Saint Leo University welcomes social workers, students, alumni, and others interested in helping fields to attend its seventh annual Social Work Conference, to be held virtually on Friday, October 8. The theme of this year's conference follows the topic the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) advanced earlier this year, that "Social Workers Are Essential."

Dr. Courtney Wiest, director of the Saint Leo Master of Social Work (MSW) degree program, said the conference will draw attention to the spectrum of professional contributions that social workers make. Insights will be presented by both university teachers and researchers and by practicing professionals who serve many populations and needs, some of them overlapping. The conference sessions will also highlight the ways in which social needs, and social work practices, have evolved and changed since COVID-19 emerged. Continuing education credits for professionals are available for conference attendance, Wiest noted, adding that the combined cost for attendance and educational credits has been kept to $40 as a community service.

The day will start with a 90-minute keynote panel beginning at 9 a.m., featuring professionals from different specialties and local United Way of Pasco County (FL) President and CEO Charles Anderson. Anderson holds both the MSW and Master of Business Administration degrees. As head of an agency that funds programs to combat ills locally including poverty, human trafficking, substance abuse, homelessness and more, he is expected to be able to provide a broad overview of current challenges.

Others joining him are practicing experts on: mental health and substance abuse; trauma and sexual assault response; and social work and counseling needs in public schools.

Keynote panelists will also speak in hour-long follow-up sessions devoted to their specific topics, beginning at 10:30 a.m.

Information from various agencies and organization will be made available virtually during the conference as well, so that those attending can get up-to-date information on services that may benefit their clients or home agencies.

More individual sessions will follow in the afternoon. Topics to be examined include: patterns in school shootings; school social workers and their expanding roles; improving cross-cultural connections; addressing food insecurities; and more. The full schedule is available online.

Presenters include faculty from the Saint Leo Bachelor of Social Work (BSW); the Master of Social Work program; and cooperating agencies, including some that supervise Saint Leo students in field placements.

The conference sessions will end by 3:30 p.m.

Members of the public who wish to attend, but who are not interested in earning continuing education credits, may register for $20, online. Saint Leo students, faculty, alumni, and presenters will be admitted without charge, but should also register online. Members of the media who wish to attend part or all of the conference may do so by contacting