Stepping into the world of Social Work

Looking forward to a new semester…

USC vs. Syracuse

Image by jeffdubyn via Flickr

On Monday, I start classes for my second semester in USC’s MSW program. I am proud of my good but not perfect achievement last semester, and am looking forward to building on that.

This semester, like last, I’ll be taking two classes that are pretty much “part two” from last term.

On Mondays, I’ll have 535, Social Welfare.

The purpose of this course is to understand the building blocks of how social welfare policy is developed and implemented in the United States; the substantive rationale for policy; the role of social workers in all areas of practice in promoting social justice; how to advocate; and the integration of practice with policy.

Understanding social welfare policy is vital to social work practice because it fundamentally affects the lives of those served by the profession. Social welfare policy defines who gets what services, resources, and opportunities, and shapes service delivery systems. For these reasons it’s essential that social workers know about the issues and choices that are embedded in various responses to social problems, guided by an understanding of the ethical responsibilities as expressed in the NASW Code of Ethics, and by the analysis of processes that lead to the formulation and delivery of social welfare policies, to more effectively comprehend the ways in which you can be instrumental in shaping policy choices.

This course builds on the substantive understanding of policy development and critical thinking skills acquired in SOWK 534, focusing attention on the analysis of selected current policy issues in key sectors of social welfare as well as in the processes and strategies of policy advocacy to redress various forms of social and economic injustice and empower less advantaged groups in our society.

SOWK 535 provides a foundation for second year, concentration-specific, policy courses (SOWK 630s) in which students apply policy analytic and policy advocacy skills to develop specific policy proposals in a particular service sector.

This class will have three primary assignments. First,  a “Brief the Mayor” examination of a particular policy and a group presentation on this issue.  What I gather is that the class or group will decide on a particular policy or change to existing policy to advocate and actually develop some sort of a plan of implementation. The second paper will be a “report back” on the status of the initial plan. The last paper will be a critical examination of what has been done during the semester.


Social Work 505 will continue “Human Behavior in the Social Environment”

Content includes empirically-based theories and knowledge that focuses on individual development and behavior as well as the interactions between and among individuals, groups, organizations, communities, institutions and larger systems. Students will also learn about human development over the life span including knowledge of biophysiological maturation, cognitive development, social relationships, and the psychosocial developmental tasks for the individual and family from adolescence through late adulthood. At each phase of the life course, the reciprocal interplay between individual development and familial, small group, community and societal contexts are emphasized. The course is organized according to the case study method to help students critically analyze how people develop within a range of social systems (individual, family, group, organizational, and community) and how these systems promote or impede health, well being, and resiliency. Thus, students will critically apply these different theories and perspectives to case studies or scenarios of contemporary situations in complex, urban, multicultural environments as embodied in the Southern California region.

Given the mission and purpose of social work, the course integrates content on the values and ethics of the profession as they pertain to human behavior and development across multiple systems. Special attention is given to the influence of diversity as characterized by (but not limited to) age, gender, class, race, ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, disability and religion. The course makes important linkages between course content and social work practice, policy, research, and field instruction, specifically in evaluating multiple factors that impinge on functioning and converge in differential assessment and intervention.

This class will have two papers and a midterm – I think it’s up to the instructor whether to make the exam take-home or in class. I prefer the former,  of course, as I seem to do better when I’m not having to remember details as well as the big points.

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