Barry University School of Social Work
Calendar  April 2018 Issue

Talking about race with high school students from Liberty City

The TRACKS Intergroup Dialogue program proudly collaborated with the Promising Futures Leadership Academy from Miami Children’s Initiative in Liberty City to engage area high school students in a timely dialogue about race and racism.

Students examined their racial social identities and shared with each other important discussions about privilege and oppression, stereotype awareness, and strategies for handing racism in their daily lives. They stated they would like an elective on intergroup dialogues in their high schools and more opportunities for TRACKS, including dialogues with students from other schools. We hope to continue this work in the fall semester.

Foster Shock Documentary Screening

The Center for Human Rights and Social Justice sponsored the moving and disturbing documentary “Foster Shock” on Feb. 8. Created and directed by Mari Frankel, a former guardian ad litem, this film examines Florida’s foster care system through the eyes of traumatized children. A panel comprised of Mari Frankel, Brian Bayerl, the film’s editor/cinematographer, Kenisha Anthony, one of the former foster youth portrayed in the film, and Robert Latham, associate director of the Children and Youth Law Clinic at the University of Miami, answered questions from the audience following the film. BUSSW faculty member, Dr. Ed Tucker, moderated the panel discussion.

Integrative therapy and experiential arts session by Dr. Heidi LaPorte
Integrative therapy and experiential arts session by Dr. Heidi LaPorte

The goal of the professional development series on integrative experiential arts is to provide students with a powerful tool to use as self-care and in-practice in their field placements. Creative expression is a therapeutic tool that can be used with clients across settings, age groups and fields of practice, regardless of body ability and agency context.

Creative expression is powerful, whether it is visual art, poetry, movement, music or dramatic performance. Creative expression becomes an emotional vocabulary with or without words.  Sometimes creative expressive arts is the emotional lubricant that reaches spaces where words are not able to reach. Creativity engages the entire person, allowing for a fullness of expression.  From micro to macro practice, creative arts can be used in the service of social justice and advocacy-oriented activities. Artistic expression allows for a telling without talking and eventually permits incremental sharing of feelings. Using this venue welcomes the feelings that can be challenging, including anger, pain, vulnerability and sadness. The goal is to feel safe in the expression of the feelings and ultimately empowerment and meaning-making. In addition, the ability to modify images makes change tangible.

Ms. Maria Tapia

On behalf of the School of Social Work and The Center for Human Rights & Social Justice (CHRSJ), we would like to congratulate Ms. Maria Tapia for being awarded the 2018 Doctoral Fellowship Award.

Her proposed research titled, “Understanding School Mental Health Perspectives Toward LGBT Populations,” is a promising step toward creating safer and more inclusive schools for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning/Queer (LGBTQ) youth in South Florida. Moreover, findings from her proposed study have the potential to extend existing knowledge and research in this area.

Congratulations Maria!

New Trauma Informed Human Trafficking Certificate

Human trafficking is modern day slavery, a human rights injustice that subjugates 4.5million individuals who are trafficked worldwide in the sex industry, 98 percent of them are women and girls. Although research and literature magnifies the plight and voices of women and girls, the voices and experiences of men and boys are often not documented, leaving boys and men’s experiences inaudible — the invisible sub population. As such, we can clearly deduce that this is a serious public health, human rights, and social injustice issue impacting all members of society; thereby, enlisting all members of society to join together in standing against this criminal network that profits from the most disenfranchised in our communities.

Read More

The CHRSJ joins university-wide initiatives to prevent Sexual Assault

On Feb. 13, South Florida students united to participate in the fifth annual College Brides Walk. Students took a stand against domestic and dating violence on and off college campuses. While many Barry University students marched to Johnson & Wales in bride’s dresses or all white, some decided to partake in other activities.

