Learning the Ins and Outs of Social Work While Mobilizing Voters

Jasmine Dearman, who describes herself as a “future Congresswoman,” will graduate from the School of Social Work this May.

May 10, 2024

Jasmine Dearman, who will graduate this May with a Master's in Social Work, was recently voted Outstanding Student of the Year by the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy (CRISP), a non-profit that advocates for social work ideas and funding on Capitol Hill. Dearman was given the award for co-leading Social Work Votes, a program that organizes students to register voters and educate community residents on the political process. Columbia News spoke with Dearman about that work, what brought her to Columbia, and her plans after she leaves.

What brought you to Columbia?

I chose to attend Columbia School of Social Work because it’s the only school of social work to offer the Leadership, Management, and Entrepreneurship for Social Justice track for the Master’s in Social Work. This unique pathway teaches social workers how to be impactful leaders in business so that we can fortify the mission and impact of the organizations we work for, lead, or own. I also really value the emphasis placed on antiracism and social justice. It is the center of everything we do.

What do you plan to do when you leave?

I am a future Congresswoman, but I don't believe in career politicians. So, I also hope to own my own nonprofit! I'm really passionate about creating pathways for self-determination, and one of the ways I hope to do that is to create greater access to civic education and resources for disenfranchised communities, especially those with severe mental health issues or developmental disabilities.

What got you interested in organizing voters?

I first got into voter organizing while working at a community service board in rural Georgia. I served as a peer support specialist during the 2020 election, and many of my clients were coming to sessions each day feeling stressed and scared. I started teaching them about the electoral system and the candidates' platforms, registering them to vote, and taking them to the polls. My time and experience there is what led me back to school with a macro-social work focus, and it really instilled in me the belief that social workers have an important part to play in democracy, voting, and the inclusion of our clients in these systems. When I found out about Social Work Votes at Columbia, I was eager to get involved and help spread that message and get my fellow social workers involved in the cause!

What are your favorite things to do when you’re not studying?

In my free time, I like exploring the parks of NYC and trying new restaurants with my friends! I like Riverside Park, Morningside Park, and Central Park. One of my fave restaurants to visit is Three of Cups in Soho.