The Power of the Voice and the Vote: Social Workers Making Political Moves

Kenneth Kish in campaign tshirtThe Master of Social Work Program at Wayne State University (WSU) prepares students to become not only social workers, but also advocates for social and economic justice. Kenneth Kish, former counselor for WSU’s School of Medicine and adjunct School of Social Work professor is a great example of how social work and politics go together. Last year Kish was recruited by the Democratic Party last spring to enter the 99th District Michigan State Representative race.

“The area I live in (West Branch) is overwhelmingly Republican, and several candidates chose not to run due to the current political climate,” said Kish.

If elected, Kish would be representing Iosco, Ogemaw and Arenac counties in their entirety and portions of Bay, Clare, and Gladwin counties.

Previously, he served as a mental health supervisor at the Saginaw VA Medical Center, Kish has also served on two local Boards of Review in Ogemaw County, and on the Board of Directors of the Ogemaw Commission on Aging.

“I worked on acquiring an electronic sign for the center, so now they can promote services and hours of operation along with special events,” he said.

While studying social work at WSU, Kish became interested in social justice.

Kenneth Kish and exchange student Samual at airport
Kenneth Kish and exchange student Samual upon his arrival in the U.S.

“Professor Krasner was a chronicler of the anti-war effort. He inspired me to get more involved in bettering the world through peace.”

Kish has also hosted five exchange students from Europe and Asia, many coming from rural, poverty-stricken areas.

“As a host parent I can provide opportunities for them to learn more about the world and improving their writing skills.”

"I would advise students to get involved in politics now—don’t wait. It is one of the most important roles a social worker can take to create a better, more just society. The values of social work are consistent with the values of most Americans. Running for local boards and getting involved in community groups is a great starting point."

The general election for Michigan House of Representatives District 99 is on November 8, 2022. Kish is running against opponent Mike Hoadley (R).

Note: this article does not serve as a candidacy endorsement.

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WSU to host ‘Power of the Vote’ conference in September

One of the most impactful ways students can make a difference is by participating in the voting process. With an upcoming key election on November 8, WSU’s School of Social Work, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Public Health, and Law School are partnering to present the ‘Power of the Vote’ conference on Friday, September 16 and Saturday, September 17. This two-day, in-person conference will train public health, social work, and law students to effectively lead voting outreach and advocacy efforts in preparation of the mid-term elections this fall Attendees can expect in-depth, hands-on training and skill building provided by professionals in their respective fields, as well as a social hour, lunch, and refreshments. The conference will also feature guest speakers Tanya Rhodes-Smith, Director of the Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work at the University of Connecticut; Gabriela Santiago-Romero, Detroit City Councilperson; Jonathan Stillo, WSU assistant professor of public health and anthropology; and Wendy Richards, principal and pro bono counsel at Miller Canfield.

Andre Iadipaolo, MSW, Social Work academic services officer, and Judith Wineman, LMSW, associate professor of teaching, are coordinating the conference.

“In a time of low voter turnout, the impact every vote has is increasingly important. Voting is the safeguard of our democracy, so it must be supported and strengthened by the helping professions. This is the first time three professional programs at Wayne State have collaborated on a voting advocacy project of this size,” said Iadipaolo.

Social Workers are uniquely positioned to become voting advocates for the communities we serve. We see firsthand how social policy impacts individuals. Therefore, social work should stand in front of the voting conversation at WSU. - Andre Iadipaolo

Registration is now open to all current WSU Public Health, Social Work and Law students, and will close Tuesday, September 13. Space is limited to 10 students per college. The intimate conference size is meant to maximize student engagement.

Interested students from all three colleges should still send registration emails to Iadipaolo at as they will be added to the waitlist. If spots become open before the conference, they will be offered to those students.

“We want students to leave the conference with all the technical skills they need to mobilize voters, with a concrete opportunity to exercise those skills. After training is complete, we are closing the conference with a resource fair, so students can talk with community partners about their new advocacy skills and find the right volunteer opportunity to get started with,” said Wineman.

The ‘Power of the Vote Conference’ will be held at the School of Social Work located at 5447 Woodward Avenue, on Friday, September 16 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, September 17 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. View the Power of the Vote flyer for more information.

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