As one of the nation's oldest academic social work programs, the Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research is part of a College with a long-standing, well-respected dedication to both scholarship and social responsibility. The School's philosophy and practice reflect Bryn Mawr College's Quaker roots, historical concern for oppressed or marginalized groups, and corresponding commitment to transforming the world for the better. We believe that human well-being, democracy, and human rights cannot flourish in the midst of dramatic economic disparities, and we encourage students to grapple with the issue of unequal opportunity. We also believe that, as social workers and thoughtful citizens of the world, our graduates must approach problems from more than one perspective. Whether students specialize in clinical, management, or policy practice, they are encouraged to understand and value the complementarities among different kinds of professional social work.
The mission of the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research is to advance and apply knowledge to the enhancement of individual, societal and global well-being and to promote social and economic justice through its teaching, service, and research and scholarly activities. The School provides a learning environment that is supportive and intellectually rigorous, encouraging critical thinking and the expression of social work values through classes, field-based training, research, and active civic engagement in collaboration with the College as a whole. In addition, the School promotes faculty scholarship and community service activities that further expand and refine social work knowledge and the development of service delivery systems, providing leadership in the areas of direct practice, policy, and research.
Historically, the practice of social work has gone through many changes, keeping pace with changing social problems.
What stays the same in social work is the commitment to serving people and to altering social forces that influence people’s lives. As one of the oldest schools of social work in the United States, Bryn Mawr has lived through the many social crises, political changes, and discoveries about human personality that have shaped the past century.
Founded as the Graduate Department of Social Economy and Social Research in 1915, the Bryn Mawr program was a legacy of Carola Woerishoffer, a young graduate of Bryn Mawr College who, at the time of her early death, was investigating factory conditions in New York state. From the beginning, students in the school spent a substantial portion of their time doing field work, supplemented with classroom study in casework, public welfare and legislation, and research and social investigation.
Since that time many perspectives have come together to make the profession of social work a challenging composite of knowledge and skills. Comprehensive social legislation arrived in the United States during the 1930s; the mental health movement introduced psychotherapy into social work during the 1950s; the civil rights movement and the “War on Poverty” opened up further areas of practice in the 1960s. During the ’70s and ’80s, learning to “do more with less” became the challenge to practitioners, researchers and educators. Health services, program management and legal advocacy have become central components of social work education.
The ’90s saw us try to give equal attention to international and national concerns. We identified and began to understand the implications of the political, social and economic change in central Europe, South Africa, central and South America, as well as many other areas of the world. We adjusted to the gradual shift of decision making about social service processes and programs from the federal level to more local levels, even as we faced critical challenges to our values and priorities.
In the United States, our concept of “minority” has changed as the numbers of people of color born here and elsewhere increase. Social work as a profession and social welfare as a field of public policy must continue to deal with the way in which society treats people of color, and people who have unequal access to opportunities. The implications of this fact are central to the educational process at Bryn Mawr.
In the 21st century, social workers will continue to be challenged by and responsive to the effects of technological advances in science, debates about human rights, personal rights and responsibilities; and the roles and responsibilities of government. Working effectively with other disciplines has become critical, and claiming our own space and role is essential.
Social work has grown because the scope of social problems has changed, and the methods for meeting human needs have become more complex. There remains the commitment to casework, public welfare and social research with which the Bryn Mawr program began. And the application of skills to practical problems in field work is still at the heart of Master’s-level education. Now more than ever, these areas of knowledge and skill require professional training of the highest order. Social work has its commitments firmly in place and its work clearly cut out.
What makes social work truly distinctive among the professions is its commitment to helping people and to correcting social abuses that perpetuate the disadvantages of certain groups in our society. Bryn Mawr believes very strongly that an educational program, taken as a whole, must offer a range of skills and competencies. It must approach problems from more than one perspective and prepare its graduates to play multiple roles during their careers. By offering three degree programs: Master of Social Service (MSS); Master of Law and Social Policy (MLSP); and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), the School makes it possible for students to experience and explore the full range of theories and skills necessary for today’s social worker practitioner, researcher or academician.
Some of the areas covered in social work are clearly shared with other professions, including clinical psychology, medicine, business, law and social research. Not only must social workers cooperate with specialists in these areas, they must also understand the strengths and weaknesses of their collaborators. In some cases, they may need to challenge the viewpoint of another profession to judge all claims to professional knowledge by practical effects.
Because racism, discrimination and oppression constitute a profound problem in this country and because their expression violates basic values and purposes in social welfare, Bryn Mawr seeks to awaken the advocacy spirit and support each student in learning the skills and strategies that will help to make this a more equitable society. Special attention is given throughout the curriculum to conditions of the oppressed. The School is also committed to hiring faculty members who are multiracial in perspective and who can relate their subject matter to the needs of groups seeking an equal measure of social justice. Bryn Mawr accepts responsibility for preparing social workers to serve all persons within the social welfare system and to change those economic, political and social structures that constrain the opportunities of minority groups.
Policy makers of the ’90s relied upon the strategy of using words and phraseology to confuse and recast the pressing social issues that have been with us for the last 30 years. Words like “family values,” “cycle of dependency,” “welfare reform,” “managed care,” and “compassionate conservatism” serve to mask the real causes of invasive and destructive poverty and to divert attention from the development of appropriate and realistic solutions.
Social services in the public and private sectors carry the burden of responding to what at times seem to be overwhelming needs and demands from those who pay for and use the services as well as from those who ultimately decide what the funding levels will be. Bryn Mawr maintains its commitment to strengthening public and private agencies. We work collaboratively with them to plan, administer, provide and evaluate services that can have a positive and lasting impact on individuals, families and communities.
Bryn Mawr is committed to educating social workers who are excited by the challenges this nation faces and determined to help bring about the social changes that have been needed for far too long.
The Master of Social Service program at Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, a specialized accrediting body recognized by the Commission on Recognition of Postsecondary Accreditation.
Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research presented its Program Assessment process and findings, in its January 2008 Accreditation Materials for Reaffirmation, in response to the CSWE’s Educational Policy and Accreditation Standard (EPAS) #8, “Program Assessment and Continuous Improvement.”
CSWE 2008 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (link)