To be a leader is to have vision – the ability to think differently, stay ahead of the curve and embrace innovation. As the largest school of social work in the world, we have a moral obligation to always have a visionary’s perspective of the profession and produce professionals who are equipped to influence its evolution.
In 2016, the school celebrated its most exciting transformation in our history, becoming the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, thanks to a $60 million gift from our own alumna. Suzanne Dworak-Peck, MSW ’67, has envisioned and supported the potential we have for achieving impact through our size, reach and programs of education and research. She serves as a model of achievement, influence and professional dedication both today and for generations to come.
Demand for an MSW degree from USC has never been higher. Our enrollment has surpassed 3,500 students, and we now graduate nearly one out of every 20 social workers in the country. We have succeeded in maintaining outstanding quality – the same gold standard alumni have enjoyed through the decades.
Our curriculum has an entirely new profile, with a change in the underlying concept of what our graduates must master. We emphasize critical thinking, communications and collaboration as essential skills, and have shifted from traditional research courses to a focus on the science of social work.
We became the first school of social work in the world to house a graduate nursing program. The new Department of Nursing educates nurses for clinical leadership roles that improve the health of individuals, families and communities by emphasizing an integration of the physical, behavioral, social and environmental factors that affect well-being. Our goal is for social work and nursing to accomplish more for society together than they do separately.
The school also introduced a new professional doctorate. The Doctor of Social Work focuses on practitioners who want to improve the landscape of human services organizations through innovation and effective management of change. Unlike other DSW programs, ours connects to the Grand Challenges of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, builds capabilities in public discourse and provides a new repertoire of problem-solving techniques.
Military social work remains a hallmark of the program—ours was the first at a civilian research university and the first to use virtual patients to train future social workers. Our Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans and Military Families is at the forefront of expanding our understanding of veteran transition issues and increasing the number of behavioral health providers trained to treat veterans and their families. The opening of the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at USC further cements the school’s unwavering commitment to those who have served our country. Our collaboration with the Keck School of Medicine enables the clinic to provide mental health services to veterans and their families in the greater LA area at no cost.
A campus exemplar for our research efforts, the school’s funding exceeds $48 million. Our Hamovitch Center for Science in the Human Services was the first endowed center for interdisciplinary social work research at any university. The center continues to expand with the recruitment of nationally recognized faculty and research communities in aging, behavioral health, child welfare, homelessness, severe mental illness, veterans and military families, and management and policy. This makes for an ideal learning environment for PhD candidates. Our extraordinarily selective doctoral program enables us to admit only the finest students who receive hands-on mentoring and a substantial financial package of nearly $250,000 over four years, one of the highest in the nation.
It's a fascinating time for our profession. Never have we needed more educated, principled and resourceful leaders who can anticipate emerging issues and lead innovation at the local, national and global levels. And never has their educational preparation been so thorough or so crucial.
Marilyn Flynn, PhD
2U Endowed Chair in Educational Innovation and Social Work
Dean and Professor of Social Work