Summer 2018
School Updates

Program Highlights

News surrounding the BASW and MSW programs, along with speakers and lectures from Pitt Social Work.

BASW Program Highlights

2018 Browne Fellows Selected

The Browne Leadership Fellows Program is an interdisciplinary fellowship aimed at preparing students to be engaged civic leaders working for economic and social justice. The fellows program in social work reflects the School of Social Work’s mission: to advocate for social policies and resources to meet basic human needs; to create accessible, responsible, and accountable human service programs; and to deliver quality services to those in need of support. Selected from a pool of strong candidates from across the University of Pittsburgh community, the 2018 fellows are from a variety of academic disciplines, including biological sciences, engineering, computer science, and economics.

I chose to attend the University of Pittsburgh because of its promotion and encouragement of civic engagement, something I did not experience growing up in a suburban environment. The Browne Leadership Fellows Program offers a way to engage in the Pittsburgh community and contribute to making a positive change a relevant and significant social issue. As a premedical student, I plan to use these experiences to improve my understanding of this community and advocate for the patients I hope to treat in the future.

Breanne McDermott HeadshotBreanne McDermott, 2018 Browne fellow

To learn more about the Browne Leadership Fellows Program, please visit socialwork.pitt. edu/academics/bachelor-arts-social-work-basw/browne-leader-ship-fellows-program.


International Activities Are Growing: Willkommen!

Group photo of German social work students visiting PittsburghThe School of Social Work continues to grow its international offerings each year, including study abroad programs and student exchanges. In partnership with the School of Education, we welcomed 20 undergraduate social work students from the Catholic University of Applied Sciences in Germany to Pittsburgh this past fall. During their two-week visit, they met with our BASW students at their field placements, joined in service projects, and toured the city.


MSW Program

by Emma Lucas-Darby, Interim Program Director

The School of Social Work’s numbers grew with 223 new Master of Social Work (MSW) students enrolled at the Pittsburg campus. This number includes the 194 Direct Practice and 29 Community, Organization, and Social Action (COSA) students. Our students hail from across the continental United States, China, and South Korea. Our campuses in Bradford and Johnstown are currently recruiting and will admit new cohorts in fall 2018. In an effort to provide students with relevant competencies for professional practice, several newly approved courses are currently among the spring offerings. These are a generalist course, Poverty and Income Inequality: Social Justice Responses; an advanced skills elective for Direct Practice students, Social Work and Spirituality; an advanced COSA skills course, Resource Management/ Supervision; and Financial Management. This spring, a new general elective special topic course—Social Work with Service Members, Veterans, and their Families—is being offered. This course supports the provision of social services to the high number of active military members and veterans in Western Pennsylvania as well as provides an overview of our current military conflicts.

In December, the Pittsburgh campus graduated 53 students, while the Bradford and Johnstown campuses had four and 17 graduates, respectively. Among the Pittsburgh campus graduates, five graduated with a focus in gerontology and 10 with a focus in integrated health. Our graduates enter a variety of fields providing needed social support services and enter leadership roles in agencies and organizations.

Our students are applying the skills and knowledge they obtain through their course work at their field placements. Results from a recent survey of field instructors that rated practice behaviors and competencies of our students on nine Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) competencies show that they exceeded the minimum baseline. These observations by field instructors offer critical assessments and provide valuable information that determines areas for further curriculum enhancement. We are pleased that our social work graduates pass the licensure exams at a commendable rate, which is higher than the national average. Their higher than average rate attests to the breadth and depth of knowledge and skill preparation that they acquire through the MSW curriculum as they plan for engagement beyond this level of graduate study. This rate also confirms the caliber of students who select our program to advance their academic studies.

Students and faculty members engaged in a yearlong, postelection initiative that focused on student civic engagement through teach-ins, class policy forums, and a judicial candidates panel. This Year of Policy Practice, supported by a CSWE policy practice grant, culminated in a dialogue facilitated by COSA students that engaged faculty, staff, students, field instructors, and alumni about how we define social action relative to our mission and our work at the school and how we can better integrate policy practice into the school’s curriculum at both explicit and implicit levels. The student-generated policy practice report includes recommendations that highlight increased opportunities to engage in policy practice within the school and work settings and identifies potential career pathways.

Recognizing the need for expanded skill sets in financial operations, human resources and data management, market and economic analysis, and evidence-based strategic planning, the school worked with the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business to develop a new joint degree program leading to master’s degrees in social work and business administration. Changing management methods and paradigms used by for-profit companies prompted the need for this joint degree. The program, initially open only to COSA students, is designed to provide students with a combination of social work knowledge and skills and additional skills in management decision making and leadership. Student interest in this joint degree program supports its timely development.


