The City of Chicago is an irresistible context for the student of social welfare. Chicago has been the center of pioneering movements in social work, community organizing, women's rights, urban planning and architecture, labor organizing, and black politics. Through Chicago's leadership, Illinois was the first state to pass a Mother's Pension Act (forerunner of AFDC) and the first to create a Juvenile Court. A list of its movers and shakers would include not only Cyrus McCormick, Montgomery Ward, and Richard J. Daley, but also Jane Addams, Saul Alinsky, Julia Lathrop, Frank Lloyd Wright, Bertha Palmer, Clarence Darrow, Gail Cincotta, Reverend Jesse Jackson and Barack Obama. Chicago confronts the major issues facing American cities in such areas as economic development, public education, and the political empowerment of minorities, and its efforts are watched by other cities throughout the country.

After a century of immigration, the city's people are extraordinarily diverse. The city and metropolitan area support a vigorous cultural life whose chief glories are the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Art Institute, the Lyric Opera, a distinguished literary tradition, a nationally hailed theatrical scene, and the finest urban architecture and contemporary blues and jazz music in America.

SSA has both benefited from Chicago's vitality and played its own part in Chicago activism. Julius Rosenwald, an early president of Sears Roebuck and one of the School's founding trustees, established scholarships for two African American students with the specification that they do their fieldwork among the city's early African-American community on the West Side. In the years since then, students and faculty have studied and worked in Chicago's ethnic communities, its housing projects, its criminal justice reform movements, and other social experiments. Students who come to study at SSA thus have access to an extraordinary community. 

Currently, SSA has relationships with over 600 agencies and programs throughout the Chicago area. Each year, over 400 students are placed in internships (field placements) and work in the field for an estimated 255,000 hours. Students are guided by practitioners who teach them the best practices while providing services to these communities. 

View a map of field placements in Chicago, or see a list of field education sites.

Bria Berger

Bria Berger, AM '14

“It’s important to have transferable skills and to have a professional mentor. Working with [Assistant Professor] Alida Bouris has helped me both personally and professionally. She has encouraged me to mold my course schedule and placement to my interest and goals, to take risks, and she has helped me shape my vision of who I am in the social work world.”