Social Work

Reynolds Hall
650 Reynolds Alley
West Chester University
West Chester, PA 19383
Page Buck, Ph.D., Chairperson and M.S.W. Program Director
Lisa Allen, Director of Field Education
Theresa Sullivan, Director of Field Education for Philadelphia
Kyle Murray, M.S.W. Recruiter

Professor [top]

Gwenelle O’Neal, D.S.W., Columbia University

Associate Professors

Nadine Bean, Ph.D., Case Western Reserve University
Page Buck, Ph.D., Bryn Mawr College
Wan-Yi Chen, Ph.D., Columbia University
Linda Ello, Ph.D., Rutgers –The State University of New Jersey

Assistant Professors

Christina Chiarelli-Helminiak, Ph.D., University of Connecticut
Amber Holbrook, Ph.D., Bryn Mawr College
Terrence Lewis, Ph.D., Boston University
Michael Pfeiffer, Ph.D., Bryn Mawr College
Julie Tennille, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

Programs of Study [top]

The Department of Social Work is approved to offer the M.S.W. by West Chester University and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

The M.S.W. is a 60-credit program with a concentration in direct practice with individuals and families. The program can be completed in two academic years of full-time study and three or four years of part time. However, qualified applicants who have earned a B.S.W. within the past seven years from a CSWE-accredited program may qualify for advanced standing and reduce their time of enrollment.

The first year of study focuses on foundation social work practice, and the second year focuses on advanced practice. Besides course work, students are placed in field practica in social service agencies concurrently with practice courses. Advanced study in working with individuals and families is augmented by nine hours of graduate-level electives taken in the department or throughout the University.

Students applying to the program should meet the following criteria:

  • GPA of 3.00 (students who do not meet this requirement may be considered for provisional status). The Department of Graduate Social Work does not give credit for life experience or previous work experience.
  • For admission, competency is required in the following areas: humanities, English composition, social sciences (such as sociology, psychology, and women’s studies) and math/science (preferably human biology and statistics, but other math and science courses will be considered). Competency can be verified by completed course work, CLEP examination, or comprehensive examination. Applications without these core liberal arts requirements will be reviewed; however, applicants will be required to submit proof of competency prior to beginning field practicum.
  • TOEFL score if applicant is not a native English speaker
  • Appropriate visa for international students. International students should follow the admissions requirements outlined on the University’s International Studies website.

A limited number of advanced-standing slots are open to students holding a B.S.W. from a program accredited by the CSWE. This optional form of program admittance allows the student to enter the program during the summer, enroll in three “bridge” courses, and move directly into the concentration year. Those with advanced-standing status can complete the program in one year of full-time study or two years of part-time study. To qualify for this level of enrollment, applicants must meet the minimum criteria as follows:

  • B.S.W. from a CSWE-accredited program within the last seven years
  • a GPA of 3.25 (based on a 4.0 scale) in the social work major
  • an overall cumulative GPA of 3.0 (based on a 4.0 scale)
  • an advanced standing recommendation completed by the director of the B.S.W. program that granted their degree
  • all requirements set for regular admission to the M.S.W. program (see above)
  • no grades lower than a B in the following undergraduate courses: two courses in practice, two courses in policy, two courses in human behavior in the social environment, one course in research methods, one course in statistics, a field experience of at least 400 clock hours supervised by an M.S.W. field instructor

Because the number of admission slots for advanced standing is limited, students who do not meet the criteria or are not admitted to this status because it is already filled automatically will be reviewed for regular admission.

Students applying to the program who have completed work in other accredited M.S.W. programs should make an appointment with the director to review official transcripts of previously completed work. Courses for transfer credit will be evaluated for compatibility with the West Chester University M.S.W. curriculum on the basis of similarity in course objectives, textbooks, assignments, and required readings. Only practice and policy courses from CSWE-accredited programs will be considered for transfer into the practice and policy sequences.

Students wishing to transfer credits taken in programs other than social work may petition to have courses in human behavior, research, and elective areas considered. The same criteria referred to above will apply to these requests.

