Raymond Adams is on the WCU main campus this July teaching one of the master of social work program’s required courses, Mental Health: A Recovery Approach. A Ph.D. candidate in the social work program at Jackson State University (MS), an Historically Black College and University (HBCU), he is the first WCU Frederick Douglass Institute Summer Scholar to work with WCU’s Graduate Social Work Department.
“Although it’s a really fast-moving course taught in five weeks,” he says, each of the 18 students “seeks to become more knowledgeable about the DSM–5 [the latest edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders], treatment, and potential interventions.”
The course examines major childhood, adolescent, and adult mental health disorders holistically, using a bio-psycho-social-cultural-spiritual and recovery/resiliency/capacity-building template for analysis. Adams explains that he’s “underpinning the course with theory that’s becoming more galvanizing: intersectionality plus critical race theory. We need to treat the whole person so I teach students to meet clients where they are – to walk alongside the patients. This helps them understand how the environment affects the individual.”
Through this teaching fellowship, he draws a parallel to Frederick Douglass’ life as a public figure who enlightened and transformed American society. He sees his role as the MSW program’s inaugural Douglass Scholar as “a natural step toward ensuring that master-level social work students remain cognizant to their role as change agents.”
Adams’ academic background suits this course, notes his WCU mentor, MSW Professor Gwenelle O'Neal: His “research presents a practical description of implementing health information through community-based organizations and focuses on survivor strategies. His presence in our department offers our faculty and students exposure to theory, demographics, and potential outcomes that contribute to the collective impact the social work profession seeks for citizens.”
On Wednesday, July 24, Adams will present his research on the intersection of spirituality, mental well-being, and social networks among rural African American prostate cancer survivors. His presentation takes place at the University’s Center City campus at 701 Market Street, Room 6, from 7 to 8 p.m.
At Southern Arkansas University, Adams has served as a tenure-track faculty member in the undergraduate social work program since 2014. Using his experience here, he hopes “to form courses back at Southern Arkansas, maybe develop courses around mental health diagnoses that specifically use the theoretical frames of George Engel’s biopsychosocial-spirituality model.”
Adams hopes to continue his career at Southern Arkansas upon successfully defending his doctoral dissertation this October. He resides in Monroe, LA.