Campus News

New Concentration Prepares Social Work Students to Become Educators, Scholars

Photo of Student on Laptop
Pete Comparoni | UK Photo.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 20, 2021) — In a world continually dealing with social injustices and inequality, communities need continued support.  

Social workers provide critically important services aimed at improving safety and well-being. The hope is, that behind every person going through a difficult challenge — whether it's abuse, addiction, disability, discrimination or poverty — there's a social worker waiting to help address it.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest have underscored the demand for skilled practitioners who can adapt in a variety of settings.

Confronting these challenges starts with world-class instruction and educational experiences. In an effort to meet the moment, a new concentration in the Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) program will prepare social work students to become educators.

“The importance of ensuring that social work educators have the requisite, knowledge and skills to educate future practitioners cannot be overstated,” Jay Miller, dean of the UK College of Social Work, said. “The new education concentration is truly something."

In February of 2020, the College of Social Work (CoSW) at the University of Kentucky launched the online DSW to creatively address society’s most complex social issues.

The first of its kind in the state, the program successfully prepares students for advanced social work practice, clinical research, administrative leadership and executive roles. Initially, the DSW program provided social work practitioners the opportunity to build upon their skills by receiving specialized training in one of three areas: administrative leadership, advanced clinical practice or military behavioral health (MBH).

Now, in addition to those, students will be able to choose teaching as a specialized area of study.

The new concentration will build upon the existing DSW program by preparing students to engage in social work education as leaders and scholars. The innovative curriculum will address the dynamic and political nature of social work education by focusing on diversity, expansion and systemic oppression, among other areas.

“For more than a year, we have engaged with scholars all over the country to conceptualize a concentration designed to meet the contemporary challenges facing social work educators and practitioners,” Natalie Pope, director of doctoral programs in the CoSW, said. “This concentration offers students a unique pathway to becoming a doctoral-level social work educator.”

Educators and social workers are often linked, because they’re influential in their work to bring about positive change. Ultimately, graduates of the program will be positioned to advance their careers, become transformational leaders and join the greater conversation about creating a stronger society. 

“To be clear, teaching is a form of social work practice,” Miller explained. “As such, we want to make certain that our graduates are prepared to engage in that practice in a competent, collaborative and creative way.”  

In a continued effort to make UK programs accessible and attainable, the DSW is fully online and can be completed in two years (full time). There are also part-time options available.

If you're interested in learning more about the DSW program, and the new concentration, watch this video, call 859-257-6650, text “DSW” to 31996 or email DSW@uky.edu.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.