MSW Celebrates 30 years of Leadership and Academic Excellence

Jessica Heymann '22
members of the first class of MSW graduates in their caps and gowns
Students from the first graduating MSW class.

This is a year of celebration here in the Center for Social Work Education, as we mark the 30th anniversary of the founding of the master of social work (MSW) program. The MSW program was founded in 1991 by Dr. John Poulin and Dr. Carolyn Walter, and the program was accredited in 1993. Our founders designed our program to have a dedicated focus on clinical practice, preparing students to take on more advanced clinical roles after graduation.

Since its foundation, the center prides itself on being a leader in professional development. The focus on field education as a signature pedagogy and the integration of real-world social work experience in the classroom makes our program for social work education distinctive. Over time the development of our field education program and the creation of the Widener Social Work Counseling Services have allowed us to provide opportunities for students to get hands on learning experiences in clinical settings, and to give back to our local community. In addition to these hands-on learning and service opportunities and standard course work, the center provides robust opportunities for students to expand their knowledge and to learn about diverse topics related to social work by offering students free admission to all continuing education trainings. 

Members of the MSW program
MSW students celebrate the 2019 Intersectionality Day event.

Over the years the MSW program has been under the leadership of many different members of our Widener social work family, each bringing their own perspective and talent to help the program continue to grow and develop. One notable strength of the program is the way in which it has evolved and grown to keep pace with the ever-changing landscape of the social work field; shifting areas of focus and perspectives to ensure that students receive an education that prepares them to serve a multitude of clients with diverse needs and backgrounds throughout the course of their career. This evolution includes regular reflection and examination of curriculum to respond to the needs of clients by adapting and revising curriculum to include innovative ideas and theories that address trauma, racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression impacting our communities. These changes over time have been a part of the Center for Social Work Education’s dedication to producing students with cultural humility dedicated to advancing social justice. 

“As the current Center Director, I am honored to be counted among the distinguished leaders who developed and nurtured this program for social work professional development,” said Jen Cullen, associate professor and director of the Center for Social Work Education.

“The legacy of Dr. John Poulin, Dr. Paula Sliver and Dr. Beth Barol continues as we graduate social workers armed with the skills to advocate for and help empower others in the fight against injustice.”

Learn more about Widener's MSW program

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