2017 Policy Conference 2.0

Successes and Solutions: Policies that Work

June 1-3, 2017

Brown School, Washington University

Influencing Social Policy (ISP)’s Policy Conference 2.0, held at Washington University’s Brown School of Social Work in St. Louis, brought together social work students, faculty, and practitioners from around the country.  The Conference offered a Teaching Institute, as well as two full days of conference presentations, workshops, and plenaries focused on social policy teaching and practice in the current political and social environment.

The Conference began on Thursday evening, with greetings and a welcome from Sunny Harris Rome, the President of ISP, and from Mary McKay, the Dean of the Brown School.  Patricia White, from the Fund for Policy Education and Practice, discussed the Fund’s impact on social work education to date and her hopes for the future work in this area

Tanya Rhodes Smith, Director of the Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work, gave a rousing call to action, calling on social workers to provide “Effective Advocacy in Divided Times: Leading National Change through Local Action”.

On Friday morning, Denise Lieberman, Senior Attorney and Co-Director of the Power and Democracy Program at the Advancement Project delivered an impactful plenary on “Barriers to the Ballot Box: The New Fight for the Right to Vote.” Ms. Lieberman demonstrated that human rights and voting rights are one and the same.

On Friday afternoon, conference attendees got a special “sneak peek” at the findings of Suzanne Pritzker’s work with the Council on Social Work Education.  Suzanne gave an overview of the results of her study, “The State of Policy Education in Social Work: What do we Know?”

Continuing in our tradition, on Friday afternoon we honored our “policy pioneers” through a panel discussion on “Social Work and Policy: Where Have We Been and Where Should We Be Headed?”  This year’s panel included Nancy Amidei, Senior Lecturer Emeritus at the University of Washington School of Social Work; Mark Rank, the Herbert S. Hadley Professor of Social Welfare at the Brown School, Washington University; and Paul Stuart, Professor at the Florida International University School of Social Work.

On Saturday morning, Influencing Social Policy held its annual membership meeting, where we elected a new slate of board members, and recognized the winners of this year’s ISP awards.

The special research panel on Saturday morning featured presentations by Elena Delavega (University of Memphis) and Peter Kindle (University of South Dakota); Leah Hamilton (Appalachian State University); and Suzanne Pritzker and Gardenia Garza (both from the University of Houston).  Elena and Peter shared their findings on the rate of non-claims under the Earned Income Tax Credit; Leah discussed the impact of generous welfare policies on length of participation in these programs; and Suzanne and Gardenia presented their findings on social work students’ political engagement in 2016.

During a lunch and final dialogue on Saturday, participants shared insights and priorities accumulated throughout the conference and collaboratively identified action steps to incorporate into their practice, teaching, and research over the next year.


The Conference planning committee included Amy Murphy-Nugen, Margaret Sherraden, Sunny Harris Rome, and Suzanne Pritzker. It was co-sponsored by the Clark-Fox Policy Institute and the Center for Social Development, both at the Brown School of Social Work.  Additional contributors and cosponsors include: Bruce S. Jansson, The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), University of Nevada, Reno School of Social Work, University of Michigan School of Social Work, University of Houston, Graduate College of Social Work, University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work, and Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of Social Work & Social Research.