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Incoming MSW class talented and diverse

By Sharon Thomas
Assistant Dean of Recruitment, Admissions and Financial Aid

The UNC School of Social Work welcomed 140 new MSW students to the program this year. In May, 24 Advanced Standing students began our program; and in August, 69 full-time students, 29 Triangle MSW Program students, and 18 Winston-Salem MSW Program students began.

Each year the number of outstanding and competitive candidates increases, and this year was no exception. Out of 465 applicants this year, 140 were admitted and enrolled which is less than a third of the potential candidates.

We have an incredibly talented and diverse group of students enrolled this year:

  • Men represent 12% of new students (a 3% increase from the previous year)
  • The average student age is 28
  • 20% self-identify as students of color
  • One international student from China
  • Over 23% are out-of-state students
  • 7% are enrolled in one of our dual degree programs
  • One was a Peace Corp volunteer in Samoa
  • 10 are former AmeriCorps and Teach For America volunteers
  • A number of the students are bilingual and we have two that are trilingual. They bring amazing educational and international experience from work, volunteer and research experience on five continents, representing over 30 countries, including Brazil, Cambodia, China, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, France, Ghana, Haiti, India, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Jerusalem, Mexico, Rwanda, South Africa and the U.K.

Our students possess a passion for social work practice, bring a wide spectrum of areas and populations of interest such as social work services for ethnically diverse populations, people with developmental disabilities, child welfare, domestic violence and sexual assault, health care for women and children, mental health, health disparities, military families, poverty, older adults, school social work, social and economic justice, homelessness, services and advocacy for LGBTQI populations, non-profits organizations, community organizing, international development, and immigration.

These new School of Social Work community members also bring unique perspective and experiences to our program. Some have served as foster parents and others are parenting children with developmental disabilities. We have students that have military experience in the Marines and Navy, and one who founded a non-profit to address sexual discrimination in the military. Some are first-generation college students and caregivers to family members and loved ones; some are active in the arts as dancers, musicians and photographers. 31 will even become “Double Heels” in the next few years after having completed both their undergraduate and graduate degrees at Carolina.

In August, the full-time, Triangle and Winston-Salem students kicked off the semester by attending JumpStart: Preparation for Practice. JumpStart is a conference-like experience to help prepare students for their social work graduate education and set the stage for them to develop the necessary knowledge, skills and understanding of the profession to successfully complete the MSW program.

As part of JumpStart, incoming MSW students took part in a poverty simulation exercise to help them understand what it might be like to live in a typical low-income family trying to survive from week to week. It is a simulation, not a game. The object is to sensitize participants to the realities faced by low-income people. After the simulation, the students and volunteer staffers met as a group to share their feelings and experiences.