New concentration prepares UK social work students to become educators, academics

LEXINGTON, Ky. – In a world constantly confronted with social injustices and inequalities, communities need continuous support.

Social workers provide crucial services aimed at improving safety and well-being. The hope is that behind every person who goes through a difficult challenge – whether it’s abuse, drug addiction, disability, discrimination or poverty – there is a social worker waiting to help address it.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest have underscored the demand for skilled practitioners able to adapt in various contexts.

Meeting these challenges begins with world-class teaching and educational experiences. In an effort to meet the moment, a new focus in the Doctorate in Social Work (DSW) will prepare social work students to become educators.

“The importance of ensuring that social work educators have the knowledge, skills and knowledge required to educate future practitioners cannot be overstated,” said Jay Miller, Dean of the UK College of Social Work. “The new focus of education is really something.”

In February 2020, the College of Social Work (CoSW) at University of Kentucky launched DSW Online 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 offered social work practitioners the opportunity to develop their skills through specialized training in one of three areas: administrative leadership, advanced clinical practice, or military behavioral health (MBH).

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

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

“For over a year, we have engaged with academics from across the country to conceptualize a concentration designed to address contemporary challenges facing social work educators and practitioners,” said Natalie Pope, Director of Programs doctoral degree at CoSW. “This concentration offers students a unique path to becoming a social work educator at the doctoral level.”

Educators and social workers are often linked because they influence their work to bring about positive change. Ultimately, graduates of the program will be able to advance their careers, become transformational leaders, and join the bigger conversation about building a stronger society.

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

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

If you want to know more about the DSW program and the new concentration, watch this video, call 859-257-6650, send “DSW” to 31996 or send an e-mail [email protected].


This press release was prepared by the University of Kentucky. The opinions expressed here are those of the author.

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