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Meet our Member - Be Inspired!

Written by: Shercee Barrett, SSWAA MSW Intern

In my role as an intern with the School Social Work Association of America, one of the projects I get to work on is Member Spotlight Blogs. In these blogs, SSWAA is excited to shine a spotlight on various school social work professionals! We want you to get to know each other - learn from each other - inspire one another!

For our first Member Spotlight Blog, I had the privilege of interviewing Cindy Bautista Thomas. In speaking with Cindy, I was so intrigued how passionate she is in the field of social work and the many hats she takes upon such as being a professor at Columbia University, a PHD student, an author, and co-founder of an organization. Keep reading to learn some of the many interesting fact about Ms. Thomas.

Where do you practice SSW and what population do you work with?

I am an Associate Director of Field Education at Columbia School of Social Work. I work with graduate students who are in our MSW program who are completing their internships in school based programs and colleges. I also work directly with the field instructors who are providing supervisory support to these students. One of the other roles that I play is that I chair and coordinate the Annual School Social Work Conference at Columbia School of Social Work. We are going into our sixth year.

What practice area or practice topic is essential to your work?

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is key to the work that I do every day. Whether it is working with students or field instructors, it is key that I help to support their work as social justice advocates. That for me means ensuring that they are centering diversity, equity and inclusion in the way they approach the work they are doing in and out of field as social work practitioners and students.

What impact has membership in SSWAA had on your practice?

I attended the first SSWAA conference in 2017. It was there that I met so many scholars in the field and developed strong lasting relationships with people in the field. As a doctoral student I have been able to use the information from conferences and their website to help support my research in school social work. At the last conference in 2019 I was able to present and collaborate with new scholars. A few of us talked while at the conference and later approached the present with an idea for a Practitioners of Color Task Force. We developed a pre-conference offering that will support disrupting inequities in educational settings and develop networking connections for practitioners of color in the school social work field.

How would you describe SSWAA in two words and why?

Collaborative and open minded. Since I have been involved with SSWAA I have felt that the board members and administration have been working collaboratively with professionals on many levels for the sake of enhancing the profession. Also, I have felt that they have been open to hearing about a diversity of ideas and implementing changes to increase exposure and action.

What value have you found in developing professional connections or a network of professionals?

Every year that I get to go to the national conferences I have developed friendships and professional collaborations with professionals from a variety of areas – direct practice school social workers and researchers in the field.

What new SSWAA projects are you most excited about?

I am really excited about the Practitioners of Color Task Force. I am excited about bridging my dissertation research with my personal and professional interests.

If You Could Rid the World of One Thing, What Would It Be?

I would rid the world of anything it would be inequities in education. Every child, in every city, in every nation should be afforded a quality education with highly trained teachers and social workers that cultivate the love of learning. Each child should feel that their voice matters and that they matter.

I am so thankful Ms. Thomas has given her time to share her thoughts with us. She has chosen to remain a member of SSWAA which has enriched our organization and our profession. Her dedication to school social work is making a positive impact in relationships, building connections and rapport with other professionals. We are so appreciative of her hard work and expertise. I hope to experience more encounters with Ms. Thomas!

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