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School of Social Work Updates on COVID-19

Any announcements, cancellations or other information related to the coronavirus and specific to UNC School of Social Work will be posted below.


Update, May 20, 2020 (second post of day)

Dear Continuing MSW Students,

We hope you and your loved ones are staying well despite the challenging times we are facing. Usually at this time of year, the School of Social Work at UNC-Chapel Hill is busy preparing for your return to the program. Given the implications of COVID-19, however, we want to be forthcoming that there remain some unknowns for the year ahead. Please know that we are actively planning for the fall semester and will confirm details over the next few weeks regarding the fall calendar, the course content delivery method, field education planning, and ways we plan to provide support to you and your peers.

Our faculty and staff mobilized quickly in the spring semester to deliver all coursework remotely and ensure field placements met their required competencies and wrapped up safely. We appreciate the patience and flexibility you all demonstrated as well throughout this process. This experience has demonstrated that as a program, we are flexible, innovative, and adaptive — attributes familiar to social work practice. All this being said, the following letter briefly outlines a few key updates regarding our plans for the fall. 

Semester Calendar. The administrative leadership of UNC-Chapel Hill is examining options that would slightly alter the academic calendar. Classes were scheduled to begin on August 18th but it is more than likely we will begin one week earlier and fall break will be canceled. The fall 2020 semester will likely wrap up, including the completion of final exams, before Thanksgiving. These changes are being made to avoid travel to and from campus and to anticipate a second-wave of the virus as we enter flu season. We expect that exact dates for the fall semester calendar will be announced by the end of the month when the University shares its comprehensive plan.

MSW Courses. UNC System Interim President William Roper announced last month that all UNC campuses will be open for residential instruction this fall. However, as a School of Social Work, we are exploring the best way to deliver course content. The UNC-Chapel Hill MSW program administration is currently weighing the balance of social distancing practices and the realities of our classrooms with the benefits and challenges of offering classes in a remote format (all online with asynchronous and synchronous sessions) or a combination of in-person and remote learning. We recognize there are safety and health circumstances that may limit the participation of some students in in-person classes. We are determining how best to provide classes in a way that meet the needs of everyone involved. Please know that the safety of our SSW community is our priority.

Field Education. The field education team is currently assessing our community partners to find out if they can continue with hosting MSW student learners in this new environment. Some agencies are delivering all of their services remotely; others are only working face-to-face; some are no longer able to host a student. It is expected that service delivery will ebb and flow over the next year as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves. If your field placement has been disrupted and is no longer an option or if the learning opportunities have changed due to COVID-19 a field-faculty member will be in touch with you. This is an extraordinary time and choices in field may be limited but we will do everything we can to find solutions. This requires continued flexibility and patience on your end. Additionally, we understand that some students may feel safe and ready to attend field in-person while others might prefer remote settings.  In general, we expect student interns to work and learn in their field placement in the same manner that the agency social workers are working. As a program we will work with you regarding this decision. Soon we will be able to more fully outline what options are available and the safety protocols we have begun to put in place. 

Professional Development & Student Supports. Once dates for the fall 2020 semester and delivery method for fall courses are announced, details regarding our professional development series will be shared. Even if we have to remain physically distanced, we will find ways to remain connected so please stay tuned for news on how we will offer these supports and programming. Further, we realize that some students may be experiencing a change in their financial circumstances due to COVID-19. Thanks to generous contributions from donors, students enrolled in summer sessions or the fall semester may request financial assistance through the Corona Virus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act whether they are receiving need-based aid or not. For more information about CARES Act funding, please visit the University’s coronavirus website. For additional information about financial support for COVID-19 pandemic-related hardships, visit the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid. The CV-19 Student Care Hub remains a resource for students seeking resources or support.

So — despite these unknowns, we hope this communication offers you some reassurance that we are working diligently to make your graduate school experience as meaningful and fulfilling as possible. We anticipate sharing more information with you in early June via email but will also post information on our School of Social Work Updates on COVID-19 page. If you have any questions in the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

Sincerely,

Lisa de Saxe Zerden, Senior Associate Dean for MSW Education

Rebecca Brigham, Assistant Dean for Field Education

Sarah Naylor, Associate Dean for Student Affairs

Sharon Thomas, Assistant Director of Recruitment, Admissions, and Financial Aid


Update, May 20, 2020

Dear Incoming MSW Students,

We hope you and your loved ones are staying well despite the challenging times we are facing. Usually at this time of year, the School of Social Work at UNC-Chapel Hill is busy preparing welcome materials to send to all incoming students. Due to the implications of COVID-19, however, we want to be forthcoming that there remain some unknowns for the year ahead. Please know that we are actively planning for the fall semester, and over the next few weeks we will confirm details with you regarding the fall calendar, the course content delivery method, field education planning, and JumpStart! orientation. Our faculty and staff mobilized quickly during the spring semester to deliver all coursework remotely and ensure field placements met their required competencies and wrapped up safely. This experience has demonstrated that as a program, we are flexible, innovative, and adaptive — attributes familiar to social work practice. All this being said, the following letter briefly outlines a few key updates regarding our plans for the fall. 

