New Concentration Prepares Social Work Students to Become Educators, Scholars

Flex space in the basement of William T. Young library to provide students a space to join their online classes. Photo by Pete Comparoni | UKphoto

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This article was originally published in UKNow.

In a world continually dealing with social injustices and inequality, communities need continued support.  

Social workers provide critically important services aimed at improving safety and well-being. The hope is, that behind every person going through a difficult challenge — whether it’s abuse, addiction, disability, discrimination or poverty — there’s a social worker waiting to help address it.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest have underscored the demand for skilled practitioners who can adapt in a variety of settings.

Confronting these challenges starts with world-class instruction and educational experiences. In an effort to meet the moment, a new concentration in the Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) program will prepare social work students to become educators.

“The importance of ensuring that social work educators have the requisite, knowledge and skills to educate future practitioners cannot be overstated,” Jay Miller, dean of the UK College of Social Work, said. “The new education concentration is truly something.”

In February of 2020, the College of Social Work (CoSW) at the University of Kentucky launched the online DSW to creatively address society’s most complex social issues.

The first of its kind in the state, the program successfully prepares students for advanced social work practice, clinical research, administrative leadership and executive roles. Initially, the DSW program provided social work practitioners the opportunity to build upon their skills by receiving specialized training in one of three areas: administrative leadership, advanced clinical practice or military behavioral health (MBH).

Now, in addition to those, students will be able to choose teaching as a specialized area of study.

The new concentration will build upon the existing DSW program by preparing students to engage in social work education as leaders and scholars. The innovative curriculum will address the dynamic and political nature of social work education by focusing on diversity, expansion and systemic oppression, among other areas.

“For more than a year, we have engaged with scholars all over the country to conceptualize a concentration designed to meet the contemporary challenges facing social work educators and practitioners,” Natalie Pope, director of doctoral programs in the CoSW, said. “This concentration offers students a unique pathway to becoming a doctoral-level social work educator.”

Educators and social workers are often linked, because they’re influential in their work to bring about positive change. Ultimately, graduates of the program will be positioned to advance their careers, become transformational leaders and join the greater conversation about creating a stronger society. 

“To be clear, teaching is a form of social work practice,” Miller explained. “As such, we want to make certain that our graduates are prepared to engage in that practice in a competent, collaborative and creative way.”  

In a continued effort to make UK programs accessible and attainable, the DSW is fully online and can be completed in two years (full time). There are also part-time options available.

If you’re interested in learning more about the DSW program, and the new concentration, watch this video, call 859-257-6650, text “DSW” to 31996 or email

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For 85 years, the University of Kentucky College of Social Work (CoSW) has been a leader in social work education. As a college, we promote community and individual well-being through translational research and scholarship, exemplary teaching, and vital community engagement. We are committed to the people and social institutions throughout Kentucky, the nation, and the world. Like the University, CoSW is an organization that cultivates a diverse academic community characterized by interpersonal fairness and social justice. We are fiercely committed to developing outstanding social work professionals — leaders who will serve individuals, families, and communities through innovative and effective practices that are guided by cultural competency, systematic ethical analysis, and a keen and pragmatic understanding of the human condition.