Julia Watkins Delivers Sidney A. Teller Lecture On World Social Work Day

Julia Watkins, former executive director of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), presented the Sidney A. Teller Lecture, “The New Global Inequities: Trends and Challenges for Today’s Agents of Social Change” on March 20, World Social Work Day, at the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work.

Watkins served nine years as executive director of the Council

on Social Work Education in the United States and retired from that position in 2012. Prior to assuming the national leadership position in social work education, she served 10 years as president of the American University in Bulgaria. Watkins received an MSW and a PhD in educational psychology from the University of Utah. Before her tenure at the American University in Bulgaria, she was a professor of social work, dean of the college of social and behavioral sciences, and interim vice president for academic affairs at the University of Maine in Orono. She was a fellow of the American Council on Education (ACE) Leadership Program and completed a three-year term as an international scholar with the Open Society Foundations Fellowship program in 2015, working on organizational and curriculum development with the Department of Social Work at the University of Sarajevo. Currently, she is codirector of the Southeast Europe Academic Women’s Leadership Initiative.

Watkins has given numerous presentations; and authored various works, including a book on social policy; and received several research and training grants in the fields of gerontology, social policy, and interdisciplinary training for health care professionals. Her most recent written contributions are on international social work. She has an extensive record of university service and has been a member of the boards of many nonprofit organizations, both domestically and internationally. Watkins previously served as president of the Association of American International Colleges and Universities, president of the Alliance of Universities for Democracy, a founding member of the American Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria, and treasurer of the International Association of Schools of Social Work. She was awarded an honorary doctorate in 2003 by the University of Maine for her work in Bulgaria. In 2015, she was awarded a Partners in International Education (PIE) Award by the CSWE Commission on Global Social Work Education.


DHS 2017 Case Competition: Rethinking Human Service Delivery: Money To The People

University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work MSW students once again participated in the annual Allegheny County Department of Human Services’ (DHS) Local Government Case Competition in November. This case competition is open to graduate students from universities across the county, and the School of Social Work has consistently fielded a large number of students for this event. At the 2017 case competition, 13 students competed for cash prizes and the opportunity to offer important human service program ideas from a young emerging professional perspective. The school typically has one or more of its students among the winning teams.

This year’s case was especially innovative and challenging. Cross-university teams of three to four students presented their ideas on the topic of Rethinking Human Service Delivery: Money to the People. Over three intensive days, student teams were challenged to come up with innovative approaches for redirecting a portion of the DHS budget to directly provide cash assistance to working poor individuals or families facing crises in making ends meet for a range of reasons. DHS is the largest public service agency in Allegheny County, with a budget of more than $800 million. Students worked to develop and then present financial assistance programs to help one of four struggling groups:

  • seniors age 60 and older who are trying to maintain a decent life on a fixed income
  • families in the child welfare system or in family support in need of supplemental help to support their family’s self-sufficiency
  • individuals in emergency shelters or unstable housing who need additional help to transition to permanent housing
  • those in re-entry from incarceration who are trying to transition back into community life

Judges came from the region’s educational, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors. A number of our school’s faculty and alumni were among the judges, who, in addition to selecting the four winning teams, were there to help students build their professional networks. The case competition also helps DHS to identify and recruit potential talent for its coveted internship as well as future employment.

One Pitt MSW student, Ashley Pesi, finished on a winning team. We would like to recognize the following students for completing this challenging competition: Alexandra Abboud, Edoukou Aka- Ezoua, James Burgess, Brooks Carroll, Zachary Michaels, Taylor Nichols, Wendy Paddock, Ashley Pesi, Aisha Pier, Andrea Thieman, John Cordier, Alysse Littleberry, and Omar Rahman. Thank you for taking advantage of this important learning experience and for your great ideas.

The Allegheny County Department of Human Services posts the winning presentations on its case competition Web site at: Local-Government-Case-Competition.aspx.


PhD Program Highlights

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program has had an eventful year. Our students continue to be productive, and we have an excellent group of emerging scholars.

Eric Kyere (PhD ’17) defended his dissertation over the summer and started as an assistant professor at the Indiana University School of Social Work, Indianapolis campus.

Lewis Lee defended his dissertation in December and is currently in the midst of his job search.

Andrea Joseph has accepted a position as an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee at Nashville, and will be defending her dissertation this term. Many of our other students are making excellent progress and will be defending their dissertations and entering the job market in the next year.

Our students continue to publish, present at national conferences, and receive competitive funding awards.

Jessica Wojtalik recently received a National Institutes of Health National Research Service Award for her study, Functional Significance of Structural Brain Change during Cognitive Remediation in Early Schizophrenia.

Daniel Jacobson has received a Council on Social Work Education doctoral Minority Fellowship and a Pittsburgh Schweitzer Fellowship.

As our students continue to progress through the program, we are focused on recruiting new students. Our focus on recruitment has resulted in a substantial increase in applications this year as our program has continued to gain national prominence.