Shear Institute for Women in Public Life. 

Amy Vitale of Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island became involved in Marriage Equity Rhode Island (MERI), a community organization aimed at legalizing same-sex marriage in Rhode Island. She worked with the Coordinating Committee to transport residents to the Rhode Island State House and became a registered state lobbyist in April 2006. Through conversations and research, she analyzed how voters can influence legislators’ policymaking. The bill did not pass this year.

Celena Garrett, Angela Carter, Dianna Perez, and Ireyda Escamilla of Austin State University in Texas participated in a rally to educate people on issues related to immigration reform. They countered popular misconceptions reported in the press by displaying signs that said, for example, “Get Facts; Get Informed!” The local newspaper featured them for two days, and they reached a readership of more than 10,000 subscribers.

Emily Hill, Staci Colson, and Leah Booth of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee responded to a cut in services that dropped 26,000 mentally ill people from Tennessee’s public health care system. Those who were retained and have both mental and physical illness are forced to choose between medications that treat one or the other. The students focused on educating legislators and the public; strengthening coalitions among advocacy organizations; and fighting the stigma of mental illness.

Jennifer Jones, Ashley Stephens, Rachel Cooper, Britney Stephens, and Kasey Nunn of Union University in Jackson Tennessee advocated for SB 2594/HB 2605, a bill similar to Jessica’s Law, which targets violent sex offenders. They met with lawmakers, researched successful efforts by other states, and sought support from a popular national news commentator. The bill did not pass this year for fiscal reasons, but the students are poised to continue their advocacy efforts.

Sixteen students from Union University in Jackson Tennessee responded to the challenge of requiring the Tennessee Division of Claims to honor Tennessee Code Annotated Title 29, Chapter 13, which provides for a trust to be established for children who are victims of crime. The group requested documents that would enable child advocates to file applications on behalf of foster children in rural areas. They collected petition signatures, participated in a community crime march, and produced a PowerPoint presentation that they will present at a state victims’ advocacy conference in September 2006.

Rachel Conger, Jennifer Duong, Jessica Gavre, Aurora Jewell, Malissa Page, Felichia Schaefer, and Kendra Varadi of University of Washington in Tacoma advocated for low income housing in Washington state by supporting H B2984, which enables cities and counties to implement affordable housing incentive programs. They initiated a letter writing campaign, provided laptop computers and cell phones for students to contact their representatives, and established a Take 5 Table at the campus. They also participated in a housing lobby day, a rally, and met with leaders of the Low-Income Housing Alliance as well as their state representatives. They further educated themselves by taking part in the Pierce County Homeless Count and attended the Friday Night Feed for homeless people. HB 2984 passed, benefiting the elderly, single parent, and low-income families.

Forrest Robert Stepnowski, Katie Stevens, Alice Jenagin, Kallie Gatzmeier, and Karie Rice of University of Washington in Tacoma responded to a legislative battle that lasted 29 years and involves discrimination against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, and Questioning (LGBTQ) community. They lobbied for HB 2661, which adds the words “sexual orientation” to the state’s existing Anti-discrimination law and gives LGBTQs the same rights as other oppressed groups. They handed out fact sheets, set up an information table on campus, placed posters in school, initiated a phone chain, and provided contact information for students to contact their legislators. The bill was passed in January.

Melissa Laws, Heather Bowen, James Oliver, Michelle Mudwilder of the University of Washington in Tacoma tackled the issue of confidentiality for domestic violence and sexual assault victims who seek help from state agencies. They found that domestic violence advocates did not have legal privilege and sexual assault advocates did. The students educated, advocated, and lobbied for HB 2848, which provides privacy protection for domestic violence survivors. The bill supports the 250 trained domestic violence workers as well as the estimated one in three women who is a victim.

Melissa Pinkowski and Debra Sutcliffe of Western Connecticut State University organized a letter writing campaign to enact harsher laws and penalties for those engaged in human sex-slave trafficking. They prepared and sent form letters addressed to the Governor, State Attorney General, senators and representatives, and local and federal officials. Their letters generated responses from state officials and press coverage.

