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UMPI students attend Social Work Day at the State House

University of Maine at Presque Isle Social Work majors gave a presentation during University Day on April 13 about the opportunity they had to meet with their state legislators and learn about how their future careers intersect with state government during a recent trip to Augusta.

Four Social Work majors talked about their trip on March 9 during Social Workers’ Legislative Day at the State House, which included opportunities for current and future social workers to meet their legislators, receive an update on National Association of Social Workers [NASW] Maine Chapter’s legislative advocacy, and take a tour of the State House. The event also included a lobby tracking and a mock hearing in collaboration with the Maine Women’s Lobby.

Jean Cashman, Associate Professor of Social Work, took the students to Augusta so they could participate in the day’s offerings. The students included Dustin Damboise of Caribou, Brian Day of Castle Hill/Presque Isle, Jared Carter of Houlton, and Holly Beaton of Easton.

“It is important for social work students to understand the legislation which affects the policies they will be using to work within social services,” Cashman said. “It also is important for them to see how they can advocate for changes in laws and the process for legislation.”

Students had the chance to explore some of Maine’s history during their visit, such as documents that included a letter signed by George Washington. UMPI Junior Social Work major Dustin Damboise said he had the opportunity to meet with Rep. Peter Edgecomb and also learned about an unexpected way that the field of social work plays a role in the government.

“I found out there are a few representatives that have a social work background which is helping them in their work today,” Damboise said. “This trip allowed me the opportunity to meet with some representatives that I may have never had the chance to meet and it also opened up my eyes to how my major can affect governmental decisions.”

UMPI Junior Social Work major Brian Day mentioned the opportunity he had to eat lunch with Rep. Alex Willette and speak with him about some of the bills coming up in the Legislature.

“He also took us on a private tour of the State House, in particular the Archives, a place which most citizens don’t have access to unless escorted by a Representative or Senator,” Day said. “Thanks to NASW, I learned about advocacy in politics as well as the details of how Maine state legislation works.”

Jared Carter, a Junior Social Work major, had the opportunity to visit with Rep. Joyce Fitzpatrick and Senator Roger Sherman during the event.

“Our representatives all seemed very accessible and it was encouraging that they all seemed interested in our comments and feedback,” Carter said. “It made me proud to be a Mainer and I left feeling that I would be comfortable going there to lobby for an issue.”

Junior Social Work major Holly Beaton was able to meet with Rep. Tyler Clark. Rep. Bernard Ayotte also met with the group and joined them for lunch.

The trip to Augusta was part of a class titled Social Work 380: Methods and Practice with Families. According to Cashman, the students’ assignment, which they presented on University Day, was to research a bill proposed for this legislative session that affects families and social services.

Four bills were selected and groups of students researched the pros and cons and the highlights of the bills being proposed. The bills included LD#31: An Act to Protect the Safety of Maine Children; LD#193: An Act to Require an Applicant for State Assistance To Show Proof of Legal Residence in the United States and Proof of Residency for at Least the Previous 90 Days in This State; LD#226: An Act To Allow Maine Citizens To Buy Insurance Across State Lines; and LD#980: An Act to Prohibit Cyber Bullying in Public Schools.

The UMPI Social Work Program has taken students to Augusta to attend the Social Workers’ Legislative Day for several years. Participating in the event is one of the many opportunities the program provides its majors as they prepare for careers in the Social Work field. To learn more about UMPI’s Social Work Program, contact Shirley Rush, Bachelor of Social Work Program Director, at 768-9427 or