Dr. Sheila McMahon led students in a creative art project to showcase group ideals regarding issues of power-based personal violence. In the first sequence, students discussed and drew what relates to their views about domestic and dating violence within their communities. The second sequence included an idealistic view of what a world free from violence would look like. Groups shared their thoughts and dreams of peace, hope, and love before connecting the two ideas with a final drawing and discussion on what steps they, their schools and communities can do to move closer to their visions of peace.

The large drawing was displayed around campus as a testament and plea to end domestic and dating violence. The drawings were a great starting point for students and community members to start a conversation not only about how they identified domestic and dating violence in their surrounding areas but also as a call to action. Those visions of hope, love, and peace were created with the understanding that they are a real possibility if all individuals — men and women alike — actively stand against violence when they see it.

“Untouchable,” a provocative documentary about the far-reaching effects of sexual abuse.

On March 1, the CHRSJ hosted a film screening of “Untouchable,” a provocative documentary about the far-reaching effects of sexual abuse. A Q&A panel discussion about sexual violence prevention and sex offender management policies followed.

The distinguished inter-disciplinary panel included Miami-Dade Deputy Mayor Maurice Kemp, Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez, ACLU attorney Jeanne Baker, Barry SSW Professor Dr. Jill Levenson, and Kristi House, and Director Dr. Ruthlyn Webster. The screening was well attended by community members as well as students and faculty from the Barry community. The film and discussion prompted a critical dialogue about sexual abuse prevention and the complex social justice issues for both victims and perpetrators.

BUSSW congratulates Tiffany Hodgson as the Social Work Student of the Year by NASW-FL Miami Dade Unit
BUSSW congratulates Tiffany Hodgson as the Social Work Student of the Year by  NASW-FL Miami Dade Unit Tiffany Hodgson


The Center for Human Rights (CHRSJ) partnered with Aqua Foundation for the fourth consecutive year to host the second day of the TransCon conference on the Barry campus. TransCon 2018 welcomed over 300 transgender and nonbinary individuals, as well as allies to the transgender community to participate in a job fair as well as workshops aimed at providing education, healing, and community building. This year’s keynote speaker was award-winning writer, educator and storyteller S. Bear Bergman, the author of six books as well as the founder of Flamingo Rampant, a children’s press focused on feminist, LGBTQ-positive, racially-diverse children’s books. Noemi Marquez, a student in our Social Work PhD program, facilitated Gender diversity expressive arts: Kids and families workshop along with her colleagues Joel Mendez, LCSW, & Daniella Dellisant. Other notable workshops included The Trans Health Panel, Rights and privileges of trans and gender nonconforming students in MDCPS, BCPS, & PBCPS, and Stand up and fight back: Why 2018 is our year for LGBT rights. The CHRSJ was thrilled to help support this important event that targets the specific needs and experiences of trans people in our community.

SSWA E-Board attends the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy’s (CRISP) 4th Annual Social Work Day on Capitol Hill

By Johanna Rodriguez

Student Social Work Association (SSWA) Executive Board Members Johanna Rodriguez, Gail Mills, Tania Laguerre, and Augustin Gracia, along with Dr. Sheila McMahon, visited Washington, D.C., to partake in the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy’s (CRISP) 4th Annual Social Work Day on Capitol Hill. Barry University students got the opportunity to connect with other social work students and professionals to discuss policy and politics before meeting with their state representatives. Two of the bigger items encouraged to be discussed with representatives was assault rifle bans and immigration reform. The morning of March 20, SSWA members and McMahon met and spoke to Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and General Counsel Member Sandeep Prasanna about both issues, which was received with a smile and reassurance that they are going to continue working on finding a solution to the state’s and nation’s gun problem.

