According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics, the primary mission of the social work profession is to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty. Social work has a history, which has become the defining feature of professions, of focusing on individual well-being in a social context and the well-being of society. Fundamental to social work is attention to the environmental forces that create, contribute to, and address problems in living.
Social workers promote social justice and social change with and on behalf of clients. “Clients” is used inclusively to refer to individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Social workers are sensitive to cultural and ethnic diversity and strive to end discrimination, oppression, poverty, and other forms of social injustice. These activities may be in the form of direct practice, community organizing, supervision, consultation, administration, advocacy, social and political action, policy development and implementation, education, and research and evaluation. Social workers seek to enhance the capacity of people to address their own needs and to seek to promote the responsiveness of organizations, communities, and other social institutions to individuals’ needs and social problems. The mission of the social work profession is rooted in a set of core values. These core values, embraced by social workers throughout the profession’s history, are the foundation of social work’s unique purpose and perspective. These are: service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity and competence. www.socialworkers.org).
Through education and research the University of Utah College of Social Work contributes to shaping policies, services, and interventions; to preventing and alleviating human suffering; to enhancing individual, family, community, and global well-being; and to promoting social and economic justice. The Master of Social Work Program is structured to support collaborative work in social work education, research, and public service. Partnerships with more than 300 off-campus social service agencies offer students opportunities to apply their knowledge and skills. The College has a strong commitment to diversity and social justice, which is reflected in the student body, faculty, and staff, as well as within the curriculum, enrichment activities, and student support groups.
The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) outlines in its Advanced Social Work practice guidelines core knowledge, skills and practice behaviors for all social work professionals that encompass the micro (individual/family), mezzo (agencies/communities), and macro (policies/laws) areas of practice. A hallmark of the social work profession is the person-in-environment lens used in all aspects of practice. This lens reflects the profession’s mission to promote social and economic justice by empowering clients who have experienced oppression or vulnerability.
Social workers understand how diversity shapes human experience and is central to identity. The intersectionality of diverse identity factors includes one’s age, class, color, culture, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity and expression, immigration status, political ideology, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation, etc. These identity factors form the daily reality for individuals, families, and groups which can result in oppression, marginalization or alienation, or can create privilege or power. An understanding of diverse identity factors leads social workers to work with individuals, families, groups, multi-disciplinary teams, and community organizations to enable change. Social workers strive to educate clients concerning their rights, and to advocate for them where clients are encountering barriers. Social workers’ activities include providing service delivery, evaluating program outcomes, and measuring practice effectiveness. These activities often lead to developing, analyzing, advocating, and providing leadership for policies and services, which promotes social and economic justice through policies and laws (see www.cswe.org for more information).
The Master of Social Work Program has been continuously accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) since 1951. Accredited programs go through an intensive reaffirmation process every seven years. The MSW program was reaffirmed in 2011.
The MSW Program strives to train students to:
- Identify as professional social workers and conduct themselves accordingly
- Apply social work ethical principles to guide professional practice
- Apply critical thinking to inform and communicate professional judgments
- Engage diversity and difference in practice
- Advance human rights and social and economic justice
- Engage in research-informed practice and practice-informed research
- Apply knowledge of human behavior and the social environment
- Engage in policy practice to advance social and economic well-being and to deliver effective social work services
- Respond to contexts that shape practice
- Engage, assess, intervene, and evaluate individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities