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New ways to continue our mission

How have programs and activities at UNC School of Social Work changed during the coronavirus pandemic? The most visible change has been in instructional programs. All classes have moved to remote instruction, often via the online Zoom app. Although field education on-site activities have stopped, field instructors and task supervisors are working with students to create alternative approaches to the field experience (for example, telephone interviews with clients). There have even been some adjustments in the grading system to provide faculty and students with more flexibility.

Through regular emails and other direct communication, the School and its faculty have updated students on these changes. SSW students have responded with their own efforts to engage fully in the learning process, and doctoral students have even created a “virtual doctoral suite” to provide an online replacement for their usual on-site interaction. As part of the School’s efforts to broaden communication, Dean Bowen met with SOWOSO representatives in an online meeting to discuss students’ needs and desires in this new learning environment.

Faculty and staff are also finding new ways to offer the continuing education and training programs that the School provides for social work professionals across North Carolina and beyond. Two events in the Clinical Lecture Series were replaced with “Livestream Lectures” on topics especially relevant to social work professionals, with the first of these enrolling 500 participants. Faculty members who offer training through AHEC regional sites are adapting their in-person workshops to be livesteamed. At the request of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, the Family and Children’s Resource Program is adapting its training programs for Department of Social Services employees and other social workers to enable virtual and remote presentations. These are just a few examples; SSW will share more stories and details as this work continues.

Research projects at the School are affected, too. Projects that involve face-to-face data collection may require changes in study protocols, which require University approval. Some sources of federal funding have already provided information on flexibility for continuing and completing research projects, and researchers are awaiting further guidance.

The need for social distancing has forced SSW to cancel special events scheduled in the remaining weeks of spring semester, including the School’s annual scholarship reception, the Bobby Boyd Leadership Lecture, and Career Day. Regrettably, many of these special events will not be rescheduled.

UNC-Chapel Hill commencement ceremony in May has been canceled, and the School’s own ceremony in May has been canceled in tandem with the University. However, both the University and the School are working on alternative plans to honor and celebrate graduates, whether this comes in the form of a rescheduled ceremony on campus at a later date or another opportunity for formal, public recognition. Officials will share more details as these plans develop.

SSW is providing some updates on cancellations and other announcements specific to the School through a special page on its website. News stories about the School’s response will continue to be posted to the website’s home page.

Because the School is following UNC-Chapel Hill policies and procedures in all operations, the best place to find information about the University’s response to the coronavirus pandemic is at