The Longhorn Center for Community Engagement proudly hosts a free, monthly seminar in partnership with the Renaissance Retirement Center in Austin Texas. Invited speakers are leaders in their respective fields and represent a variety of academic departments throughout The University of Texas at Austin. Each presenter shares their recent research or academic interests and the implications of their work on society.
On Thursday, February 27, Associate Professor in the School of Social Work at UT, Miguel Ferguson, spoke to the residents of Renaissance Retirement Center about the history of social policy and welfare reform in the U.S.
Dr. Ferguson guided Renaissance Residents through prominent times in history; times many of the residents remembered well enough themselves and moments before then. Accompanied by a guitar and an amazing singing voice, Dr. Ferguson had a different approach in his lecture method; singing songs written for the period of time focused in his discussion.
Beginning in 1869, Dr. Ferguson explained what set U.S. social policy apart from other nations. First highlighting the amount of time it took to develop welfare programs. “We had a delayed system because we have the frontier,” Dr. Ferguson said. With the Gold Rush at its highest, many people headed toward California. Dr. Ferguson delighted residents with “Sutter’s Mill” by Dan Fogelberg and the importance of the phrase “Go west, young man.”
He then focused on the US’s implementation of the first child welfare program called “Orphan Trains.” Orphan trains were used to transport orphaned or homeless children from Eastern cities to rural areas in the Midwest. “What do you think happened to these children on the train?” Dr. Ferguson asked. After discussing many of the conditions the children faced, Dr. Ferguson sang “Orphan Trains” by Utah Phillips.
The 1935 Social Security Act, the time of a huge dust storm, struck close to a lot of the residents; many of them remembering the largest calamity to have ever hit the U.S. “Great Dust Storm Disaster” by Woody Goodfry had residents tapping their feet and nodding their head in remembrance.
Dr. Ferguson began to hit more times Renaissance residents remembered well, singing the “The Boxer” by Paul Simon, and focusing on the Vietnam Conflict and Kent State University protests with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s “The Cost of Freedom” and Buffalo Springfield’s “Stop Children What’s that Sound”.
Many of the residents were delighted with Dr. Ferguson’s musical talent and engaging lecture.
“I enjoyed today’s segment very much.” said George, a Renaissance resident. “I learned something that showed a historical aspect combined with music; very engaging.”
“My goal is to inspire,” said Dr. Ferguson. “I like to teach with song because it strikes a chord in students; it makes learning come alive. I want to inspire to do your own learning and make a difference,” which is what Dr. Ferguson did for Renaissance residents on Thursday; he struck a chord in their curiosity and memory.
Next month, Renaissance Residents look forward to hearing from Dr. Renne’ Acosta, a professor in the School of Pharmacy at UT, who will focus on self-care, aging, and over the counter medications.