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SAGE event helps new students learn more about academic, social, and cultural resources and support

More than 30 MSW and Ph.D. students, alumni, faculty, staff and special guests participated in the School of Social Work’s 15th annual Students Achieving Graduate Education (SAGE) event on Saturday, Aug. 13. The event is an opportunity for students of color and international students to connect prior to the start of Fall classes and to learn about the academic, social and cultural resources and support that are available within the School and at UNC, said Sharon Holmes Thomas, the School’s assistant dean for Recruitment, Admissions and Financial Aid.

“It’s also important for you to see each other because you represent different programs within the School,” Thomas said.
During this year’s event, Ada Wilson Suitt, director of inclusive student excellence with UNC’s Diversity and Multicultural Affairs and Maria Dykema Erb, co-director of Diversity and Student Success with The Graduate Student Center spoke about their department roles and multicultural resources available to ensure that students succeed. Verlissa Mason, a current MSW student and representative with the School’s Social Work Student Organizations (SoWoSO) and Millicent Robinston, a current student in the School’s MSW/MSPH dual degree program and the Black Student Caucus co-chair discussed the role of student groups within the School.

Joining in the day’s events to speak about their teaching and research or the various programs they direct were School of Social Work faculty members: Professor Iris Carlton-LaNey; Clinical Assistant Professor Wanda Reives, also professional education coordinator for the Child Welfare Workforce Project; Assistant Professor David Ansong; Clinical Assistant Professor Travis Albritton, also director of the School’s Triangle Distance Education program; Associate Professor Gary Cuddeback, also director of the School’s dual degree program in social work and public health; Clinical Associate Professor Sarah Naylor, also associate dean for Student Affairs; Clinical Associate Professor Sarah Verbiest, also executive director and principal investigator for UNC Center for Maternal and Infant Health; Clinical Instructor Annie Francis, also coordinator of Student Affairs and the School’s dual degree program in social work and public administration; Clinical Assistant Professor Marilyn Ghezzi, Clinical Instructor Tauchiana Williams; and Clinical Assistant Professor Michael McGuire, also with the School’s Behavioral Health Springboard.

Following brunch, students also participated in a large group discussion about the importance of using their voice in the classroom, in field and in the community to advocate for themselves and other members of under-represented groups.

“How will you challenge stereotypes and misconceptions?” Carlton-LaNey posed to the group.

Students were reminded to speak up for themselves and for other marginalized populations, to listen to different viewpoints and to be prepared to fully participate in the program.

“I always tell my students that we learn from each other and with each other,” Albritton said. “I really see that everybody has a voice.”