International Social Welfare is a Program of Study. You must be accepted first to SSA and then by the individual Program of Study. SSA students apply to Programs of Study during the winter of their first year.
The International Social Welfare Program is designed for students interested in understanding social welfare challenges in a globalizing world. Internationally, processes of urbanization, economic liberalization, and various dimensions of globalization have had an increasing influence on local contexts. Along with some social benefits, these changes have led to a number of social problems and policy challenges. These occur across a range of social arenas, including growing disparities in wealth, income access to opportunity, and new pressures on service systems and governance regimes.
This program provides students with the opportunity to think about social problems, social policy, and social work practice in comparative cross-national perspective, grounded in scholarship and practice around a set of concrete issues.
Students apply and are accepted into the Program, however, any student may take international courses as they are integrated into the broader curriculum. This provides all students with an opportunity to incorporate some international perspectives into their work locally as well as Program students with a particular interest in working abroad or with immigrant and refugee populations at home. These courses provide a robust foundation of knowledge to pursue these interests.
Students who are accepted into the Program will take at least three courses from available curricular offerings that focus on social welfare issues and social work practice in global perspective. This includes the required core introductory course, “International Perspectives on Social Policy and Social Work Practice,” plus at least two additional courses. In the summer between their first and second year at SSA, students in the Program will also engage in an internship or study program abroad, or work with international organizations, or immigrant or refugee populations in the United States.
We currently offer courses that focus on international social work and social welfare, cross-national comparative perspectives, and the implications of global processes on social work practice. You may search the course catalog by using the keyword ‘international’ to find all courses currently offered in this program.
Some additional courses offered through other units of the university including the Human Rights Program, the Harris School of Public Policy, the Pritzker School of Medicine, the Law School, the Booth School of Business, and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture. The courses may also be accepted, by petition, as electives that count toward Program requirements.
Field placements have been selected to provide opportunities for students to get direct experience working in Chicago agencies that serve disadvantaged immigrant or refugee populations, advocate for policies that address international social work issues, and engage in global social work topics of research. Most of the placements are designed for social administration students who are preparing for careers in international social welfare, though some clinical placements are available.
In addition to the field placement component, students are required to participate in a study abroad or internship program over the summer between their first and second year. It is also possible to schedule this for the summer after the second year by graduating in the summer rather than the spring. Students may choose to participate in any of the following programs: an SSA study abroad program at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, India or at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights Internships, or another approved internship or independent study. Other projects with an international organization in the field of social work may be considered, but must be first approved by the head of the Program of Study.
Students completing the program will be prepared to assume leadership in the development and provision of policies, programs, and practices that address problems in the international social work arena. These include careers in international, national, state, and local social welfare and human services agencies; international advocacy organizations; and firms and non-profit organizations that engage in global social work initiatives.
Robert Chaskin, PhD
Deputy Dean for Strategic Initiatives
International Programming and
International Social Welfare Program