Conduits for Change

Ives Rublee talks with an audience member after her talkOver the last nearly 15 years as she transitioned from work as a direct practitioner to academic researcher to community organizer to policy changemaker, Mia Ives-Rublee (’09 MSW) learned one very important lesson: Social workers must first consider how their own experiences may collectively impact the people they are trying to help.

“Allowing others to speak and amplify their stories is one of the best things we can do as social workers, and to do this, we must learn to silence our own thoughts, needs and wants,” said Ives-Rublee, Distinguished Alumna and the guest speaker for the School of Social Work’s 2023 Bobby Boyd Leadership Lecture. “We must position ourselves to receive stories without personal bias and find ways to connect with people to empower them to speak with those who are in power to affect structural change.”

As director of the Disability Justice Initiative of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for American Progress, Ives-Rublee now works a few blocks from the White House in a role that allows her to publicly advocate for federal policies that protect the rights of people with disabilities across the country.

Sharing with the virtual and in-house audience of nearly 450 participants, Ives-Rublee said she can still remember the devastation she felt as a teenager when a trusted teacher forgot to arrange for an accessible school bus for a field trip outing, forcing Ives-Rublee to remain behind. Nodding to her adoptive parents in the audience, Ives-Rublee recalled how her mother and father showed up at her school the next day to remind administrators and her teacher how inappropriate their actions had been and how equity requires intention.

“This really provided a model for me in advocacy and taught me the important lesson that fierce advocacy — particularly for the ones you love and care about — requires others to hear your needs. That helps to create change,” she said. “As social workers, we hold a lot of power, and it is essential that we remain active listeners.”

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