The Creation of the SSW Student Support Fund
Susan and Michael Haney
Generous Donors to the School of Social Work
Inspiration and Impact
The story of the creation of the Illinois School of Social Work Student Support Fund and how the generosity of the SSW community and one very special couple have lessened the burden of a global pandemic.
Global pandemic sounds ominous on its own. Visions of plagues and apocalyptic scenarios are conjured up in our minds and, for some of us, the situation remains purely surreal. Many of us are fortunate to be able to continue our lives with only minor inconveniences such as working from home, wearing a mask in public, and missing out on summer vacations and (groan) baseball. However, for many more of us, including several of our students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign School of Social Work, the effects of COVID-19 are much more consequential.
The Office of Student Affairs at the SSW serves as the front lines for all-things related to students at the School. Whether there is a need for guidance on class requirements, assistance in choosing a field placement, or just help in dealing with the rigors of being a human being in a contentious world, Student Affairs is there to triage and guide our future and current generations of social workers. Since the world started changing in mid-March 2020, these calls for help have intensified in both number and scope. Not only are students still in need of counseling and guidance on issues related to their studies, but there has been a growing call for assistance with financial issues related to COVID-19. One such case involved a young woman, who we’ll give the pseudonym Amber. Before COVID struck, Amber was prepared to graduate this summer. Unfortunately, with the new travel restrictions associated with the pandemic, Amber found that her final class (and the associated financial support) was being postponed indefinitely. Finding herself short the final credits she needed to complete her degree, Amber turned to the faculty and staff for guidance.
One particular faculty member, Dr. Janet Carter-Black, quickly became an advocate for this student and fought to find a resolution that would still allow her to graduate as intended. Coursework was identified and vacancies were found to accommodate Amber, but the cost totaled just over $3000. Her parents had been impacted by the pandemic and were unable to adequately earn income to support her needs. In fact, Amber had been sending money back home from her own work to support her family. The Illinois CARES Emergency Support Fund was able to provide her and thousands of other students with a $1000 emergency grant, but this was only a proverbial band-aid, as this money was quickly used to meet the basic needs of her and her family. The only conventional option she had at that point was to postpone graduation and focus on taking care of the most basic needs in lieu of her education.
Through consultation with the SSW Student Affairs office, along with the advocacy of Dr. Carter-Black, and the financial support of SSW faculty and staff and one very special couple, the Illinois School of Social Work Student Support Fund was created to aid this student and others like her with unforeseen needs. Amber is back on track to graduate this summer. While she still faces the rigors of being a student and wage-earner for her family, she no longer has to choose between paying for basic needs or her education.
“The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.” – Jane Addams
Susan and Michael Haney are that very special couple referenced above. Through a lifetime of generosity and over two decades of giving to the University of Illinois, the Haneys recognize that once we have taken care of ourselves, we should work to do the same for others. In that spirit, they have committed $100,000 in support of the Illinois School of Social Work Student Support Fund so that students will not have to choose between their education and meeting their most basic needs. The calls for support continue to come into the SSW Office of Student Affairs, ranging from issues with food security and making rent payments to assistance with acquiring personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary to work and complete internships. And, given the uncertainty of the world we live in today, these appeals for support are not likely to abate any time soon. The Haneys have given us a solid start at helping the most vulnerable students, but they ask for their generosity to be met as a challenge to the rest of us. If you have secured the good for yourself, then consider sharing that good with those that have dedicated themselves to being the agents of good – the current and next generation of social workers.