Jessica Bromilow of Bob - she does not list a university in Winona, Minnesota learned about policy enforcement by participating in the electoral process as a candidate. She ran for and was elected a delegate for the Winona County DFL convention and the District 31 convention. She advocated for holding Minnesota responsible for upholding Minnesota State Statute 135A.03, which requires the state to provide 67% of student college tuition; the state was only paying 47%. Her actions affect 5 million Minnesotans and illustrate the power of grass-roots advocacy.


Student Projects

M1 The entire class of first year graduate students at the University of Southern California worked to raise the awareness of the needs of the homeless in Los Angeles County.  The students collected data, performed research, identified gaps in services, and organized lobbying efforts in order to promote change for various populations of the homeless.  Through their efforts, they were instrumental in the passing of SB 1689 in the California State Legislature, which will place a $2.85 billion dollar housing bond benefiting low-income Californians on the November 2006 ballot.

M2 Mindy Bakken, Kim Stoll, and Amy Wurster of Augsburg College in Minneapolis, MN advocated for the Early Childhood Mental Health Screening Tool, a proposed piece of legislation on the 2006 Public Policy Agenda in Minnesota.  This piece of legislation would benefit children with mental health concerns by focusing on early intervention through the use of mental health screening tools for preschool aged children.  The students provided statistics and information regarding the proposed amendment to state legislators.  At the time of this paper, the bill had been approved by the Senate and was waiting to be debated in the House of Representatives.

M3 Gina Breukelman of the University of Washington-Tacoma served as the Advocacy Chair of the Pierce County Human Services during the 2006 Washington State legislature.  Her work included coordinating and leading the coalitions advocacy efforts, such as drafting the coalitions 2006 legislative agenda, analyzing legislation to determine compatibility to agencies mission, and meeting with legislators regarding relevant issues.  One of her primary efforts was the promotion of asset building among low-income working families.  She worked with Representative Jeannie Darneille (D-27th District) in developing HB 3156, a bill establishing a pilot program to assist in low-income families in accumulating assets. Her efforts contributed to the bill being passed by both House and Senate, therefore being signed into law on March 17, 2006.

M4 Students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison directed an advocacy campaign in an effort to develop a broad coalition of state and local groups in support of the inclusion of the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 (FCIA) in the State of Wisconsin’s 2007-2009 biennial budget.  FCIA enables states to extend Medicaid coverage to youth aging out of foster care on or after their 18th birthday in response to evidence of increased physical and mental health risks of these foster care children due to a lack of healthcare coverage.  Their efforts resulted in the development of a position paper on the need to extend Medicaid coverage, the allying of NASW-WI and the Youth Advisory Council (YAC, composed of former and current foster youth), as well as involvement in the planning committee of Lobby Day 2007.

M5 Jessie Buerlein of Boston College through her internship with Health Care For All (HCFA) advocated for the restoration of dental benefits for adults enrolled in MassHealth, which was previously eliminated in 2002.  Her work consisted of increasing the visibility of this issue to legislators and the public through the development of literature reviews documenting the micro and macro effects created by the elimination of these benefits.  She also facilitated the distribution of educational materials to state legislators on a weekly basis. In April 2006, a health care reform bill was passed which included the restoration of dental benefits.

M6 Jill Carmichael and Helen O’Beirne of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va lobbied against HB 1146, which was designed to provide statewide title protection/licensing for social workers.  However, the bill lacked involvement by macro social work professionals and students resulting in legislation that was focused solely on licensing and title protection for clinical social workers.  Jill and Helen were instrumental in raising awareness and support for this exclusion of the macro perspective in the bill, eventually leading the dissolution of some of the bill’s initial components.  The bill was passed, but the title protection and licensing components were removed so that they could be reviewed at a later date and with more macro involvement.

M7 Students at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, MN developed a campaign to increase funding to support the Minnesota Children’s Comprehensive Act (MCCMHA) of 1989, which has previously lacked the appropriate financial resources necessary for adequate service delivery.  The campaign slogan entitled “Children’s Mental Health Funding:  It Doesn’t Make Cents!” was used in collaboration with postcard petitions that served to increase citizens awareness of the need for increased children’s mental health funding and broaden support necessary to influence state legislators.   A partnership was developed with the National Association of Mentally Ill of Minnesota (NAMI-MN) leading to the issue becoming the theme of NAMI upcoming event, Mental Health Day on the Hill at Minnesota’s state capitol. Several students participated in this event through presentations.

