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Students present handmade quilt to professor who influenced them

Professor Iris Carlton-LaNey received quite the surprise last week, when students presented her with a beautiful quilt they made.

Back in the fall, she gave an assignment to her “Confronting Oppression” class, comprised of students in our Triangle Distance Education MSW Program. They were to select a pioneer in social work/social welfare, and write an intellectual biography on that person and how they influenced the profession and American social welfare. The purpose, said Carlton-LaNey, was to hone research and writing skills, and to “develop a critical conscience” about influencing policy and practice.

The students completed their papers as assigned, and the school year continued on. This semester, the same cohort of students had Carlton-LaNey again, this time for the “Foundations of Social Work and Social Welfare” class.

On the last day of class, she was caught completely off guard when the students revealed a very special memento they’d created just for her. It was a beautiful, colorful quilt emblazoned with the photos of their biography subjects from that long-ago assignment — with her own photo lovingly placed squarely in the middle. On the back of the quilt, each student had written a special message about what “Dr. Iris” meant to them. One by one, they described how she’d influenced and touched their lives.

The quality was gorgeous. The attention to detail, painstaking. The meaning, heartfelt.

But what touched this longtime teacher the most was that they remembered the lesson. All this time. They really got it, what she was trying to convey: To influence policy and practice, you need a critical conscience.

“I was surprised and really happy, it is so beautiful,” said Carlton-LaNey of the gift, which she plans to hang on the office wall right above her desk. “Most of all, I knew they understood why they did the assignment, and it was so meaningful to them that they remembered it the whole academic year.”