For over 100 years, the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration has defined the fields of social work and social welfare. Our “Founding Mothers” were among the first to use social research and community data to inform the care and counseling of the most vulnerable members of our society, and this integrated academic approach —using research to inform practice and policy—continues to distinguish us today. SSA differs from other graduate schools of social work because we challenge our students to dig deeper to understand the root causes and human costs of social inequity. Our mission is to continue to produce the best, most forwarding-thinking research in social work and social welfare policy and to prepare the best social workers to use those ideas to serve individuals, families and communities in creating a better quality of life.

Our First Century

SSA was one of the first schools of social work in the United States, opening our doors in 1908 as the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy. In 1920, SSA became part of the University of Chicago, one of the world’s premier universities and a bastion of progressive, interdisciplinary scholarship. Together, we formed an academic community with the intellectual rigor and mission-driven idealism to directly improve the lives of the disenfranchised in the City of Chicago and across the nation. A deep commitment to diversity is central to the University's and SSA's mission of discovery. Explore diversity at UChicago and browse the interactive SSA timeline.

SSA Today

SSA is one of the top three graduate schools of social work in the world. Our remarkably diverse students arrive with energy, empathy, intelligence, and a keen desire to serve. We give them the firm theoretical foundation, the clinical and policy perspective, and the hands-on experience to make a meaningful impact in the lives of the most vulnerable people in our society. SSA and the University support interdisciplinary research centers that shed light on the complex connections between race, human rights, politics, access to care, with a special emphasis on preventive policies and practices. SSA graduates quickly advance to leadership positions in clinical practice, public and private social welfare agencies, community development organizations, policy research institutes, charitable foundations and academia. 

Meet the SSA Community

Learn more about our faculty and some of our latest research projects. Then come to Chicago and visit us in person. Experience the intellectual energy of the University of Chicago, explore the vibrant Hyde Park neighborhood and find out why Chicago is one of the world’s great cultural capitals.

Shirley Li

Shirley Li, AM '16

Li reflects on her SSA field experience, “I now realize that as a therapist, both the goal and how you approach that goal are very important.”