The human rights perspective

UB School of Social Work is one of the best programs in the nation


After adding a new trauma-informed and human rights perspective, UB School of Social Work has become one of the best social work programs in the country.

Dr. Niles Carpenter established the UB School of Social Work in 1936. Now, 77 years later, it is nationally ranked among the top 12 percent in the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited social work programs.

A social work degree can open the doors to countless job opportunities and gives students the ability to work across several disciplines, including law, education and government. According to Kathryn Kendall, assistant dean for admissions and recruitment, the doctoral degree program "focuses on interdisciplinary approaches to critical social problems, with the ability to develop a unique, individualized course of study that utilizes the extensive resources of the university to meet your specific needs and interests."

The school also offers a Master's of Social Work (MSW), with a possibility for advanced standing, and a Ph.D. in social welfare. Additionally, there are several dual-degree programs offered. Online courses and certificate programs are also an option.

One unique aspect of the MSW program that draws students to participate is the integration of a trauma-informed and human rights perspective, Kendall said. Students get the opportunity to be assigned to an agency and experience hands-on social work in a variety of settings including urban, suburban and rural areas from the individual level to the communal level.

"Fieldwork provides the opportunity to use the knowledge, skills, theories and values learned in the classroom to help people in real-life situations," Kendall said. "The field experience, under the supervision of an accomplished social worker and under the direction of a faculty liaison, will help students make the transition from student to social work professional."

As the students continue their education, they can be placed in an agency that matches their educational and professional goals. Students can be placed in one of the partnerships in Western New York, Central New York or Northern Pennsylvania, according to Kendall.

This program is part of the new and improved social work curriculum, according to Diane Elza, an associate professor in the School of Social Work. She said this transition has enabled the program to be recognized nationally and move up 10 positions in the CSWE accredited programs list.

"We have a number of faculty that are really involved in the community working with community programs on trauma-informed care and how to provide trauma-informed care to clients," Elza said.

She thinks this program has the ability to expand and improve the entire social work program at UB because they have already placed students in over 400 agencies in Western New York and beyond. They are currently working to incorporate international placement.

Kendall thinks the reasons students come to the UB School of Social Work are the curriculum, the affordable cost, the encouraging faculty and the collaborative environment in and out of the classroom. All professors in the department are involved in research and influencing the community.

"The impact of this work is not limited to the communities outside of the university," Kendall said. "Faculty integrate this expertise in their teaching, bringing it into the classroom and creating real world and service learning assignments for students."

The school is currently involved in several outreach programs; some of these programs include working with the Institute for Trauma and Trauma-Informed Care, volunteering at Friends of the Night People and involvement with military suicide prevention training with the Army National Guard.

"All of our students do extensive service in community agencies throughout the eight counties of Western New York, Ontario and beyond, providing, on average, $2 million a year in free community service through their internships," Kendall said.

Sarah Nesbitt, a student in the School of Social Work, is currently completing her field work in the northwest area of Thailand, working with Burma Border Projects and the displaced and refugee population in Mae Sot. Mae Sot is a small town located right on the border of Burma.

Nesbitt was instructed to keep a blog of her experiences, she said

"[There is] a very interesting mix of Thai nationals, foreign workers (of all ages and nationalities) and refugees from Burma," she posted. "I am really looking forward to getting out and really getting to engage in the community dynamics of this small but fascinating town."

Kathleen Witmer, another student in the School of Social Work, is in Seoul, Republic of Korea working with the advocacy and service organization, Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network. She was also instructed to keep a blog of her experiences.

After a week of being in Seoul, she is still having difficulty overcoming the language and cultural differences regarding greetings, gift giving and meal times. But she loves her experience and is refusing to give up on her cause despite the struggles she faces.

"It is my future that unwed parents and their children will have better lived and be accepted by Korean society at every level," Witmer blogged. "Empowering unwed mothers to keep their children, changing the role and responsibility of unwed fathers and nationalizing non-traditional family forms in Korea would increase individual rights and equality. I believe this must happen before changes in Korean adoption practices can occur."

Kendall encourages all students in the School of Social Work to gain a similar experience in the real world so they are prepared for their lives after graduation.