Later in the afternoon, SSWA members were received with a warm smile and picture by Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson. She, along with legislative aid Phoenix ChiWang, were welcoming and receptive to hearing from their constituents on issues that affect their local and national communities. Before an evening meeting with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, SSWA Members were fortunate enough to run into and take a picture with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who commented, “I love social workers.” Despite Marco Rubio being unavailable, his staff graciously cleared a conference room to meet in. A lively discussion on gun violence, immigration and mental health took place with Legislative Correspondent Thomas Boodry and JR Sanchez, director of Outreach and Social Issue Aide. The night ended with a banquet dinner provided by CRISP to congratulate everyone on a successful day of advocacy. An unforeseen snow storm resulted in a cancellation and delay of flights back, giving everyone an opportunity to visit some of the monuments and museums.

Stronger than barbed wire: Helga’s story of life before and after the Holocaust

"It’s a good thing that Being loved gives you strength, Because loving again Requires courage.”


For a second time, the CHRSJ hosted Holocaust survivor Helga Melmed. Through an honest and thought-provoking interview by her niece and SSW professor Dr. Heidi LaPorte, Melmed shared her story of trauma, resiliency, faith and hope through her own experiences during World War II. We all were fortunate to be present.

Helga Melmed's story by Dr. Heidi LaPorte: Download PDF.

Watch the interview


By SSWA President Ashley Ferguson

This past January, I attended LEADAY in Tallahassee, Fla. The experience was an amazing opportunity to advocate for policies that support populations I work with and ideals I value. I found it empowering to seek out my state legislators, sit at the table with them and voice my concerns. And I was never alone, LEADAY is all about being a collective voice of change. Therefore, many of the day’s meetings included #BarryProud school of social work students. One of the main ways I look forward to attending LEADAY in 2019!

For more information on LEADAY, please contact SSWA president: 

Palm Beach students join the March for Our Lives movement

By Dr. Eva Nowakowski-Sims

After the horrific event that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, we cannot stay silent any more. We have a duty to our country, our children, and the brave souls that we lost on Valentine’s Day 2018 to stand up and take action. On March 24, a group of students from the Palm Beach/Treasure Coast campus participated in the local March for Our Lives event. The peaceful protest gave students an opportunity to come together with other concerned citizens; men and women, young and old ,of all races and ethnicities, as a community and as Americans to fight for the safety of our fellow citizens.

Student Highlight
Ms. Maria Tapia Elmer A. Higgins

Elmer A. Higgins is a MSW part-time student at the Barry’s Palm Beach Gardens site. She has worked in the child welfare field for the last eight years with Children’s Home Society and is currently a dependency case manager supervisor. Higgins enjoys working with at risk families. This experience provides her the opportunity to inspire her workers to have a heart of stewardship for all the people they serve.

Her current field placement is with Families First of Palm Beach County. Higgins works with the Behavioral Health Department to provide therapeutic services to children and young adults in schools and within her community. She enjoys her field placement because it gives her the opportunity to empower young people by giving them hope for their future. Higgins’ passion and dedication to her field has helped her develop resiliency for inspiring individuals for a better tomorrow. While serving at Families First, she was awarded the $1,500 Betty Bell Scholarship. The scholarship is awarded to an individual who is currently enrolled in a master’s in Social Work program at an accredited university in Florida. Once a year, the winner is selected and presented with the award at the annual awards luncheon. During the luncheon, Higgins was chosen as the winner of the $1,000 Celebrity Cruise Line raffle ticket. She was humbled and overwhelmed, having received the scholarship and winning the Celebrity Cruise raffle. However, she is most grateful because her plans were to take a cruise to Alaska after graduating in May 2018. The best is yet to come!   

Palm Beach Celebrates Social Work Appreciation Month
Palm Beach Celebrates Social Work Appreciation Month

Barry University Palm Beach campus social work students enjoyed each other’s company in celebration of Social Work Month. Celebrated each March, this is an opportunity for social workers across the country to turn the focus on the profession and feature the important contributions they make to society.

Pictured are many of the students who attend the Palm Beach campus on a full-time and part-time basis, along with Dr. LaPorte, a longtime associate professor of Social Work at Barry University.       

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