Semester Calendar. The administrative leadership of UNC-Chapel Hill is examining options that would slightly alter the academic calendar.  Classes were scheduled to begin on August 18th but it is more than likely we will begin one week earlier and fall break will be canceled. The semester will wrap up, including the completion of final exams, before Thanksgiving.  These changes are being made to avoid travel to and from campus and to anticipate a second-wave of the virus as we enter flu season. We expect the exact dates for the fall semester will be announced by the end of the month when the University shares the comprehensive plan.

MSW Courses. UNC System Interim President William Roper announced last month that all UNC campuses will be open for residential instruction this fall. However, as a School of Social Work, we are exploring the best way to delivery course content. The UNC-Chapel Hill MSW program administration is currently weighing the balance of social distancing practices and the realities of our classrooms with the benefits and challenges of offering classes in a remote format (all online with asynchronous and synchronous sessions) or a combination of in-person and remote learning. We recognize there are safety and health circumstances that may limit the participation of some students in in-person classes, and we are determining how best to provide classes in a way that meet the needs of everyone involved. Please know that the safety of our SSW community is our priority.

Field Education. The field education team is currently assessing our community partners to find out if they are prepared to accept MSW student learners in this new environment. While many agencies continue to plan to work with our students, some are not able to accept a student as planned.  Some agencies are delivering all of their services remotely; others are only working face-to-face.  It is expected that service delivery will ebb and flow over the next year as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves.  In addition to placements in agencies, we are strategizing ways to create learning opportunities in new or project-based formats.  We understand that some students may feel safe and ready to attend field in-person while others might not.  As a program we will work with you regarding this decision.  Soon we will be able to more fully outline what options are available and the safety protocols we will put in place. 

Jumpstart! and Other Orientation Events. Once dates for the fall 2020 semester and delivery method for fall courses are announced, details regarding JumpStart! and all SSW orientation events will be finalized and shared with students. We anticipate that much of JumpStart! orientation will occur virtually. We successfully did this with our Advanced Standing cohort who started this May and plan to replicate this format.

Despite these unknowns, we hope this communication offers you some reassurance that we’re working diligently to make your graduate school experience as meaningful and fulfilling as possible.  We anticipate sharing more information with you in early June via email but will also post information on our School of Social Work Updates on COVID-19 page. If you have any questions in the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

Sincerely,

Lisa de Saxe Zerden, Senior Associate Dean for MSW Education

Rebecca Brigham, Assistant Dean for Field Education

Sarah Naylor, Associate Dean for Student Affairs

Sharon Thomas, Assistant Director of Recruitment, Admissions, and Financial Aid


Update, March 23, 2020
Classes resume today through Zoom and other technologies for remote instruction. Senior Associate Dean for MSW Education Lisa de Saxe Zerden and Associate Dean for Doctoral Education Mimi Chapman have provided updates for all students directly via email, with information on classes, grading and other changes affecting the rest of the semester. Source: Faculty-Staff Town Hall Meeting


Update, March 21, 2020

For faculty and staff, the end-of-semester retreat has been canceled. Source: Dean Gary Bowen and Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Travis Albritton


Update, March 12, 2020 (edited)

Career Day (scheduled for March 30) has been canceled. Source: Monique Tuset, Coordinator of Student Affairs

The UNC-PrimeCare workshop "The Opioid Crisis in North Carolina, Treatment and Policy: Past, Present and Future" (scheduled for March 27) has been canceled. Source: Meryl Kanfer, UNC-PrimeCare Coordinator

MSW professional development workshop "Negotiating Social Work Salaries and Student Loan Forgiveness Programs" (scheduled for March 17) has been canceled. Source: Monique Tuset, Coordinator of Student Affairs

Social Work Month workshop "Beyond Self-Care: Cultivating a Culture of Compassion Satisfaction in Human Service" (scheduled for March 23) has been canceled. Source: Monique Tuset, Coordinator of Student Affairs


Update, March 11, 2020
The Bobby Boyd Leadership Lecture (scheduled for March 24) has been canceled. Source: Dean Gary Bowen

SSW is preparing to implement the University's new plan to mitigate possible impacts of COVID-19 on our campus. These include an extended spring break, remote instruction and other measures. Please review the University's coronavirus update page for details. As our preparations continue, we will provide students with instructions about their classes via email.


Update, March 10, 2020
The SSW Scholarship Reception (scheduled for March 19) and the SSW Board of Advisors meeting (scheduled for March 20) have been canceled. Source: Dean Gary Bowen