Director's Message

Director Sara Sanders
Sara Sanders, MSW, PhD
Director, University of Iowa School of Social Work

WELCOME to the University of Iowa School of Social Work, where we inherit and continue the UI's rich tradition of providing social work education across the state of Iowa for the past 50 years. We have a historic commitment to:

  • Social and economic justice
  • Service
  • Dignity and worth of the person
  • The importance of human relationships
  • Culturally competent practice at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels

Faculty and staff in our BA, MSW, and PhD programs across four campuses (as well as online) embrace these values in their scholarship, teaching, and professional service activities. Students have the opportunity to work with faculty who are national experts in the areas of:

  • Child welfare
  • Gerontology and end-of-life care
  • Cultural competency
  • Neighborhood and community development
  • Mental health and health care
  • Social policy and poverty
  • Individual and community trauma
  • Micro and macro practice 

The School of Social Work offers an academically challenging environment for students who share our commitment to the service of others. We focus on culturally competent practice, and we weave content on cultural competency throughout our curriculum. As part of this focus, all students participate in NCBI (National Coalition Building Institute) training and have the opportunity to participate in immersion activities, including the statewide LatinX conference or immersion trips to India, Mexico, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic as well as domestic communities (Philadelphia, PA; Portland, OR) where where issues of racial, economic, and social oppression are explored in depth. We offer a certificate in Critical Cultural Competence, as well as certificates in Aging and Longevity Studies, Resilience and Trauma-Informed Perspectives.  

We are home to the National Resource Center for Family Centered Practice, which specializes in family-centered, community-based, culturally competent practice within organizations and across systems through research and evaluation, training and technical assistance, and information dissemination, as well as the Iowa Consortium for Substance Abuse Research and Evaluation.   

The school is also home to Wild Bill’s Coffee Shop, a learning lab giving students an opportunity to interact with and learn from community members with disabilities who operate the coffee shop. Wild Bill’s Coffeeshop was started in 1975 and continues to partner with organizations committed to working with individuals with a  wide variety of physical and intellectual disabilities. 

Social workers play pivotal role in strengthening the system, empowering individuals, and increasing equity and access—for the benefit of all. We like to call that constant process of examination, reflection, and action "Making Social Justice Work."

We are proud to have alumni living internationally and in all 50 states, working in leadership roles to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities. I invite you to consider the School of Social Work at the University of Iowa. I am proud to have made this school my home.

Sara Sanders, Ph.D, MSW, Professor
Director, School of Social Work
The University of Iowa
330 North Hall, Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: (319) 335-2079

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