Fordham Notes: New Social Work Journal Takes Cross-Disciplinary Approach

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

New Social Work Journal Takes Cross-Disciplinary Approach

Social workers often find themselves on front lines of where the hard numbers of economics meet people's complex social and emotional needs. Yet, many students venturing into the field of social services often eschew the literature of other disciplines, like economics, that directly affect their clients. Now, a new journal supported by the Graduate School of Social Service (GSS), titled 21st Century Social Justice, seeks to merge social work research with that of neuroscience, economics, and law.

“During my research into social work, I have found it impossible not to wander into the literature of other fields,” said Zachary Alti, GSS ’14, the founder and editor of the inaugural issue.

“But neuroscience can seem intimidatingly scientific, and the cold realism of economics can be perceived as antagonistic to social justice.”

Alti approached Tina Maschi, Ph.D., an associate professor at GSS, with his concerns that there was a knowledge gap in social work research that needed to be filled. With the support of Fordham University Libraries, Maschi helped facilitate the message and the mechanics, while Alti recruited fellow students.

He issued a call for papers and wrote the opening statement. An editorial board of fellow students was formed so that papers could be peer reviewed. Maschi said that developing a student-led journal was already a goal at the school, but it was Alti’s initiative that brought together a “convergence of ideas.”

“This is a beyond the classroom learning experience,” she said. “Students need to realize their  own knowledge and their power, and know  that they have something to offer the other sciences. They’re the scholars. They have a valid, expert role in sharing their views with these other fields.”

Getting the various disciplines to join a scholarly endeavor led by social workers can to be a challenge, she said. But she added that social workers play a vital role in translating the science and economics to communities that are directly affected.

“Social work is a psycho-social-spiritual medicine,” she said. “It’s important to recognize that social work plays a primary role in preventing illness and promoting health and well being. The journal is just another step towards social workers being accepted as full and equal partners in knowledge generation.”

The inaugural issue highlights several topics, including little known social problems related to families caring for a fragile infant, breastfeeding women in the workplace, conditional cash transfers among women in Columbia, and the effect of climate change on vulnerable populations.

“Psychologists are often perceived as the industry standard for therapy,” said Alti. “I wanted to strengthen the view of social work as different from psychology, in that it has a distinct framework. We’re a much more externally oriented field, always looking at the environmental factors at play. We want the journal strengthening that distinction with knowledge from other fields.”

With Alti recently graduated and in private practice, student Merritt Juliano will take up the role of editor. Juliano is accepting papers for the next issue at All disciplines are welcome to submit.
-Tom Stoelker

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