MSW Curriculum

Foundation Courses

CSWE promulgates policies with to the five elements of the Professional Foundation Curriculum:

  • Human Behavior and the Social Environment
  • Social Welfare Policy and Programs
  • Social Work Practice
  • Research
  • Field Practicum

and the Advanced Curriculum. These policies are included in Appendix C. The CSWE guidelines are integrated within the foundation year and the advanced concentration year of the School's MSW sequenced course of Study. Each course is described in the General Catalog.

Advanced Courses

CSWE requires that the advanced curriculum be built on the liberal arts perspective and the professional foundation content. A concentration of specialized knowledge and practice skills; including relevant practice theories and methods, social policy and research is required. Advanced students should develop the ability to assess critically the practice theories associated with their concentrations, to evaluate their own practice, and to identify those areas of knowledge and skill that should be the focus of continuing personal and collective professional development beyond graduation.

The School's advanced curriculum offers students a choice between two concentrations: Family Centered Practice and Integrated Practice. Advanced students take courses in theory, policy, practice, practicum and practicum seminar in one of these concentrations.

Family Centered Practice

The Family Centered Practice concentration (micro level) prepares students to provide direct services to individuals and families experiencing problems which have impaired personal or family functioning such as mental illness, family violence, abuse and neglect, juvenile offenses, substance abuse, relationship problems, and poor parenting skills. The goals of such work are to increase competence of individuals, to support family functioning, and to decrease the need for various types of institutionalization.

The Family Centered Practice curriculum enables students to work directly with individuals and families as well as with the larger systems on their behalf. The term family is broadly defined to include step families, single parent families, same sex couples, adult child- parent families, as well as the more traditional families. Thus, sensitivity to a variety of family structures is emphasized. Graduates of this concentration work in mental health, traditional family service as well as the intensive family based service, and child welfare agencies. As the only graduate social work program in a rural state, practice knowledge and skills need to be generalizable; thus, students are prepared for practice in a variety of settings and a variety of populations across the life span. The theoretical basis for this concentration is family systems theory, which emphasizes interpersonal and social forces over intrapsychic factors in explaining human behavior and change. Under this view, mobilizing strengths in the system is emphasized over diagnosing pathology in creating change. While the truth of other explanatory theories are not denied, systemic approaches and the post systemic approaches (such as the narrative approaches) are the basis for this concentration because they seem most generalizable to more populations, they are more contextual, thus compatible with the social work person-in-environment philosophy; they are generally briefer and less intrusive than other approaches; and they can be practiced in offices, clients' homes, or neutral territories. While several specific approaches fall under the general rubric of "family systems" theory, they share some common assumptions about human behavior and a practice approach has been developed and is taught based on this contextual view. This systemic approach to clinical social work practice is one that fits well with involvement of clients' natural helping networks, paraprofessionals, and volunteers.

Integrated Practice

The Integrated Practice Concentration teaches a model of practice which aims to meet the multiple needs of individuals and families through culturally sensitive assessing, planning, intervening, and evaluating in multiple systems. These skills are needed for a broad set of interventions (direct practice, planning and program development, team building, networking, and client information management) that are used by social workers doing family-centered, case management, and community practice.

The Integrated Practice curriculum is designed for students who will work in settings where advanced generalist interventions are necessary, such as community-based and family-based agencies, rural settings, and large complex organizations (hospitals, schools, and correctional facilities). In these settings, social workers function as team members and team leaders, and must often coordinate activities across different departments and agencies. The Integrated Practice concentration is based on the concept of person-in-environment and is an extension of multi-systemic practice first conceptualized by Jane Addams. The theoretical foundations of the Integrated Practice concentration are social network and social systems theory (family and organizational systems), and empowerment models, as well as midrange theories of communication, power, conflict, political economy, and decision theory as they apply to changing the circumstances of oppressed/distressed individuals and families. The policy framework for the concentration includes both a comparative analysis of policy and program, and an understanding of the reciprocal relationships between the problems of individuals and families and those of the systems in which they are enmeshed. The Integrated Practice concentration teaches students to broadly assess needs of individuals and families, and it develops in students the skills needed to enable their clients to solve or remediate these difficult situations. In addition, when these needs are associated with problems located in larger systems--such as organizations, support networks, and inter-agency service delivery systems--the concentration teaches planning and intervention skills designed to directly change these larger systems. The concentration prepares students to competently perform these direct interventions at an advanced level of skill: needs assessment research, planning and mobilizing resources (including grant writing), intervening in multiple systems using parallel processes (including team and network building) and designing and managing computerized information systems for the purpose of client assessment and program evaluation. These skills are particularly useful for students who will serve in the roles of case manager, service coordinator, supervisor, and program planner and developer. To learn more about integrated practice, click here.


The requirements on the previous pages leave opportunity for up to 12 hours of electives. An elective course (2-3 s.h. minimum) directly related to the student's advanced practicum is required no later than the summer prior to advanced practicum. Other electives may be taken either within the School of Social Work or in other departments of the University. Students are encouraged to take courses in other departments since interdisciplinary development is highly valued in the School. 42:140 Human Behavior in the Social Environment (3 s.h.), 42:143 Social Welfare Policy & Practice, 42:184 Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Aging (3 s.h.) and 42:199 Selected Aspects of Social Work & Social Welfare (Sexual Health in Later Life) (3 s.h.) are available through correspondence study.

Fields of Practice

While there are no formal requirements in the curriculum design for coursework in specific fields of practice, the School does make an effort to organize clusters of courses that give focus to curriculum in certain fields. Currently nine fields of practice have been identified and developed: children and families; criminal justice; family-based services; gerontology; health and mental health; marriage and family; rural social work; social work in the schools; and substance abuse. Students who have interests in one of these fields are encouraged to make use of the flexibility of the curriculum to choose practicum, electives, advanced research projects and final examination projects that will provide opportunity for increased knowledge of the field and skills in working within that field.

Structure and Sequence of the Program

The School admits full-time and part-time students in either the 60 or 48 hour program. Programs are offered in a year-round, three semester sequenced format. Students generally have only one opportunity each year to take each course so it is essential that the sequence be understood and observed. Completion of the foundation coursework is prerequisite to beginning advanced courses. Students may not advance from 1st semester practicum to 2nd semester practicum if the 1st semester practicum seminar has not been satisfactorily completed.