Social Change and Innovation

Michalle Mor Barak, Chair
Department Overview

Social Change and Innovation (SCI, pronounced “sky”) focuses on designing social change and leading innovation. The curriculum prepares students to improve living conditions and work environments for individuals, groups, families, organizations and communities on a larger scale. SCI students will acquire the knowledge and cultivate skills to lead and implement sustainable social change for good. Practicing in this field includes working with individuals, groups, families, organizations and communities to influence the laws, legislation and institutional practices and policies that impact them.

MSW students in this department have flexibility in designing their career paths. Students may pursue careers in non-profit management, public affairs, community organizing, corporate social responsibility or human resources, among other fields. Others may become licensed clinical social workers specializing in employee assistance programs. SCI provides students cross-disciplinary training that will inspire new ways of understanding and tackling social issues. Students are prepared to introduce, facilitate, and apply innovation while addressing society’s most pressing issues, including homelessness, human trafficking, diversity, inclusion, and equity, substance abuse and poverty.

Student Experience

Social Impact Fast Pitch
Bonnie Johnson, MSW’17
Jennifer Madden, MSW’17

Skill Development

Reneé Smith-Maddox, Vice-Chair

The department’s course work, tracks and hands-on field education training, equip students with a variety of skills, including:

  • Community Advocacy & Organizing
  • Policy Advocacy, Analysis & Proposal Development
  • Leadership & Management Development
  • Program Development, Management & Coordination
  • Grant Writing

Field Experience

Working in the field with one of our many community partners gives students valuable real-world, hands-on experience that complements and enhances their classroom education. Students complete 1,000 hours of hands-on training, which amounts to 16-20 hours per week in the traditional field placement format. A select number of students also have the opportunity to participate in a full-time field placement (block placement). Sample field locations include:

Tory Cox, Vice-Chair
  • Social Service Agencies
  • Businesses
  • Hospitals
  • Community Organizations
  • Non-Profit Organizations
  • Government Agencies
  • Behavioral and Mental Health Providers
  • Veterans Services

Read more about our field placement requirements and opportunities.


Grounded in social change and innovation, coursework is designed to develop systems thinkers who focus on the big picture. Students are encouraged to think globally—and differently—while drawing on the most recent research, new learning innovations and evidence-informed practices. View the Curriculum Snapshot.

Sample Courses
Management and Organizational Development for Social Workers
Community Practice for Social Change
Policy Advocacy and Social Change
Consultation, Coaching and Social Entrepreneurship
Global Dimensions In Social Policy and Social Work Practice


Student can customize their educational experience by pursuing a military social work track. View the Tracks Curriculum.

Military Social Work Track

Careers and Work Settings

Social Change & Innovation provides students with the educational foundation and learning experiences to work across a variety of fields. SCI students can work in settings that include grassroots, neighborhood, and faith-based organizations, for-profit organizations, local and international community development operations, social service agencies, government agencies, hospitals and any other policy, management, leadership or administrative setting.

Some students may also pursue entrepreneurship and start their own community-based organization, philanthropic cause, non-profit agency, socially responsible business, independent consulting practice, or social innovation start-up. Sample careers include:

  • Community Outreach Specialist
  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Coordinator or Specialist
  • Employee Assistance Professional
  • Fundraiser
  • Grant Writer
  • Health Care Administrator
  • Human Resources Coordinator or Specialist
  • Policy Analyst
  • Program Evaluator
  • Program Manager
  • Public Affairs Coordinator
  • Social Entrepreneur
  • Social Responsibility Consultant
  • Social Work Administrator
  • Trainer

Faculty Research

Department faculty members are engaged in a wide variety of research that informs our curriculum and policy. Many are affiliated with one or more of the school’s research centers and research clusters. Sample research projects include:

  • Culturally sensitive interventions for Spanish-speaking Latino seniors with depression
  • Projection mapping technology to reduce risky behavior among crack cocaine users in Mexico City
  • Establishment of an academic center of excellence to build a workforce skilled in geriatrics
  • Mobile computing technology to help disabled seniors in Taiwan
  • Effectiveness of peer navigators helping people with mental illnesses take charge of their health
  • Risky HIV behavior and substance abuse following transition to permanent supportive housing
  • Value of community liaisons between low-income patients with depression and health care providers
  • Informed consent among Latinos with schizophrenia as a barrier to enrollment in clinical research