UNC schools of social work and public health mark 25th anniversary of dual degree program
|November 14, 2011|
This article was published originally in the UNC School of Social Work’s Contact magazine.
Twenty-five years ago, two schools at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill joined together to prepare students who are passionate about preventing problems and train those committed to solving them. Since then, more than 100 graduates have earned a dual master’s degree at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and the UNC School of Social Work. The program continues to produce leaders at the community, state, national and global levels.
“I think what has sustained this program is strong student interest,” said Kathleen Rounds, co-director of the dual degree program and chair of the social work doctoral program. “Students who apply want to be part of an exciting learning experience that integrates public health and social work in courses and field placements. They also recognize the value of earning degrees from these two nationally, highly ranked schools.”
The program enrolled 10 new students this year–its largest class. Demand for the degree is based largely on students’ collective desire to create change, said Anita Farel, DrPH, program co-director and professor and associate chair for graduate studies in the public health school’s Department of Maternal and Child Health.
“Most of the students in public health come in with tremendous ideals, and they have a vision for how things could be better at the community level,” Farel said. “Our social work students are very similar. So it’s just a wonderful opportunity to merge the two groups of students who have similar goals.”
The innovative program focuses on macro-practice in maternal and child health and provides interdisciplinary training in program planning, management, evaluation, policy development and advocacy work. Students are required to complete 94 credit hours, including summer block field placements in public health social work. They also participate in a series of intensive interdisciplinary leadership workshops, which are offered through the Public Health Social Work Leadership Training Program. The federal Maternal and Child Health Bureau funds the program.
“There’s a lot of energy around the leadership training,” said Rounds, who directs the leadership program. “Many of our students go on to hold leadership positions here in North Carolina and across the country.”
Over the years, dual degree graduates have landed top posts with state and local health departments, community and migrant health centers, voluntary health agencies, hospitals and medical centers, child advocacy agencies, policy organizations, and international health programs. In these roles, graduates have focused on a myriad of social and health issues, including adolescent health and well-being, substance use and abuse, school-based programs, violence prevention, healthy birth outcomes, and health disparities.
“Our students definitely graduate with a very powerful combination of skills that gives them the credentials they need to keep opening doors,” Farel said.