M8 Larissa Carpenter and other students of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA collaborated with Equality Virginia to campaign against the Virginia Affirmation of Marriage Amendment (VAMA), which would not only ban gay marriage in the state, but also deny legal recognition to civil unions.  Through door-to-door canvassing and an organized campus event, the students attempted to increase the awareness of this amendment that will be appear in the upcoming November ballot.  The students handed out leaflets and stickers in support of their cause and added fifty signatures to Equality of Virginia’s petition of opposition.

M9 Students at the University of Tennessee led opposition against HB 775/SB 1615, which would provide adoption preference to married, heterosexual couples.  These bills were developed to prevent adoption by homosexual couples.  In addition to lobbying in the state capitol, the students presented at the Family to Family Conference to a group of Regional DCS administrators in order to raise their awareness of the current legislation.  At the time of this paper, the bills were stalled in a subcommittee.

M10 Kristen Connors, Eanna Aaron, Erin Jackson, Tori Keel at the University of South Carolina campaigned in support of a bill in the state legislature to promote individualized graduation plans for high school students.  The bill will provide a curriculum that emphasizes strong academics in conjunction with real-world problem solving skills such as career orientation, career development, and job training skills.  The students sent letters to school superintendents educating them about the bill and developed a survey for high school students to determine how they would be affecting by this bill.

M11 Samantha Cummings, Annie Kosel, Scooter Lippert, and Carrie Peterson of Augsburg College in Minneapolis, MN campaigned to promote the passing of the In-State Tuition for Immigrant Status Bill, also known as the Minnesota Dream Act.  This bill would be important step in removing the barriers to education and immigrant students by qualifying them for in-state tuition.  The students collaborated with the Augsburg College MSW Student Forum and used the Dream Act as the signature project to promote at Social Work Day at the Capitol.  Their efforts assisted in educating BSW and MSW students in lobbying with state legislators, as well as encouraging student participation.

M12 advocated for a national prescription drug plan for persons over age 65 and vulnerable populations.  The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003-- Medicare Part D is touted as the first nationwide attempt that seeks to provide coverage of dual eligibility, alternative and flexible formulas for vulnerable populations, involuntary withdrawal for disruptive behavior, appeal procedures, as well as, outreach and enrollment.

M13: In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, M13 was inspired by the Influencing State Policy (ISP) national essay contest to initiate her own contest as an attempt to raise money for the victims of these three devastating natural disasters.  Incorporating outreach and grassroots fundraising strategies to attract contest participants, M13 endeavored to bring attention to the hardships endured by these victims with the hope that her efforts will shape disaster relief policy for the State of Louisiana and the City of New Orleans.

M14 tracked South Carolina's Financial Literacy Act of 2005, a measure designed to implement finance education in high school course curricula across the state.  The ratification of this bill led to the development of a finance literacy program spanning from kindergarten to 12th grade for state public schools.

M15 led a campaign advocating for the passage of a bill that would increase the sales tax on tobacco products throughout the State of South Carolina.  If enacted, these tax dollars would be allocated to fund the necessary expansion of the state's Medicaid and S-CHIP programs to provide affordable health insurance to an estimated 500,000 residents.

M16 pursued an in-depth understanding of the Taxpayers' Bill of Rights (TABOR) by conducting research that aided South Carolina state lobbyists and legislators in their consideration of enacting this policy.  This group's effort provided valuable experience and insight into how social workers can effectively participate in the policy process.

M17 advocated for the passage of S110, a bill before the South Carolinian State Senate that would use the proceeds from the sale of the Bull Street property to provide additional funds to the state's Department of Mental Health.  Through campaigning and collaborating with the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) and South Carolina's Department of Education, M17 helped raise awareness of mental health issues and gained a valuable lesson in the complexity of state policy development.

M18 applied grassroots strategies to advocate and support Colorado's HB1212, giving women the opportunity to obtain emergency contraception from pharmacists without a prescription.  Believing this measure would greatly impact the lives of low-income and minority women who often have little to no access to primary care doctors, this group formed a coalition with a local Planned Parenthood and mobilized a campaign to raise awareness among state legislators.  

