Stanislaus State Associate Professor of Social Work Sevaughn Banks is passionate about two things: her chosen field of social work and international travel. Thanks to a grant she received, she will combine the two to help social work students gain a global perspective of the important work they do while helping them learn about different cultures.
This past summer, Banks learned she received a three-year grant from the Council on Social Work Education’s (CSWE) Kendall Institute for her proposal titled, “Cultivating Cultural Awareness and Global Consciousness through Internationalization and Decolonization of Social Work Curriculum.”
The $10,000 grant will help Banks develop graduate-level educational materials that will assist students in gaining a better understanding of the diverse populations and communities they will serve during their professional career.
“This is exciting work that has great promise for our program, social work students and social work education,” said John Garcia, chair of Stan State’s Master of Social Work program. Banks said the grant will facilitate the following outcomes:
- Development of four multilayered case studies, each focusing on an individual from a different cultural background, especially the Global South.
- Creation of augmented experiential learning activities, including a virtual tour that will touch on different aspects of geographic and cultural experiences.
- Building a learning community on behalf of CSWE.
The grant includes funding for a graduate student position, Banks said. Stan State’s location provides access to a number of divergent communities.
“In the Central Valley, there’s a huge Latinx population, and also groups from Afghanistan, countries in Africa, and Hmong speaking communities,” Banks said. “It’s important for students to work with populations within their communities with whom they have little to no exposure, especially as those populations grow.
“It’s no longer okay to say, ‘Well, I don’t feel comfortable working with people from starkly different backgrounds because I’m not familiar with this culture.’ One way to get familiar is to work with those populations.”
‘Labor of Love’
For Banks, the project is a “labor of love.”
“I’ve been working in the international realm, traveling and learning about people and cultures for very long time,” said Banks, who hails from San Francisco and describes herself as an internationalist. “I bring all of my experience with me to this project.”
She’s traveled extensively as a result of her affiliation with the National Association of Black Social Workers. The organization’s president appointed Banks to chair the group’s International Education Conference. She’s guided delegations of social workers to South Africa, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, Spain, Ghana and Morocco and led educational forums in these countries. But she knew there was potential to do more.
Sometimes, “I felt like a voyeur,” she said. “The educational conferences are 10 days. We go into countries and we are out just as fast. We observe people, social work organizations and ways human service organizations administer services. But then we go back to the comfort of our own homes. I always felt if I had an opportunity, I wanted to do something more formal and sustainable. I wanted to be able to cultivate formal relationships, partnerships and projects with the people and communities.
Banks said she wants to take the theories and ideologies discussed in class and help students transfer their knowledge about cultural differences from the classroom to the workforce.
“For me, creating culturally relevant and accessible curriculum is really about sharing our collective humanity, both domestically and internationally,” she said.
Banks will be teaching SW 5057: International Social Work in the spring. It includes an accompanying in-country 10-day Study Abroad assignment in Ghana in May-June 2022. Stan State graduate students are eligible to take the course.
“I hold students to a high standard, and I have high expectations of them because social work is a high-stakes profession,” she said. “We work with some of the most vulnerable people, and we’re expected to learn some of the most intimate details of their lives. It’s important to me that our students understand that.”
One lesson she’s learned from her travels is that despite people’s differences, “we all want the same things in life,” Banks said.
“We want to live free from oppression. We want our families to thrive. We want to be able to survive. It’s important to show the mutual humanity in all of us.”