Transfer requests should be put in writing with supportive documentation – transcript and course syllabi – and submitted to the director. Transfer credit is limited to courses in which a grade of A or B was attained. No credit is given for prior life or employment experiences.

For more information on the graduate social work program see the department's website,

Master of Social Work [top]

Course of Study

The MSW Program consists of 51 semester hours of core courses plus nine additional hours of electives. Full-time students complete the program in two years and part-time students complete the program in three or four years. For full-time students, this is typically five courses per semester, one of which is the field placement. Daytime and evening sections are offered for each required course. Certain electives are also offered in the summer. The required courses are designed to be taken in a set sequence. Students are expected to follow this sequence; failure to do so jeopardizes timely completion of the program.

Full-Time Program

Year 1

The full-time MSW program is designed to offer students the opportunity to complete the degree in two years. Students take a total of 20 courses, including two field placements (596, 597, 598, & 599) over the course of four semesters.

Course Sequence
        Year 1 fall: SWG 501, 511, 541, 554, 596
        Year 1 spring: SWG 502, 533, 555, 564, 597
        Year 2 fall: SWG 534, 561, 562, 598, plus elective
        Year 2 spring: SWG 542, 563, 599, plus 2 electives


The part-time option for students, designed for completion within three or four years. Students take two or three designated courses per semester and have a field placement during the second and third years.
Course sequence (3 years)
        Year 1 fall: SWG 511, 541
        Year 1 spring: SWG 533, 555
        Year 2 fall: SWG 501, 554, 596
        Year 2 spring: SWG 502, 564, 597, plus elective
        Year 3 fall: SWG 561, 562, 534, 598, plus elective
        Year 3 spring: SWG 542, 563, 599, plus elective

Course sequence (4 years)
        Year 1 fall: SWG 511, 541
        Year 1 spring: SWG 533, 555
        Year 2 fall: SWG 501, 554, 596
        Year 2 spring: SWG 502, 564, 597
        Year 3 fall: SWG 561, 562, 598
        Year 3 spring: SWG 542, 563, 599
        Year 4 fall: SWG 534 plus elective
        Year 4 spring: 2 electives
The MSW Advanced Standing program allows students who have received a Bachelor of Social Work degree from a CSWE-accredited undergraduate program within the past seven years to complete the MSW degree in one calendar year. To be eligible, students must meet the GPA requirements, and have strong recommendations from their undergraduate program directors. Advanced standing students start in the summer with three "bridge" courses. After successfully completing the summer coursework, they enter the full-time Concentration year curriculum in the fall.
Course sequence/
        Summer before Year 1 (May – July):
        Summer Session I: SWG 503, 511
        Summer Session II: SWG 564, plus an elective
        Year 1 fall: SWG 534, 561, 562, 598, plus an elective
        Year 1 spring: SWG 542, 563, 599, plus an elective
Part-time Advanced Standing students start their first year with the same summer "bridge" courses the full- time Advanced Standing students. Part-time students then take an additional two academic years to complete the Concentration-level course work. Field placements are in the fall and spring semesters of the first year, concurrent with the advanced practice courses, and immediately following the first summer session. There is no field placement in the second academic year of the program.

Course sequence
        Summer before Year 1 (May – July):
        Summer Session I: SWG 503, 511
        Summer Session II: SWG 564
        Year 1 fall: SWG 561, 562, 598                                                                    
        Year 1 spring: SWG 542, 563, 599
        Year 2 fall: SWG 534, plus elective
        Year 2 spring: 2 electives

Degree Requirements

After completing 15 credit hours in foundation coursework (SWG 501, 511, 541, 554, 596) and prior to enrolling in advanced coursework, students are eligible and must apply for degree candidacy.

Degree Candidacy Requirements

1. Students must achieve a grade of B or better in all degree candidacy courses (SWG 501, 511, 541, 554, 596) at the point the application is submitted.
2. Faculty members are asked to share each semester any concerns with the student’s professional behaviors and/or overall mental health. If concerns are expressed, a formal assessment may be required prior to granting degree candidacy.

