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MSW students Jumpstart the 2016-17 academic year

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

The UNC School of Social Work welcomed 126 new MSW students to the program this year. In May, 18 Advanced Standing students began our program and in August, 69 full-time students, 24 Triangle MSW Program students, and 15 Winston-Salem MSW Program students began their social work graduate education.

Each year, the number of outstanding and competitive candidates increases, and this year was no exception. Out of 450 applicants, 126 were admitted and enrolled, or less than a third of the potential candidates who applied.
As in years past, an incredibly talented and diverse group of students have enrolled:

  • The average age is 28
  • Men represent 12% of new students (up from 10% in 2015)
  • 25% of the cohort are students of color (again, slightly up from 2015)
  • 1 student completed the Peace Corp in Sierra Leone
  • 21 are bilingual (languages represented are Arabic, Latin, Spanish, French, Japanese, and 3 of the languages of India)

In addition, many of this year’s students have education and international experience based on work, volunteer and research opportunities over six continents, representing more than 30 countries. Students are also passionate about and interested in working with many different populations, problems, intervention models, and communities such as:

  • Substance abuse
  • Aging and elders aging in place
  • Refugee resettlement
  • Services and advocacy for queer identified youth and the LGBTQI community
  • Intellectual and physical disabilities
  • Integrated healthcare
  • American Indian populations
  • Health care for women and children, teen pregnancy and parenting
  • Military families and veterans’ families and their children
  • Juvenile justice, criminal justice and restorative justice and
  • Mental health services.

As always, students bring a wealth of life and personal experiences, too. We have current social workers, foster parents and former foster children. We have a therapy dog trainer, first generation college students, a founder of a local mother’s support group and students with military connections, including a mother of a member of the National Guard, a military spouse, and a service member in the U.S. Airforce Reserves.

This year’s Jumpstart Orientation session, which kicked off Aug. 12 and concludes Aug. 26, includes a variety of activities for students, including presentations on professional ethics and safety in the field, a campus tour, dual degree certificate fair and bus tour of agencies in the Triangle.

This year’s event also included a special presentation from Ann Moss Joyner who spoke to incoming MSW students on Aug. 19 about her work combating systems of institutionalized racism and how to be leaders for change. Joyner and her husband Allan Parnell of Orange County founded the Cedar Grove Institute for Sustainable Communities in 2000.

The nonprofit uses high tech mapping technology to document discrimination across various areas, including economic development, fair housing, education, environmental justice, equitable land use, health care, and others. The couple partner with other nonprofits, community organizations, neighborhood and community leaders, economic development agencies, attorneys, and government agencies to support the development and survival of diverse, prosperous, and self-reliant communities in Orange County and across the nation.

Their work, which has been cited in several court cases, is recognized nationally as an example of the power of big data. Joyner’s presentation concluded with a discussion on the barriers to inclusive communities with Iris Carlton-LaNey, a School of Social Work Professor, and Allison DiMarco, a School adjunct Instructor and investigator with the UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute.