Andrew Belcher did not always know he wanted to pursue social work, but it is evident that social work has found an adherent in him. Now more than halfway through the accelerated MSW program at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, Belcher finds that social work brings together many spheres of social impact he cares about – especially education, one-on-one support and social policy.
Belcher’s appreciation for his chosen field has shaped his endeavors inside and outside the classroom. His belief in social work’s core principles of inclusion and action, in particular, inspired him to become involved with the Silberman Faculty-Student Senate, an internal governance body comprising students and faculty. He first got involved last year, after joining Faculty-Student Senate leaders and other Silberman students for a trip to Albany, where they helped lobby State elected officials concerning immigrants’ rights.
“As social workers, it is vital to be civically engaged…What specifically makes us social workers is this fundamental work of engagement,” says Belcher, who studies Clinical Practice and specializes in the Global Social Work and Practice with Immigrants and Refugees (GSWPIR) field of practice. “That is something we take very seriously.”
Prior to arriving at Silberman, Belcher worked in many unique settings, engaging with and supporting underserved populations. He instructed adults in yoga, taught young people in public and private schools, provided resources at LGBT community centers and has been involved with a child outpatient therapy clinic. In each of these roles, he honed his capacities for listening, participating critically and serving as an ally amid local and global social justice movements.
For Belcher, being on the Silberman Faculty-Student Senate amplifies this career-long work of collaborative, grassroots and structural change-building. In addition to underlining how the Senate’s conversations “engage students and faculty on a horizontal plane, [which is] so fulfilling,” he points to the distinct thrill of helping to build the Senate itself and its impact.
“What I find exciting,” Belcher articulates, “is that there is so much opportunity available to be involved in planning and building [the Senate]. Being able to be in on the ground floor is unique: talking about existing policy and also creating policy; learning how to build institutional knowledge and structure.”
He elaborates that “as a clinical social worker, I am reminded at every moment of the importance of policy in our everyday lives. Then, on the Senate, I am learning every day the import of shaping policies and systems. If we don’t take on the macro fights and challenges, we can’t move the more micro experiences and actions to where we want to be.”
Belcher strongly encourages other Silberman students to become part of the Faculty-Student Senate, emphasizing that the intensity of commitment is fully up to the individual.
“It’s really up to you, it could be however much or little you are able to put in,” he says. “There are a spectrum of ways to be involved. People can create ways they want to be involved.”
His pitch is as simple as it is enthusiastic: “The hardest part is the first step – Just show up! Get involved. Be a beating heart in the conversation.”