Field Practicum Policy

Students in the MSW Program must earn a B or better in all field practicum courses (SWG 596, 597, 598, 599). Any grade of B- or lower in a field practicum course must be repeated with remediation. Only one field practicum course may be remediated and a grade of B or better is required before continuing on to the next field practicum course.

Course Descriptions [top]

Social Work
Symbol: SWG

501 Social Work Practice I (3) This course provides an introduction to generalist social work practice including its models, purpose, method, values, and ethics. It incorporates a problem-solving framework and ecological systems perspective and stresses the influence of diversity on practice.

502 Social Work Practice II (3) This course focuses on change theories, intervention strategies, and extended knowledge and skills for working with individuals, families, groups, communities, and organizations. PREREQ: SWG 501.

503 Integrative Social Work Bridge Course (3) This course, required of all advanced-standing students, provides preparation for entry into the second year concentration in direct practice with individuals, families and communities. It integrates foundation values, knowledge, and skills from the content areas of social work practice, human behavior in the social environment, social welfare policy, social work research, and field practicum. PREREQ: Admission to the advanced-standing M.S.W. program.

511 Human Behavior in the Social Environment: The Dialectic of Oppression and Liberation (3) Within the context of a diverse and stratified society, this course examines the impact of discrimination and oppression on members of special groups, i.e., ethnic minorities, women, elderly, disabled, gays, and lesbians while considering the effects of diversity on human behavior and attitudes. It also considers the richness of human diversity.

533 Methods of Social Work Research (3) This course provides students with a theoretical foundation in the method of social work research. The characteristics of scientific inquiry, the structure of theories, problem and hypothesis formulation, models of research design, sampling, measurement, and the logic of casual inferences are taught.

534 Advanced Research Methods: Program Evaluation (3)This advanced research methods course focuses on the exploration of the techniques, methods, and issues relevant to ethical practice in evaluation research.  Quantitative and qualitative evaluation of social service agency programs will be discussed.  Topics covered include history, philosophies and conceptual approaches in program evaluation; design and conducting needs assessment; the analysis and management of program data using computer  software; and the measurement of program goals/objectives through process and outcome evaluations. Participation in hands-on individual and/or small-group projects to experience all phases of the evaluation process will be a central pedagogical approach. PREREQ: SWG 503 or SWG 533.

541 Social Welfare Policy and Services (3) This course emphasizes the historical, economic, political, and philosophical foundations of American social welfare policy.

542 Advanced Policy and Community Practice(3) This course emphasizes advanced level critical and comparative analysis of social policy. Theories of social and organizational change, administration, and legislative advocacy also are reviewed and applied to policy implementation. PREREQ: SWG 503 or 541.

554 Human Behavior in the Social Environment (3) This course uses a developmental and ecological perspective to explore the interaction of biological, psychological, and sociocultural systems, and the influence of human diversity and economics as determinants of human behavior of individuals and families.

555 HBSE: Groups, Organizations, Communities (3) Using both critical and systems approaches, this mezzo/macro level course focuses on assessing the impact of diversity, culture, and oppression on group, organizational, and community development. Multicentric models of group, organizational, and community behavior will be explored and implications for social work practice examined. PREREQ: SWG 511 and 541.

561 Advanced Social Work Practice with Individuals (3) Building on the problem-solving framework, this course focuses on theory-integrated practice. Particular attention is given to psychological, cognitive/behavioral, and social structural theories. PREREQ: SWG 502 or 503. COREQ: SWG 598.

562 Advanced Social Work Practice with Families (3) This course will include advanced knowledge and skills for work with families. The focus is on the major theoretical approaches to work with families, including family systems, structural family therapy, and symbolic experiential family therapy. PREREQ: SWG 502 or 503. COREQ: SWG 598.

