July 20, 2017

Dear community members, alumni, students, and faculty:

We would like to respond publicly to some of the concerns being raised about the MSW redesign process.  To begin, we want to outline the process so far and to address some of the substantive issues that are on the table.  We will then outline how the process will unfold over the coming year.

The existing MSW program has remained essentially unchanged for more than 20 years.  While change can be difficult, the Carleton School of Social Work must adapt to evolving social, political and economic environments.  A new generation of scholars and students have come and will continue to come to the School.  They bring a diverse range of identities and experiences, reflecting indigenous knowledge and demographic and cultural migrations across Canada and the world.  Our MSW proposal aims to create a space for expression and development of these diversities.

In 2015 we began a process of renewal which included consultations with students, a community forum with community members, including a number of field partners and alumni of the School, and again this past year a town hall with students.  In addition to these public activities, the MSW Committee has reviewed curricula from across the country and has had extensive and detailed discussions.  We have engaged in a careful review of the existing curriculum with the aim of increasing program flexibility, professional relevance, and opportunities for innovation.

The MSW Committee has also paid close attention to structural social work pedagogy at Carleton.  In the 1970s and 1980s Carleton led a dramatic re-imagining of social work in this country which today is expressed in the fact that most schools of social work across Canada now teach social work from a structural perspective.  We have also seen the emergence of new and exciting critical and clinical theories that speak to the needs of diverse populations.  These developments emerged in our comprehensive review of social work programs across the country.  In recent years, the School has welcomed a number of new scholars who bring these new perspectives to their research and teaching.  We are excited and committed to ensuring that they can share this knowledge with faculty colleagues, students, and community partners.  We are not abandoning structural social work but aim to ensure that it is nourished with new ideas and energy.

Faculty and instructors who teach in the first term of the first year recognize that the course load is too heavy for most students.  Students and practicum supervisors have observed that the existing program does not provide sufficient opportunity for development of sustained focus and concentration as preparation for the winter practicum.  To provide focus we propose adding a new course, to be offered for full day each week during the fall term that focuses on knowledge and skills for direct practice.  To provide a manageable workload we propose deleting the requirement for the history course.  We will continue to explore whether there are both sufficient interest and resources to offer it as an elective.

We have proposed eliminating the requirement to declare a concentration, in either direct intervention or policy.  This will give students more flexibility to choose individual pathways through the program.  The current balance between practice and policy courses will continue unchanged in the proposed program.   Our School’s strength has been, and will continue to be, to educate for both micro/direct and macro/policy work.

Finally, our proposal creates a one term required research course.  This is consistent with the requirements of MSW programs across the country.  As a result, the community based research course will no longer be a required course.  Our proposal provides students with program flexibility and alternative research options responsive to their needs and interests.  We are excited by the prospect of opening up opportunities for faculty and students to experiment with innovative and emerging research methodologies and designs.

After 20 years of staying the course a new generation of scholars and students must be provided with an opportunity to shape their future, their social work, and their School.  Today, faculty and students need to have the space to adopt new approaches that meet the challenges of social work education and the field. We are honouring the School’s past by expanding our horizons to embrace developments that will build a bright future.

We invite you to provide input into this process by e-mailing the graduate program supervisor Sarah Todd  at sarah.todd@carleton.ca.  Over the next six months our conversations will continue.  We are committed to continuing the dialogue with faculty, students, and community partners, at the fall community forum.  In May 2018, we intend to have completed a package of program changes so that a revised MSW program can begin in September 2019.

We know that many of you have strong attachments to the School of Social Work.  We value your input and your support as we explore new pathways into a collective future.

Sincerely,
Sarah Todd, Supervisor of the Graduate Programs
Gerald de Montigny, Director School of Social Work

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