News & Events
UM-DeSoto Social Work Professor and Students Lead Community Building Workshops
April 21, 2009... Getting involved in your career does not have to wait until after graduation. Two University of Mississippi-DeSoto campus students were recognized for their outstanding work by UM Assistant Professor of Social Work Jerry Watson and invited to travel to Springfield, Ill. to help lead a community leadership workshop for the Illinois Council of Area Projects (ICAP) group.
Watson said much of the presentation came from his work with students in a senior-level social work class he teaches. Harris and Campbell, both of whom will receive their bachelor’s degrees in May, were chosen to present from their class. However, this sort of presentation is an unusual level of achievement for an undergraduate student, Watson said.
The ICAP gathering focused on helping community interest organizations in creating programs for needs such as after school activities and gang–prevention.
“The question is: how do you build leadership from the inside out and from the bottom up in communities?” Watson said. “All residents have personal traits that can be used for leadership.”
Watson noted one of the major points in the presentation was highlighting the difference between leadership–which requires vision and determination–and management–which requires day–to–day organization and operational skills. Identifying someone’s potential is the first step in community organization, he said.
However, community strength was the topic of specialization for Campbell, a Batesville native who led small groups during the workshop.
“You can take any community and identify the different strengths within it to make a difference or overcome a situation,” she said.
Campbell said her long–term career goals consist of obtaining a doctorate in social work and opening her own practice in north Mississippi one day. She would like to work with children and try to discourage the factors that lead to high school dropouts.
For Harris, whose presentation focused on social work in larger communities, the trip represented a glimpse of what she hopes to achieve in her career as well. She wants to be a clinical social worker specializing in revitalizing community programs; especially those aimed at children in large urban communities. She has a passion for encouraging “grass roots” movements.
“It was amazing to see so many organizations that are all about the enhancement of a community come together,” she said. “It was just a really great experience.”
After graduation, both Harris and Campbell will complete summer internships, and have plans to attend graduate school in the near future.
“It is very unusual to have two undergraduates this skilled,” Watson said. “I think it’s their life experience and their dedication to providing care for others that made them great contributors to this conference.”