563 Advanced Practice Seminar (3) This course will focus on approaches to social change in communities including planning, locality development, and social action models of community organization. Emphasis will be placed on advocacy, empowerment, and social justice with locational, identificational, and interest communities. PREREQ: SWG 502 or 503. COREQ: SWG 599.

564 Human Behavior in the Social Environment: Mental Health and Illness (3) Using a bio-psycho-social ecological template for analysis, this course examines major childhood, adolescent, and adult psychiatric disorders. The impact of the medical model, the DSM IV, and managed care are evaluated in light of social work values and practice. PREREQ: SWG 511, 541, 554.

570 Social Work and Substance-Use Disorders (3) This course reviews the major theoretical approaches to understanding substance-use disorders and to assessment and treatment with individuals, families, groups, and communities. The pharmacology of drugs and alcohol and the nature of addiction are included, as are the influence of culture, ethnicity, gender, the peer group, and mental health disorders. The principles of self-help and therapeutic communities are applied.

571 Social Work with Older Adults (3) This course reviews the status and position of older Americans in society, the community, and the social service delivery system. There is a focus on social work assessment and intervention with elderly clients regarding issues of health, chronic illness, intellectual and emotional status, depression and dementia, relations with the family, care-giving social networks, poverty, retirement, death, and bereavement. Specific approaches to working with older adults are reviewed. PREREQ: SWG 502 or 503 or permission of instructor.

573 Advanced Theory and Practice with Severe Mental Illness (3) This course focuses on diagnostic theories and principles of assessment and intervention with the severely mentally ill. PREREQ: SWG 502, 503, 564, or permission of instructor.

574 Micro-Practice in Occupational/Industrial Social Work (3) This course covers theory, knowledge, and skills necessary for conducting micro-level practice in workplace settings. PREREQ: SWG 502 or permission of instructor.

576 Social Work in Child Welfare (3) This course focuses on the characteristics, strengths, and service needs of families and children in the child welfare system. It examines issues and builds practice skills related to assessing risk to safety in families, child maltreatment, family preservation services, and substitute care such as kinship care, foster care, residential treatment facilities, and permanency planning including adoption. PREREQ: SWG 502 or 503 or permission of instructor.

577 Social Work in Disasters: From Mental Health Services to Recovery through Rebuilding (3) This course focuses on the characteristics, strengths, and service needs of individuals, families, and communities that have experienced a disaster (whether natural or manmade) with resultant mass trauma, deaths, and extensive loss of housing and infrastructure. The course considers individual and family events within their ecological context (including global) and works to build sensitivity to and acceptance of various family forms, community alliances, and cultural patterns. This course will cover all aspects of disaster relief work including mental health services, psychological first aid, critical incident stress management, community recovery, and policy development for disaster preparedness and community rebuilding. PREREQ: SWG 502 or 503 or permission of instructor.

590 Seminar in Social Work (3) In-depth topics in social work offered to complement the program's concentration and not offered in required courses.

591 Independent Study in Social Work (1-3) An independent project developed by a student under the guidance of a specific faculty member.

596 Practicum I (3) This course is a structured field experience at an approved social agency for 250 hours during the semester. Students learn the beginning application of the generalist model of practice and professional social work roles. COREQ: SWG 501, 554.

597 Practicum II (3) This course involves a structured field experience at an approved agency for 250 hours during the semester. Students continue developing the role of beginning professional social worker and methods of social work practice while using the generalist model. PRERQ: SWG 596. COREQ: SWG 502, 564.

598 Practicum III (3) This course involves a structured field experience at an approved social agency for a total of 300 hours for the semester. Students incorporate advanced-level intervention skills with individuals, families, and communities into their professional roles. PREREQ: SWG 503 and 597. COREQ: SWG 561, 562.

599 Praticum IV (3) This course involves a structured field experience at an approved social agency for a total of 300 hours during the semester. The student's experience in field practice culminates through coordination within the professional role: integration of theory to practice with individuals, families, and communities; knowledge of the impact of social policy; the role of research in practice; and the influence of diversity and oppression. PREREQ: SWG 598. COREQ: SWG 563.