In late May of 2020, we conducted six semi-structured focus groups (N=29) with Black, Indigenous, and Persons of Color (BIPOC) who were pursuing an MSW degree at a predominantly white institution (PWI). The study intended to explore the experiences of BIPOC MSW students and highlight the struggles and victories of those students during their graduate education. The focus groups were conducted via Zoom and captured student experiences and the strategies they employed to complete their MSW program successfully. The data was collected during the initial months of a national lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and also within a few days of George Floyd¢s murder. This presented a unique challenge and opportunity for our team to create a virtual space within the contexts of research inquiry to allow students to share their authentic and true stories.
This roundtable session invites attendees to discuss virtual data collection during a chaotic and precarious time in history. Session leaders will share our experience in constructing our methods tailored to the online experience, and what our research team learned from engaging with students living through a global pandemic, mass mobilization around racial justice, all while trying to obtain a social work degree on a predominantly white campus. Next, session leaders will highlight strategies used to create open and honest spaces that respond to collective pain and grief. We will then open the session up for discussion to reflect on how social work research can be attentive to the needs of study participants during a societal upheaval, and how collective experiences can create an intimacy in research that is seldom pursued or suggested. The purpose of this roundtable is to offer our experiences to incite discussion and contemplation on reciprocity in the research process, being responsive researchers, and navigating virtual spaces with BIPOC graduate students. We desire to promote meaningful dialogue about the role of research provision during investigative processes, and what BIPOC MSW students and other BIPOC populations may need from effective research spaces and processes.