DePaul University was founded on the premise that all people deserve dignity and opportunity. The university mission has much in common with the aims of professional social work. Through working directly with people and within organizations, professional social work is dedicated to “...enhance[ing] human well being and help[ing] meet the basic human needs of all people.” (NASW, Code of Ethics, 1999, p. 1). The profession’s central tenets focus on service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence. Social work is a service profession and as such, is dedicated to extending opportunities to all, advocating for the voiceless, and working towards improving society. There is significant symmetry between the profession and the mission of the university.
Improving Chicago’s Urban Community
Specifically, the DePaul University MSW program advances the university’s mission through its design, offerings, and operations. The MSW degree allows current DePaul University alumni and newcomers to the university to earn a degree that connects them intellectually, professionally, and personally to the ongoing advance towards justice. The DePaul University MSW degree program is innovative both in its curriculum, offering rigorous study of community-based practice and acquisition of skills and knowledge which will enhance and improve social welfare in the Chicago urban center, and in its organization, offering classes at nights and during weekends in support of working students, and developing innovative means of delivering social work content.
The Enhancement of Diversity
Social work departments across the country tend to enroll significant numbers of women and members of other historically oppressed groups. According to CSWE (2012), women constituted over 83 percent of all enrolled MSW students in the U.S. in the fall of 2012. Nationwide, nearly 36 percent of that year’s MSW students were from historically underserved groups. The DePaul University MSW program works hard to extend both the institution’s and the profession’s legacy regarding diversity. The curriculum is infused throughout with content on urban populations and the context of learning and operating as an academic unit will be one which models appreciation and support for students, faculty and staff from all backgrounds. Additionally, the department will work hard to establish and maintain relationships with emerging new communities, such as those of recent immigrants, as a way of following the DePaul model.
Partnering with Community-based Agencies
The DePaul University MSW degree program expands the university’s network of partnerships with community agencies and leaders by offering a concentration in community-based practice and by requiring students to complete practica in community-based agencies and organizations. The term “community” is used broadly throughout the curriculum to denote an emphasis on the geographic, psychological, and social meaning [which] have consequences for people who live and work there (Coulton, 2004). According to Weil (1996), community practice in social work includes social planning, organizing, social and economic development, and social change directed toward expanding social justice (p.6). By offering content on fund development, leadership, program evaluation, and advanced social work practice, the DePaul University MSW degree program is connected to both its broadening global community as well as to the resurgence of interest in community-based practice in professional social work.
Efficient, Pragmatic Stewards
The DePaul University MSW degree program strives to operate efficiently and planfully. Program students and graduates have real world experiences (by way of two required year-long internships or practica) and knowledge that will prepare them effectively for employment and licensure as professional social workers. The curriculum is grounded equally in theory and application, providing students with transferable skills that should serve them well not just in their jobs held upon graduation but in their careers as professional social workers. The curriculum is also designed to facilitate students adding value to their degree by taking electives and certificate programs during their course of study as a means of distinguishing them from the graduates of other MSW programs in the region. The program will prepare students for lifelong learning and skill acquisition.
The MSW program curriculum stresses life-long learning. Students and graduates of the program are encouraged to continue their professional development beyond the receipt of the MSW. Throughout enrollment, students are encouraged to plan for learning and skill acquisition upon completion of the MSW degree preparation for licensure is discussed in group orientation, one-on-one advising, and specific coursework. One required course, Professional Writing and Development has specific outcomes dedicated to the students’ post-degree career. Additionally, students are routinely provided with information regarding doctoral programs and advised about best positioning their applications to such programs via open houses, guest speakers, and other facilitated contacts with representatives from PhD programs in social work and other disciplines. Graduates of the DePaul University MSW degree program are prepared to practice professionally, continue their education, and assume leadership roles in the profession.
The administrative team of the Department of Social Work, the chair and coordinators, carry responsibility for creating continuing education opportunities for the program’s alumni (in cooperation with DePaul University’s Office of Continuing and Professional Education) in support of life-long learning. The department is responsive to the licensure and continuing education requirements of its alumni and works collaboratively with related disciplines and units within the university to maximize resources and opportunities.
Lastly, one of the guiding features of the DePaul University MSW degree program has been its attention to rigorous, high-quality education, and a commitment to disseminating knowledge about the fight for justice among historically oppressed groups including women, children, the poor, people of color, people with disabilities, the aged, gay, lesbian, and trans-gendered people, people from various ethno-cultural backgrounds, people with diverse religious beliefs, recently-arrived immigrants, and people for whom English is a second language. Each class in the MSW curriculum has objectives centered on human diversity, non-discrimination, and advocacy for the disadvantaged.