The students of M19 conducted a public opinion poll to inform residents of increased sexual violence and the presence of pedophiles living in their communities.  M19 advocated for the placement of roadside billboards identifying and announcing the presence of sex offenders living in nearby neighborhoods. 

M20:  Students enrolled in a Family Social Policy course at Augsburg College lobbied for support of Senate File #3103, a bill that stipulated an educational benefit to parents partaking in the Minnesota's Family Investment Program (MFIP).  Through the extensive research of their action project, these students were able to inform participating families and state legislators of limitations in the current welfare-to-work policy and its education guidelines.

M21 transformed personal tragedy into an advocacy effort to establish a statewide program for the early intervention and prevention of suicide for persons between the ages of 10 to twenty-four.  By making use of available community resources and having the tenacity to persevere, M21 learned how the personal can become political and helped shape the legislative process.

M22 lobbied against a proposed amendment to the Minnesota State Constitution to ban same-sex marriages, civil unions, or any legal recognition of same-sex couples throughout the state.  Their intent was to draw attention to the negative impact such a ban could have on the lives of these couples and their families.  Additionally, these students endeavored to invoke the principles and values of the social work profession through a grassroots campaign that highlighted the discriminatory nature of the proposed amendment.

Alissa Abelson, Rebecca Laisy, Andrea Luehring, Maddi McDonnell, and Caryolyn Serie of Augsburg College educated key legislators in the Minnesota General Assembly about SB 3103, which would reduce the number of work hours required by participants pursuing postsecondary education who receive financial aid from the state. These students used a letter writing campaign and designed a bookmark in order to persuade key legislator to vote in favor of the legislation.

Megan Macalady of St. Louis University organized efforts to increase awareness about Alzheimer’s disease in the state of Missouri and the need for legislation that would increase Alzheimer service grants to coalitions, Medicaid reform, restoration of funding for Alzheimer’s research and improvements for assisted living facilities. Megan participated in coalition building activities, tracked legislation and implemented lobby day events.

Millie Mitchell and Llora Jean Negro of University of South Carolina researched the knowledge social workers had regarding South Carolina’s Child Abuse and Prevention Treatment Act (CAPTA). Millie and Llora hoped by examining this issue it would encourage thoughtful discussion and political actions regarding effective implementation of CAPTA programs and policies by social workers.

Catherine Britt, Tiffany Harris, Kelli Parnelle, Tiffany Price, and Claire Wise of the University of South Carolina led a campaign to educate and encourage state legislators to pass policy that would protect working class families from predatory lending companies. This group of MSW students developed information brochures about the issue and made individual visits to inform their legislators. They also developed a petition that was sent to South Carolina’s Governor, Mark Sanford, which illustrated strong support for laws restricting predatory lending.

Jennifer Blanken, Bessie Lovingood, Jennifer McDaniel, Sara Prothro, Maggie Webb, and Shayla Wilkinson of  the University of South Carolina sought to raise awareness regarding HB 4314, which proposed tuition caps in South Carolina. In order to raise awareness and allow voters to make informed decisions, these MSW students planned a town hall meeting at USC and invited key legislators to speak for and against the proposed legislation. Armed with first hand knowledge about the multifaceted legislation, they will be able to inform and educate others about the potential affects of the legislation.

Fawn Pettet of Boise State University advocated for several proposed bills during the 2006 Idaho Legislative Session. Two of the bills Fawn supported, mental health parity and moratorium on coal fired power plants, passed the Idaho Legislator. Fawns advocacy efforts included research, coalition building, lobbying, addressing legislative committees, and grassroots organizing.

Leroy Robertson and Christian Vesterfelt of the University of South Carolina sought to raise awareness in South Carolina regarding funding cuts in the South Carolina Foster Care system.  The funding cuts would, specifically, affect residential services for emotionally disabled children in the foster care system. In order to raise awareness, Leroy and Christian wrote an editorial to the state newspaper, regarding their opposition to the proposed cuts.

Devon Snider of the University of Maryland lobbied for the passage of HB 39 in the Maryland Legislature. HB 39, if passed, would reinstate medical assistance benefits to legal immigrant pregnant women and children. Devon lobbied legislators, in order to find additional co-sponsors. In addition to this activity, he testified at committee hearings. HB 39 was passed with amendments.
Dr. Kathy Byers | (812) 855-4427 |