February 1, 2021
(HOUSTON, TX) - Current MSW/PhD student André Marcel Harris is set to participate in an online panel discussion hosted by the University of Tennessee Social Work College titled Black Men in Social Work.
André Marcel Harris brings a unique perspective to the discussion. In 2017, Harris launched the online forum Black Men in Social Work in response to the lack of other Black male students in his social work courses. According to its profile description, Black Men in Social Work's purpose is to serve as "a social media movement, recognizing the under-representation of Black men in social work education and career field."
Read more about the goals he hopes to achieve with Black Men in Social Work and why social work institutions need to discuss race and its effects on those within the profession and beyond.
Name: André Marcel Harris
What initially drew you to continue your education in social work?
During my time as an undergraduate, I was a Ronald E. McNair Post baccalaureate Achievement Program Scholar. This program encourages undergraduates to pursue PhD degrees, so I knew that I would go straight into graduate education. I decided to continue in social work education because of the Political Social Work specialization at the GCSW and their Austin Legislative Internship. I wanted to learn as much as I could about the intersection of politics, policy, and social work, so this choice was, to me, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
You recently shared your great news on social media that you have been extended a full scholarship to pursue your PhD. Congrats again! How has this GCSW scholarship impacted your ability to continue your education in a doctoral program?
Full funding for my doctoral education gives me peace of mind. In undergraduate studies, I was a Ronald E. McNair scholar. As a McNair Scholar, we were taught that institutions should fully fund doctoral education, and they gave me invaluable advice on how to make sure that happened. I am incredibly grateful to GCSW for its generous funding package. With this scholarship, I can solely concentrate on my studies instead of worrying about how to pay for my education.
How has the GCSW prepared you so far for the work you are currently doing and hope to achieve in the future?
The GCSW has prepared me for the internship program through the macro courses I took in my first semester and through Dr. Pritzker's classes and her book, Political Social Work. I have learned so much about the relationship between politics and social work in the last few months as a new student, and I am eager to learn more as I progress through this internship and my graduate career. The greatest lesson I learned is how to be unapologetically committed to social justice.
What has been a highlight of your educational experience at the GCSW so far?
I am delighted that the GCSW designs racial, social, economic, and political justice to be a focal point of their courses. Interning at the Legislative Session here in Austin, Texas is most definitely the highlight of my experience so far. I decided to accept the offer of admission to the GCSW to participate in this program.
Congrats on being chosen for the Austin Legislative Internship for 2021. What has your experience been like as an intern given the unique circumstances of the pandemic?
Being an Austin Legislative Intern has been a super challenging yet rewarding experience. Considering the coronavirus, we do not interact with as many constituents face-to-face or get a chance to fellowship in person with coworkers. However, in this technology-laden society, coronavirus precautions do not stop us from getting work done.
Congratulations on participating in the University of Tennessee Social Work College's panel Black Men in Social Work. Why do you believe it is essential for these discussions to be happening within established institutions?
I am delighted to be participating in the Black Men in Social Work event at the University of Tennessee College of Social Work. I believe it is imperative to be having these conversations, especially within established institutions because impactful institutions like the University of Tennessee have a significant impact and reach a broad audience. These types of institutions have the resources to move beyond conversations and implement action. I hope that this panel will expose the importance of why universities and other entities need to advertise to, actively recruit, and support Black men. There are too few men, especially Black men in this profession. Established institutions having meaningful conversations like these can help change the staggeringly low representation of Black men. Representation does matter.
You have quite a personal following on Twitter and founded the popular Facebook group Black Men in Social Work, Inc. as well as Instagram and Twitter profiles. What motivated you to engage and provide an online space for this community?
In my undergraduate career as a Social Work student, I noticed early on that even though I went to an HBCU (historically black college/university), I was the only male and the only Black male in some classes. In 2017, I decided to create a Facebook group where other Black men in the field could come to have a safe space to share resources, jobs, scholarships, internships, fellowships, and research. Most importantly, I hoped others would find a beloved community where they could share camaraderie and even vent if they needed to. The Facebook group started with just three people: two other guys I knew who were social work students and myself. We stayed that way for several months until suddenly we started booming. Currently, as of January 2021, there are almost 1,400 members. We also expanded our reach to Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. As of December 2020, we were issued our Employer Identification Number and are currently seeking to formalize into a 501c3 organization.
Who inspires you? Why?
I have several people I am inspired by; however, if I have to choose one, I would pick Whitney Moore Young, Jr. He inspires me because he was a Black man in social work who was so influential that he advised Presidents. As a macro social worker studying political social work, his life shows me that I can leave an indelible mark on this world as a social worker. Many people do not know that social work is a vast field, and I have found that many assume that all social workers do direct practice, therapy, or child welfare. Young's life proves that the foundation you learn in social work can prepare you to be a history maker.
Why is it essential for a social work college like ours to provide scholarship opportunities to students who will eventually become the next generation of social workers?
Colleges of Social Work need to provide funding opportunities to their students, especially Black and Brown students because a CSWE report showed that Black Social Work students face higher costs than others. Providing assistance to students to achieve educational goals allows historically disenfranchised populations to access a higher quality of life.
Anything else you would like to share?
Social Work is an extensive and useful field that needs more people in Macro who work in non-clinical settings, especially in policy. Policy informs practice. As a profession, we cannot bear to have an overwhelming number of social workers that work only in direct practice. We must also generate social workers knowledgeable in general politics. As a result, we can better ensure that the policies and legislative initiatives we create are equitable and fair for all people, especially those who are disenfranchised.