This question-and-answer story published in the Spring 2019 Nevada Silver & Blue alumni magazine in the Good Medicine section:
On July 1, the University of Nevada, Reno School of Social Work became the first independent School of Social Work in the state of Nevada, Under the leadership of founding Dean Shadi Martin, the School is dedicated to teaching its nearly 700 students to be values-oriented leaders.
What makes a good social worker?
A good social worker has compassion for others without judgment. I often tell students the story of Buddha in the forest. Buddha comes upon a little boy with an arrow in his leg. I ask my students, "What do you think Buddha does?" And they all say, "He takes the arrow out." And that's exactly what Buddha does. I ask them, "Do you think he stops to find out who shot the boy and why? Does he wonder if the boy is deserving of care?" As social workers, when we come upon someone who is hurt, we help them regardless of who shot the arrow and why. We simply care for the person without judgment. Social workers help everyone. We help those who have no one else to help them, and that's what makes social workers so special. We have compassion for all people, regardless of their views or actions.
Why is social work one of the nation's most crucial and fastest-growing professions?
Social work is growing rapidly. We know that demand for social workers is expected to increase by 16 percent in the next eight to ten years. This is exciting because it means our graduates will be in high demand. But it is also troubling because it is a reflection of the increasingly complex problems we face. They are uniquely equipped to tackle these difficult human problems because of their professional ethics and multidisciplinary education. Our approach prepares students to understand problems from multiple perspectives and pursue creative solutions.
What are some of the most common challenges social workers face today?
Being a social worker is challenging, yet very rewarding. It reminds me of the old slogan for the Peace Corps, "The toughest job you'll ever love." That's how I think about social work. It takes a lot out of you, but it's also enormously rewarding because of the difference we make in the lives of individuals through our micro practice, and the larger population through our macro policy practice.
Most people will receive help from a social worker at some point in their lives - it may be in schools, hospitals, VA facilities, rehabilitation centers, social service agencies, child welfare organizations, counseling/mental health services, juvenile justice, family medicine clinics, aging services, assisted living centers, homeless shelters, or nursing homes. It is at that moment, when sitting across from a social worker, that the importance of a solid social work education becomes fully evident. An education that is multi-disciplinary and solidly rooted in values and ethics.
Tell us about your vision for the School of Social Work.
My vision for the School is very much centered on leadership. I believe social workers are uniquely equipped to take on leadership roles - again, because of our professional values and ethics. These values are universal: social justice, service, integrity, competence, human relations and dignity. These values orient social workers in their decision-making, and that's what makes them great leaders. Our mission is focused on making sure our students graduate with the desire to take on leadership roles. The desire to become a leader is not self-serving, it is an obligation to ensure that the voices of marginalized populations are heard. I want my students to understand that they owe it to their constituents to become leaders. They need to know that they are the change agents; they will be the leaders.
What is the one thing you want a potential student to know about this program?
I want them to know that this program is truly inclusive. It's for everyone, no matter your background, no matter your politics; this program is for you. Students will be entering a value-laden profession. We teach everyone the professional values and ethics. You are who you are, but the moment you put on your social worker hat, you abide by the values of the profession. If students understand this, they are ready to serve our complex and diverse populations.
Shadi Martin - Dean of the School of Social Work
- Ph.D., MSW, MPA/HSA, M.A. University of Utah
- Taught at McGill University, University of Alabama, and in Dubai
- Worked with the World Health Organization and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
As a child, Martin and her family immigrated to the United States from Iran. Her career has taken her from Utah to Damascus, Switzerland, Alabama, Dubai, Montreal, and now to Reno.
"I am honored to be at this University," Martin said. "I've worked at many different universities and I've lived all over the world, but I feel at home here. For an immigrant, that's saying a lot."
To learn more about the School of Social Work and its growth as an independent school, please contact Kara Mays, associate director of development, at 775-682-7178.