Master of Social Work

Simmons's nationally regarded Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) Program provides a rigorous clinical social work education for women and men. The Program is highly respected for its fieldwork component, with internships three days per week in both years of the Program. We offer a progressive, hands-on curriculum that infuses education and practice with social justice values and multicultural perspectives.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

MSW with Certificate in Urban Leadership in Clinical Social Work

I slept and dreamt that life was joy / I awoke and found that life was duty / I acted, and behold, duty was joy.
~ Rabindranath Tagore


Nearly fifteen years ago, Associate Dean Carol Bonner had a vision.  One singular vision.  Prepare social work practitioners in training for leadership.  In collaboration with a small team of faculty, local community partners, and local businesses she scaffolded what is now the Urban Leadership Certificate Program (ULP) at the Simmons School of Social Work (SSW). Derived from the lessons associated with this work since 1998 are four critical understandings which drive the design and mission of the Urban Leadership Program today.

  • First, leadership is the business of people.  Social workers know the people business.
  • Second, infinite opportunities to experience, practice, and discover leadership exists in the spaces between people and their environments.  Social workers practice and thrive at the intersection where people and their environments meet.  
  • Third, at its very core, authentic leadership practice involves promoting and sustaining change through empowerment and collective action. Empowerment is in the DNA of every highly skilled social worker and collective action is mission of the field. 
  • Fourth, diversity is a necessary driver of creativity, and vulnerability is a catalyst for resilience and innovation.  The ULP knows that diversity is the epicenter of urban communities and recognizes the power of resilience born from vulnerable experiences.  The ULP therefore understands urban communities are the threshold of possibility.

Today, the Urban Leadership Certificate Program draws on this social work inspired foundation to execute to its mission:

Reveal leaders, promote agency, and discover (your) purpose in urban communities!  

The Urban Leader who emerges from our two year certificate program is a hybrid of the social surgeon, community conservationist, and human architect.  An Urban Leader is someone who works to eliminate chronic disease at the macro level (e.g., culture, institutions, etc.) by looking for the adaptive issues that perpetuate its sustained growth and designs interventions that target these deeper etiological sources.  Our Urban Leader also understands what makes urban communities thrive and can see possibility and success where everyone else may see decay, disorganization and failure.  This unique leader knows why urban communities need protection and works to mobilize and leverage local resources to promote and facilitate symbiotic relationships between local leaders to preserve urban life in order to seed possibility. Finally, the Simmons SSW Urban Leader is the consummate human architect - designing and scaffolding with the singular, intentional goal of empowering others to discover their purpose and to act on that purpose.  

Such work is built on the principle that effective leadership is authentic, and transformative and therefore begins with agency. Agency is a critical outcome of empowerment. Empowerment is the manifest work of justice.  To these ends, in the ULP, students will:

  1. Articulate their purpose for leadership and be clear about what motivates them to lead;
  2. Be highly skilled in multi-level and multi-stakeholder engagement, interprofessional learning, and knowledge management;
  3. Be bold, get messy, take risks, and make mistakes; and
  4. Effectively navigate the social environment and treatment ecology knowing specifically how to design for impact.

The driving epistemological assumption that informs the ULP is rooted in complexity science, which is anchored in the belief that everything is interdependent.  Consequently transformative change comes out of meaningful interactions and engagement.  To this end, urban leaders will learn how to think about scaling what they are learning in their clinical training about relationships, diversity, and social justice to design and execute to change that transforms organizations, communities, and social systems.

The ULP pedagogical framework is guided by the engaged scholar model, which prioritizes our responsibility as social work educators to teaching, scholarship, and service that promotes wellness in communities where we are co-located.  As such, our curriculum is designed with and shaped by our investment in authentic relationships with community partners who are leading the work of transformative change in urban environments.  We aspire to co-produce a meaningful body of work whose integrity is measured by social, environmental, and economic value generated through our collaborative efforts. Our methods and approaches include but are not limited to: Community-based participatory action research, mixed methods of inquiry, and case studies in appreciative inquiry and design for adaptive change.

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