On Campus

Many schools of social work are embracing the Grand Challenges and integrating them throughout their programs. In January 2019, the GCSW published a paper, “Starting the Conversation: Approaches to Integrating the Grand Challenges into Social Work Academic Programs,” which featured work at Catholic University of America, National Catholic School of Social Service; Colorado State University, School of Social Work; University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration; and University of Southern California, Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. Below are additional exemplars.

If you or your school is active in integrating the Grand Challenges into your program, please email us. In order to continue this conversation, there is also a short survey for schools and departments of social work to include their particular approaches to incorporating the Grand Challenges.

Student Competition at NYU

The Silver School of Social Work’s inaugural #NYUSilverUp4TheChallenge Student Competition, inspired by the Grand Challenges for Social Work initiative, came to a successful conclusion at the competition finals in early April. Anna Nathanson, MSW ’19, was named the Grand Challenges for Social Work Scholar for her concept addressing the “End Homelessness” challenge with a focus on how New York City can take an anti-racist stance in its efforts towards eviction prevention.

The event was the culmination of a seven-month-long, student-led competition, which was launched by the Silver School at the start of the academic year to inspire students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels to apply the core social work values to address one or more of the pressing social issues in the Grand Challenges for Social Work initiative. It was co-created by Class of 2019 MSW students Mary Burns and Elijah Thompson, and coordinated by Burns throughout the academic year under the guidance of the School’s Office of Student Affairs. “We believe our Grand Challenges student competition is the first of its kind among schools of social work, and we are proud to have led the charge,” said Dr. Neil Guterman, Dean and Paulette Goddard Professor of Social Work and Grand Challenges Executive Committee member. “We hope it inspires other schools to engage with the Grand Challenges to strengthen the profession.” Pictured left to right: Mary Burns, Anna Nathanson and Dean Guterman.

Visual Displays of GCs at Colorado State University

In recognition of the importance of partnerships to advance the Grand Challenges for Social Work, Colorado State University’s School of Social Work took a fresh approach to building awareness of the Grand Challenges for the 2019-20 academic year. The school used visual communications to associate faculty members and their research with the GCSW, with the goal of building momentum on a grassroots level among students, and helping students to see how faculty research work—and perhaps even visualize how their own work—has an impact.

Colorado State University also hosted the Western Consortium for the Grand Challenges for Social Work in September 2019. Educators, researchers, and practitioners gathered on campus for the event, “Town-Gown Collaborations for the Implementation of the Grand Challenges,” featuring the development of partnerships between communities and universities and highlighted models for success in achieving shared goals. Note: Read more about GCSW efforts at Colorado State University in this 2019 Education Brief.

University of Denver Science for Action Series

To advance progress on Social Work’s Grand Challenges, the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Denver held a Social Work Grand Challenges Science for Action Series. The series is addressing all 12 of the challenges over four years. Each event is hosted in Denver and made available to social work and allied fields via LiveStream.

GC-Focused Curricula and Field Placements

Inspired by the Grand Challenges, Valerie Bryan, PhD, Associate Professor, University of South Alabama, transformed her BSW macro practice class, using problem-based learning to investigate a number of the Grand Challenges. She has received overwhelmingly positive feedback on this approach and intends to continue teaching the class this way. “We discovered that investigating three of the Grand Challenges was just the perfect number for a semester-long class, interspersed with lecture on community assessment and intervention strategies,” she notes. For more information or and materials, contact Dr. Bryan.

In the spring of 2018, Western Carolina University’s Department of Social Work implemented an exciting new project incorporating the Grand Challenges into its Bachelor of Social Work curriculum and field placements.

Early in the semester, students learned about the Grand Challenges and had in-class discussions about the ways their field agencies are working to address one or more of the challenges. Each student then chose one challenge on which to focus. They answered a series of open-ended questions about their agency and the challenge, and created a poster to illustrate their responses and share information about the work they had been involved in.

At the end of the semester, the department hosted a poster presentation, during which students shared their work with faculty, administrators, and other students. The event was a huge success, celebrating the students’ work and providing them with a meaningful closure experience. It was also a great opportunity to showcase to the community the contributions of the social work program.

For more information about the project, contact Katy Allen, MSW, Assistant Professor & Director of Field Education, Western Carolina University Department of Social Work at cmallen@wcu.edu.

Shared Teaching Resources on Prof2Prof

The 12 Grand Challenge Networks have a space in Prof2Prof. Professors and administrators encouraged to join and upload their best teaching and learning materials. This is a great opportunity to collaborate across disciplines.

GC-Themed Conferences

The Kentucky Association of Social Work Educators 2019 conference, held on November 15, 2019 and Wichita State University’s 2020 POWER conference, March 5-6, 2020, are themed on the Grand Challenges.

Lecture Series at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign School of Social Work held a year-long lecture series designed to meet the profession’s grand challenge of harnessing technology for social good. This lecture series, named after the grand challenge to Harness Technology for Social Good, was designed to present innovative applications of technology powered by science in order to expand new opportunities and collaborations for reaching more people with greater impact on society’s most vexing social problems.

Financial Support for Grand Challenges Research

The University of Washington Office of the Provost and the UW School of Social Work have committed financial support to advance Grand Challenges scholarship. The funds will be used to support graduate student research in Grand Challenge topic areas, deepening the impact of social work innovators and scholars. “The collaborative Grand Challenges approach has energized the field of social work and has led to important innovations that address urgent social problems,” said then-Provost Gerald Baldasty. “At the highest levels of the university, we want to show our support for our graduate students who are committed to this important effort.”

With a generous allocation of funding from Dean Richard P. Barth, PhD, the University of Maryland School of Social Work is is offering a new, competitive dissertation award, in the amount of up to $4,000, to support “Research to Advance a Grand Challenge for Social Work and Society.” PhD candidates are invited to apply for this award by describing how their dissertation study addresses one of the 12 Grand Challenges for Social Work. Dissertation award applications can be found on the UM SSW PhD website under ‘Dissertation Funding.’

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