The UNC School of Social Work welcomed 139 new MSW students to the program on Aug. 17, with the launch of its annual JumpStart orientation events. The sessions are designed to introduce students to their new colleagues, faculty and staff; to provide opportunities for meaningful discussions with their peers and with faculty; to help foster a sense of community in the program, and to set the stage for students to develop the necessary knowledge, skills, and understanding of the profession to successfully complete the MSW program.
Every year, the sessions also include a variety of activities for students, including an overview of the curriculum and faculty advisor meetings, presentations on the work of confronting oppression and on professional ethics, a dual degree and programs fair and bus tour of agencies in the Triangle.
The number of outstanding and competitive candidates to the MSW program continues to increase, said Sharon Holmes Thomas, assistant dean for recruitment, admissions and financial aid. Out of nearly 400 applicants, less than one-third of the potential candidates were admitted and enrolled, she said.
This year’s cohort includes:
• 24 Advanced Standing students
• 72 full-time students
• 27 Triangle Distance Education (DE) students and
• 16 Winston-Salem DE students.
Recruitment efforts over the last year also resulted in an 8 percent increase in the number of men who enrolled in the program, Thomas said. In addition, 23 percent of the incoming class are students of color, and 20 percent are from out-of-state.
As in years past, this year’s group of students are also incredibly talented and diverse and bring a wealth of life and personal experiences. Among these include:
• 20 who are bilingual or have studied another language, including Arabic, French, German and Vietnamese
• A student with three years international work experience in wilderness therapy
• A second and third generation social worker and
• An NCAA cross country and track and field athlete
In addition, many of those entering the program have completed a variety of work, volunteer and research experiences in nearly 30 countries, including Australia, Brazil, Cuba, Israel, Lebanon, Thailand, and Uganda.
This year’s students also bring a depth of passionate and interest in working with many different populations, problems, intervention models, and communities, such as:
• Adults with intellectual disabilities and disadvantaged and marginalized communities
• Economic inequality and immigration law
• Family advocacy and policy development
• Gender justice and identity
• Human trafficking, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse
• Latinx and refugee communities
• LGBTQ and women support and
• Maternal and child health and reproductive healthcare.
Such interests align with so many of the challenges that individuals and families face across the state and nation today, especially those who have been pushed to the margins, said Dean Gary L. Bowen, who welcomed the incoming cohort in a morning address. By choosing a career in social work, the students are demonstrating their commitment to make a difference in the lives of those who yearn for equal opportunity and success, he said.
“…As I look into your faces and anticipate all of the good that you will do in our world, I feel a sense of hope and optimism for this nation and a sense of excitement for you as you begin your journey here,” Bowen said. Together, we have so much work to do and we need your full engagement.”