Why the DSW?
More than fifty universities offer a Ph.D. in social work. Consequently, there are many choices, programs, and opportunities for Licensed Clinical Social Workers seeking careers in academe and research. For those seeking doctoral education to develop clinical scholarship, however, the choices are quite limited. In the past, financial and organizational forces combined to create the conditions for practitioners to hold long tenures at field agencies, and this, in turn, provided contexts for the development of field-based scholarship and the production of knowledge in clinical social work. These leaders often used supervision as the medium for practice knowledge transfer within and between generations of practitioners.
Times Have Changed
Not only are there fewer tenured practitioners at field agencies providing supervision, but evidence-based methods and funding requirements have created new contexts for practitioners seeking to provide clinical leadership. A 2009 “National Action Plan for Workforce Development in Behavioral Health” identified clinical leadership and supervision as a major goal, and the Rutgers DSW Program has been designed and conceptualized not only to address this critical need for social work practitioners in New Jersey, the region, and beyond, but to provide an innovative educational model that will impact and change the profession at large.
Innovative Course Modules
The typical 15-week semester course, organized under the umbrella of a single subject and taught by one instructor, has worked well for undergraduate education and for some graduate programs where students matriculate directly from undergraduate programs. This approach, however, is often related to efficiencies and administrative functions that inherently limit both the scope and adaptability of a given program, no matter the level of esteem, prestige or past record of success. In the Rutgers DSW program, the subject matter will determine the time allocated to instruction. We offer logically linked and integrated course clusters, each with connected and topical modules. Throughout the three years, students will be continuously engaged in writing workshops that synthesize this broader modular system, and help guide students as they create writing portfolios to lead to publication. Furthermore, in traditional doctoral education, students are often limited to a handful of faculty who regularly teach the same classes. Our modular approach provides the flexibility to calibrate instruction to the subject matter and objects of study, and, in this way, students learn from a multitude of faculty with a broad array of expertise. This system allows our faculty (drawn from across the disciplines) to focus instruction on what they do and know best, creating a uniquely collaborative educational environment that we feel is best suited as an ideal model for experienced practitioner doctoral education.
Weekend Residencies for Working Practitioners
Each semester consists of four on-site residencies and one online residency. The four on-site residency sessions will include lectures, seminars, writing workshops, case presentations, meetings with faculty and advisors, and participation in research interest groups. Each day of a residency consists of two three-hour modules–one morning and one afternoon.
Coursework during weekend residencies, online, and over the course of three years, is grounded in three linked and integrated content areas: Clinical Foundation, Clinical Practice, and Engaged Scholarship. The program requires successful completion of 54 credits: 18 required courses, each 3 credits–10 foundation and practice courses, and 8 engaged scholarship courses. These traditional courses translate into 121 foundation and practice modules and 95 engaged scholarship modules. Students enroll in 9 credit hours per semester. In sum, tuition and fees are assessed using the formula of 18 credits per year, for a total of 54. There are no specializations or concentrations, and because of the cohort and modular format there are no electives. The rotation of modules provides flexibility in topic distribution, variety, and continuous revision. There is no internship, as the admission guidelines and format require students to be currently licensed and practicing.
A Focus on Writing
In place of the traditional dissertation, our practice-oriented doctoral program focuses on developing a portfolio of written products–specifically anchored by and around the narrativized case study, and evolving towards an Engaged Scholarship Project, that we believe to be more relevant and useful for working clinicians. We have designed an innovative writing-intensive curriculum that synthesizes all three content areas and offers our students the unique opportunity to engage in guided writing and revision with experienced writing professors. Students will learn various models and strategies for writing publishable material as they matriculate in the program, and professionalize and distinguish themselves through their writing. Additionally, students will create and maintain their own professional WordPress Site, to be interlinked with the DSW Website, as both a digital ‘home’ for continued scholarship and a venue for conversation among peers, as well as practice in establishing a web presence, while learning critical digital literacy skills.