Grand Challenges

Wednesdays this semester have been my craziest, busiest days of the week, and yesterday was the last official “regular” Wednesday of the semester. I am so very thankful! But I totally went out with a bang, in that not only did I teach my 4 classes but I hosted a tandem drama troupe of individuals with intellectual disabilities (connected to class content), taught a WELL Core (co-curricular session for students, who need a certain number before graduating), AND picked up poinsettias from the Scout sale AND made it to my daughter’s middle school strings concert. Whew. Surviving yesterday was a grand challenge in and of itself.

Teaching at the end of the semester (especially after Thanksgiving break) is always a challenge: people are tired, often stressed, and there are other things looming for many people. Holidays and holy days are challenging for some people, and even if you love them and get to celebrate openly all your favorites, they can still be stressful. Teaching in the midst of this…whew. But somehow we all hang in there together, and I am thankful for colleagues-and-friends who cheered me on yesterday finishing my last big Wednesday. Below is a little highlight of the day, which I am sharing just to blow the cobwebs off this blog and get in better practice of writing for my sabbatical.

In policy class yesterday we looked at half of the Grand Challenges identified by the social work profession. You can learn more about those here: I had students work in small groups to get an understanding of one challenge, as well as the policy recommendations that have been made so far by the professionals. I asked them what they thought was missing, and what they would prioritize and it led to a really good discussion. In Friday’s class I plan to have them take a look at the remaining challenges, and then I am interested to see if they would have added other or different issues for our professional focus.

In my child welfare class we talked about system reform. The reasons we need systemic reform are pretty clear (and have been integrated into the course all semester) but we enjoyed listening to this 18 minute podcast episode (episode 1). After we listened, I asked them: what do you want to take with you as you go into your work with children and families? What is your “origin story” (related to this field) and how will it shape your work? You can check it out here:

In HBSE we talked about ecomaps, and families. It was not the most exciting class of the day if I am being honest….but we did it.

In my macro practice class, which meets once a week in a larger block of time, we had the brief tandem troupe performance which brought the energy we all needed. After the troupe left, we watched a 5 min performance to get an even stronger grounding in the work of this organization, especially around self advocacy and cultural organizing. Learn more here: and check out their YouTube channel!

Finally, we spent some time working in groups for their final projects, but we also had time to talk more about intervention points of direct action, ( and also reflect on my favorite Dorothy Day picture (below). To have that strength in that moment is a challenge I aspire to.

(Photo credit: Dorothy Day on UFW picket line faces sheriff. When arthritis made standing difficult, Day confronted sheriffs from her portable three-legged golf stool Lamont, California, August 1973. From the Bob Fitch Photography archive,

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