Addressing Social Inequality is a Program of Study. You must be accepted first to SSA's Social Work and Social Welfare (SW) program and then by the Program of Study. SSA students apply to Programs of Study during their first year.
The Addressing Social Inequality: Innovations in Policy Practice program prepares social administration students to confront social inequality as it takes shape at the front lines of key societal institutions – among them social service agencies, workplaces, courts, city halls, and community organizations. The program builds on a unique strength of SSA faculty: applying a street-level approach that moves beyond public policy as written on paper to examine policy as implemented in practice. Students learn to identify, and disrupt, sources of inequality structured through the day-to-day practices of organizational actors responsible for implementing policy on-the-ground, be they government officials, employers, judges, police, and of course, social workers. To understand the broader context that sustains poverty and inequality, students deepen their knowledge of the structural conditions that shape opportunity, including the macro-dynamics of globalization, the politics of social welfare policymaking, the place of low-wage jobs in the labor market, and the role of systems in families and communities. Courses also incorporate historical perspectives that enable students to assess the consequences of prior efforts to address social inequality through legislative policymaking, social mobilization, advocacy, and social program delivery – important knowledge if we are to avoid missteps of the past. The ultimate goal of the program is to equip students with the skills they need to design and implement policies and programs, both public and private, that mitigate inequality in the major institutions that shape the lives and life chances of the most marginalized among us. Please note that direct practice students are welcome to apply, but there could be challenges scheduling courses.
There are two required courses for this program that engage students in an in-depth analysis of two key institutions that play a pivotal role in determining economic and social wellbeing: (1) social assistance and services and (2) employment. The courses model a street-level approach to policy development and implementation, unpacking the terms under which people are incorporated into the labor market and the terms under which they receive supports from the government and community organizations.
Core faculty advise students on their selection of electives and second-year field placement to ensure students have the opportunity to develop expertise in a particular field of practice. Faculty also curate a list of possible electives that incorporate content on the (mis)match between policy as intended and as implemented.
Other activities offered through the Program of Study include: one-on-one advising with core faculty; a mentorship program linking current students with graduates of the Poverty & Inequality Program of Study (the precursor to this program); and monthly brown-bags.
A set of field placements has been identified that provides students with excellent experience in considering policy and program implementation from a street-level perspective. The placements provide opportunities for students to gain direct experience implementing policies and programs, organizing labor actions, advocating for policies, engaging in poverty-relevant research, and working with community groups. Placements are designed for social administration students who are preparing for careers in policy development and evaluation, program management, workforce development, community organization, advocacy, and labor organizing. Other placements, such as in direct practice, are possible with prior approval.
Susan Lambert, PhD
NOTE: While some of the required courses may be offered in the evening, no Program of Study can be completed entirely through evening courses and fieldwork.