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OU professor attends historic White House briefing
Friday, November 1, 2013
OU professor attends historic White House briefing
By Katie Williams, contributing writer

Dr. Dalton Connally was one of only 150 social work educators in the country to travel to the White House to discuss changes in national health care, shifting demographics and the role of social work education.

Dr. Dalton Connally had to a double take when she received an email from the White House — she was one of only 150 social work educators in the country to receive an invitation to the White House’s first Briefing for Social Work Education.

The briefing, held in September, brought together educators and federal officials from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institute of Health at the White House to discuss changes in national health care, shifting demographics and the role of social work education.

“It was an honor to represent Oakland at this briefing,” Dr. Connally said. The assistant professor of social work added, “It has been one of the greatest experiences in my professional career.”

The briefing included a discussion of social determinants that effect health, including race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality.

A joint effort of the White House and the Council for Social Work Education (CSWE), the briefing encouraged diverse perspectives.

“Social work as a profession tends to be inclusive, but we always need to make strides to be even more culturally sensitive,” Dr. Connally said.

“The CSWE brought together a diverse group to be sure all voices were part of the national conversation. This encouragement of diversity and inclusion is something social work educators are bringing to the classroom.”

In addition to her role with OU’s social work program, Dr. Connally is an advocate within the LGBT community. She serves as a member of the CSWE’s Commission for Gender Expression and Sexual Orientation and is the chair of the OU LGBTQIA Employee Resource Group.

“I’ve always believed in advocacy and making the world a better place for my LGBT brothers and sisters. I’ve always taken that very seriously, but I never thought that advocacy was going to land me in the White House one day,” Dr. Connally said.

“There’s a lot going on in Washington related to sexual orientation, gender expression and identity, but it’s not always at the forefront. At this briefing, all cultures were put into the forefront.”

The briefing also highlighted the increasing need and growth that the profession is projected to experience in the coming years.

“Integration with the health care system and the social work profession is going to be greater than we’ve ever seen it before,” Dr. Connally said.

“As Obamacare moves foreword, more people will have access to health care, and they’ll need social workers to help get them there.”

Dr. Connally said that Oakland University’s social work program is growing, providing more students the opportunity to meet these needs.

Housed within the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Social Work and Criminal Justice, the Social Work Program received full accreditation in 2011. The program admitted 30 students in its first year, and has grown to include 160 students. As a professional training program, social work offers students the opportunity to earn a liberal arts degree while gaining the skills necessary to get licensed in the profession.

“It’s always a great time to be a social worker,” Dr. Connally said. “It’s a profession of compassion, understanding and service.”

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