Students identified a lack of placement options for Black students that would allow them to learn while also feeling supported in their racial identity. In order to ensure that Black students have placement options where they can thrive both professionally and personally, this project was developed to hold white students, field agencies, and the School of Social Work accountable for de-centering whiteness and white supremacy and, in turn, centering Blackness and anti-racist ideals.
Methods: To reach these goals and to hold stakeholders accountable, students developed a Centering Blackness/Anti-Racist Agency Learning Plan and Evaluation tool. Each of the 11 students implemented the learning plans at their respective agencies. Learning plans identified specific goals for agencies to center Blackness and students worked with their supervisors to develop and implement action steps to meet those goals.
Students also evaluated their agency and/or supervisor efforts at the end of the semester and outlined examples of activities that were completed, agency/supervisor successes, as well as challenges in implementation. Evaluations include specific ratings of both the agency/supervisor and the student’s ability to center Blackness before and after the learning plan activities. In addition, students commented on the agency/supervisor willingness to centering Blackness, and their recommendation for or against future student placement with that supervisor and/or agency.
Results: In all but two agencies, actions toward centering Blackness improved due to student efforts. Students also expressed improvements in their own abilities to center Blackness as a result of their activities. Agency supervisors were generally very supportive of the work and appreciated the consistent reminders to ensure continued prioritization of the voice and experience of Black students/colleagues/families and the focused action steps toward doing so. Many supervisors recommended that the School continue to use this process in future years to further prioritize and demonstrate centering Blackness in the School and partner agencies.
Conclusions and Implications: The learning plan and concrete action steps allowed students to provide support in implementation of strategies and to have intentional conversations with their supervisors and larger agencies about how to center Blackness. In addition, the evaluation tool provides the School with useful information about agencies and/or specific supervisors to determine their appropriateness for future placements. In order to ensure that Social Work Field Educators can provide Black students with field opportunities that allow them to thrive both professionally and personally, we must continue to de-center whiteness and center Blackness and anti-racism in our schools and larger communities.