I’m Melinda Lewis, LMSW, an adjunct instructor in the School of Social Welfare at the University of Kansas. I teach Advanced Policies and Programs in the fall–an introduction to methods of policy analysis, which we then use to examine policies at the local, state, and federal government levels. We discuss judicial, fiscal, regulatory, and legislative policymaking and how social workers can understand and engage in policy work in each of these arenas. We also examine agency policymaking and how to use organizational culture to work towards agency-level change.
In the spring, I have taught Advanced Advocacy and Community Practice, a hands-on course where students engage in group projects in community change. To help them succeed in these tasks, I taught community organizing methods, media analysis and framing, coalition-building, ethics of advocacy, power analysis, the legalities of nonprofit advocacy, and legislative lobbying.
This spring (2010), I’m teaching a BSW class on human behavior in the macro social environment–groups, organizations, and communities. I’m excited to be a part of the degree completion program the University has with a local community college, and to talk through my thoughts on the impact of the macro context on social workers and their pursuit of social justice with this diverse group of undergraduate students.
Each summer, I teach an elective related to my areas of interest–in 2009, it was Poverty in the Global Economy, which has been a focus of my professional and personal work, given its connections to immigration and my concern about U.S./Mexico border issues. I’ve also taught foundation-level classes in social policy and community/organizational practice and BSW classes on social work ethics and social work practice with Latinos.
In addition to teaching, I take care of my 3 young children, manage our household, and pay attention to politics. I am on the Board of Directors of Kansas Families for Education and provide some technical assistance to nonprofit lobbyists on the side–mostly people with whom I worked during the six years that I was Director of Policy Advocacy and Research at El Centro, Inc., a community-based social service organization in Kansas City, Kansas. As my kids grow, I’m looking to do more consulting work for nonprofit organizations, helping them to build and implement advocacy strategies and doing some participatory research too.
Policy advocacy/lobbying and community organizing are my professional passions. I love my identity as a social worker, and I wanted to find a way to continue to contribute to social justice causes while spending more time with my young children. So, in June 2007, I took a step back from full-time macro social work practice. Now my days are filled with building Duplo campers, taking walks to the park, and playing peek-a-boo. After the kids are asleep, I read blogs about social work, nonprofit organizations, social media for social change, and advocacy practice; catch up on policy news; talk to students; prepare classes; read about politics; spend time on social media sites; and eat ice cream. It’s a great life, and I’m delighted to share it with you.