When I was a BSW student here at Iowa, I was a passive member of the Social Work Student Association. In my time as a part of that organization, they did some really cool things, like fundraising, social events, selling apparel, and addressing social justice issues. Although I wasn’t an active member, it helped me feel a little more connected to the two cohorts as well as the School of Social Work. When I came back as a graduate student, I was surprised that they did not have a similar organization. I strongly feel that it’s important to have an outlet for the social work students to be more connected and involved with each other and with the school. After gauging a certain level of interest from members of my cohort and learning that Kate Kemp wanted someone to take over, we decided to reboot the Graduate Social Work Student Association.
Since I had prior experience with SWSA, I felt comfortable starting things up, but at that time I had no intention of continuing as the leader of the group. I had never held a meeting before, much less ever played a leadership role in a student organization, so I had no idea what I was doing. Our first meeting was at the beginning of the year in Wild Bill’s, and it wasn’t very official. We crammed in the corner booth, I shared my vision of the group, and I had printed out a paper survey to give to the group. I wanted to gather information about what everyone wanted to get from the organization and what our goals would be. I also asked the group who they wanted to be President, and that’s how I fell into the official role. I wasn’t sure how much we’d really be able to accomplish, but I knew that I at least wanted to try to make GSWSA relevant again.
Now at the end of my time as GSWSA President, I am happy to say that we moved our meetings to an actual room, had an agenda for every meeting, and became much more official after that first meeting. We put together social events that allowed us to bond with the cohort, created and raised funds for the Megan Sloss Scholarship, participated in political action, and most importantly, we took successful steps in sustainability. I went through the process of making GSWSA an official student organization through the University, which gives the group validity and ensures that we will remain a student organization in the future. We were also successful in outreach to the 1st year cohort through various outlets, and actively engaged them in the organization. There were a lot of ideas we wanted to implement but just didn’t have time to do, and I am so grateful that there is new leadership coming in who are just as passionate about the organization and what it can do moving forward. One thing we really wanted to do was implement a peer mentoring program, and although we are a little sad we didn’t get to do it, I am so excited that the incoming leadership is already planning ways to get that going. This is just one example of the great things I know they’re going to accomplish based off the foundation we built this year.
I am proud of all that we accomplished this year, and that I had the opportunity to lead GSWSA. I’m also appreciative of my VP Emme Morgan (who I forced into the position) and those who consistently attended meetings and helped me make GSWSA a success. It feels like I’ve been in North Hall for a long time, and to be able to use the knowledge and leadership skills that I have gained while I have been here has been rewarding. I’m grateful for everyone who trusted me enough to put me in this position, and for those who will take over and carry out my vision for GSWSA. Even though I will no longer be a student in North Hall and I am saying goodbye to the building, I am looking forward to staying connected and learning about all the wonderful things that are happening with the students at the School of Social Work.
-Sam Mestan is a MSW who graduated from the University of Iowa in 2017. She served as President of the UI Graduate Social Work Student Association. Sam’s primary practice interest is advocating for access to quality healthcare.