Dr. Deborah Sturtevant, associate professor of sociology and social work at Hope College, has been named the recipient of a national award for undergraduate teaching by the "National Committee for Educating Students to Influence State Policy and Legislation."
Sturtevant was honored for her work with students
preparing to earn a bachelor's degree in social work. The
committee also honored faculty members working with students
at the master's and doctoral levels, and one student at each
of the three levels.
All full-time or adjunct faculty in accredited or
in-candidacy social work programs in the United States, and
all full-time or part-time social work students in such
programs, were eligible to participate in the national
competition. The awards will be presented on Saturday,
March 7, during the national annual meeting of the Council
on Social Work Education in Orlando, Fla.
Sturtevant was honored for a project she assigns
students who are enrolled in her junior-level "Social
Policy" class. Each year, she identifies an issue of social
policy currently being reviewed at the state level. Every
student is then directed to choose a dimension of the issue
and write a paper analyzing it from a social work
perspective, as well as a one-page position statement
summarizing their paper. The students then submit their
work to state or agency officials in the hope of influencing
the policy accordingly.
The goal, Sturtevant said, is to make the students
familiar and comfortable with the policy-making process as
early in their social work careers as possible. "I have the
strong belief that the earlier social workers engage in the
policy process, the more likely they are to continue to
influence the process throughout their career," she said.
Sturtevant has assigned the project since joining
the Hope faculty in 1988. Topics have ranged from social
work licensure, to assisted suicide, to homelessness, to
health care reform, to this year's focus on the
implementation of welfare reform.
This is the third year that she's made submitting
the final paper to policy makers a part of the assignment.
Although she notes that students sometimes find the idea of
writing to state legislators or even the governor a bit
daunting, the experience is invaluable.
"It demystifies the policy process," Sturtevant
"They need to know that part of their role as a
social worker is to influence policy on behalf of their
client or the agency that they serve," she said. "Through
this project, they see how government works and that they do
have a voice in government."
Sturtevant is a 1975 graduate of Hope College, and
holds an M.S.W. from Western Michigan University and a
doctorate from Michigan State University.