UNC Hosts International Association for Social Work with Groups’ Annual Symposium

July 7, 2015

Participants in the symposium.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work hosted the International Association for Social Work with Groups 37th annual symposium June 4-7. Over 200 people attended, representing 15 countries and five continents.

Two institutes preceded the symposium. One was for field instructors, given by Alex Gitterman of the University of Connecticut, on the topic of obstacles in supervision. The second one was global perspectives on diversity, and involved a variety of experiential activities. Another preconference activity was an “outsitute” trip to the Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro.

Program highlights “were so numerous it’s hard to remember. All the plenary speakers were really fantastic this year. Andrew Malekoff spoke on group work with adolescents, and Howard Lee, former mayor of Chapel Hill, talked about the use of groups to create political and social change. Both received standing ovations,” Anne Jones, one of the co-chairs along with Marilyn Ghezzi and Willa Casstevens from N.C. State Department of Social Work, said.

Another unique aspect of this symposium was that the organizers partnered with a professor and three of her students from the University of Pretoria, South Africa, to purchase conference bags. She and her students helped to develop a small social enterprise with elderly impoverished women and homeless men.

“The women sewed incredibly beautiful, colorful bags and the men made felt animal key chains that went on the bags,” Jones said. “It was a win-win. They were able to sell 300 bags, and conference participants ended up with lovely, hand-sewn bags that they will continue to use and won’t end up in a landfill! This professor, Reineth Prinsloo, and her students also attended the symposium and gave a wonderful invitational workshop about their social enterprise group work that was very engaging and interactive.”

“Although I am a little biased,” Jones said, “I also have to mention two of our own faculty who gave fantastic presentations. Laurie-Selz Campbell did a great workshop with Hillary Rubesin from the Art Therapy Institute on group work using public narratives and expressive art forms with persons diagnosed with severe and persistent mental illness. Marilyn Ghezzi also gave a very thought-provoking talk on group composition and the tension that exists between practitioners’ desires to carefully choose group members and agency pressures to run and keep groups filled. As usual, they were both great.”

During the conference, several individuals were recognized for their contributions to the field, including faculty members Maeda Galinsky, Jodi Flick and Roberta Wallace; and field instructors Karla Sui and Larry Bernstein. Galinsky was an honored guest at the Saturday evening dinner banquet and plenary panel held at the Carolina Club, where her work along with that of late faculty member Jan Schopler and Charles Garvin were discussed.

The annual symposium is hosted in a different location each year.

“We learned a lot about conference organizing,” Jones said of the committee’s work. “It was a great experience and opportunity, and one that I also hope and think will help to build our North Carolina IASWG Chapter.”

If you are interested in learning more about the N.C. Chapter of IASWG, contact Anne Jones at annejone@email.unc.edu or Marilyn Ghezzi at mghezzi@email.unc.edu.