School of Social Work

Master of Social Work Program (MSW)

Director: Cray Mulder, Ph.D., LMSW


In 2009, the School’s mission and its MSW program goals were revised to meet the 2008 Educational Policies and Standards (EPAS) by incorporating measurable and observable professional competencies and professional practice behaviors to create an improved framework for evidenced-based practice. As in many other professions, such as medicine, nursing and psychology, the gold standard in education has become preparing students to provide services that have been grounded by substantial, rigorous research. Future teaching in all school of social work must now focus preparing students to demonstrate the professional skills that have such an evidence base and have been endorsed by CSWE. Students who can demonstrate such skills and behaviors in the MSW program will be prepared for roles in employment and civic engagement.

Foundation Curriculum

The primary purpose of the Foundation Curriculum is to provide the foundational knowledge essential for effective and competent professional social work practice from an Advanced Generalist perspective.  The foundation content is consistent with the values and ethics of the social work profession.  Human behavior and the social environment content emphasizes the knowledge and skills needed for social work competence with problems that occur in the interface between people and their social environments and institutions, as well as examines client strengths.  Moreover, consistent with the Advanced Generalist perspective, each foundation course includes relevant content about the role of social policy, social research, social work practice, human diversity, and populations-at-risk.  Advanced Generalist social workers are also concerned with societal conditions in their efforts to improve the quality of life and employ knowledge and skills regarding social policy and service delivery systems to improve social and economic justice. 

The foundation curriculum addresses the necessity for the broad range of social work skills needed to strengthen the adaptive capabilities of individuals and to influence social and physical environments to be more responsive to human needs.  Students completing the Foundation Curriculum develop the knowledge, values, and skills that transfer from one setting, population-at-risk, geographic area, and social problem to another.  The goal of the Foundation Curriculum is to ensure students achievement of the Behavioral Benchmarks associated with each practice behavior.

Courses in the Foundation Curriculum expose students to new advances in practice knowledge through an integrative approach to Generalist social work practice, beginning to build a bridge from the Generalist method to Advanced Generalist approach to social work practice.  Assessment and intervention on three levels, individual, environment, and societal, along with skill development in a variety of methods, individual, family, group, organizational, and community, is stressed in each foundation course.  This model of social work practice illustrates a multi-level approach to Generalist practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.  Students learn the general problem-solving method of social work practice, along with acquiring an introduction to Advanced Generalist skills to be further delineated in the concentration curriculum described below. 

Advanced Generalist Concentration

As Jones and Pierce (2006) have noted, advanced generalist models such as Grand Valley’s are built on a liberal education foundation that promotes the use of critical thinking skills and conscientious application of advanced practice social work knowledge, skills, values and ethics. Here, as in other schools of social work, the advanced generalist serves a dual purpose. First the model integrates the advanced practice skills concentration curriculum to equip graduates to meet the diverse demands presented by unique social service delivery system; second it provides the context (or implicit curriculum) for an effective program students in which the program achieves its goals. The School‘s advanced generalist concentration is designed to:

  • enhance the depth and breadth of practice in a multi-method, multi-level, and theoretically grounded perspective;
  • refine and shape advanced practitioners through acquisition of professional competencies to assess, intervene, and evaluate within all systems and within all practice environments;

  • affirm that human problems derive from a complex interplay of psychological, social, cultural, economic, political, biological and physical forces;

  • prepare students to effectively intervene with individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities;

  • expand and enhance the foundation of generalist social work core competencies with advanced knowledge and practice behaviors;

  • acquire advanced skills in leadership, collaboration, administration, advocacy, assessment, problem solving, intervention, cultural competency, communication, collaboration, community building, program evaluation, organizational management, policy analysis, and scientific inquiry.

The integration of professional practice skills within this curriculum model results in mastery of social work’s core competencies and advanced generalist practitioners are proficient in a wide range of interventions, skills, roles, theories, systems and settings.

MSW Study Options

The School of Social Work offers students several options for completing the degree that include:

  • Regular admission full-time: curriculum must be completed within 2 years - fall entry only
  • Regular admission part-time: curriculum must be completed within 4 years - fall or winter entry only
  • Advanced standing full-time: curriculum must be completed within 3 consecutive semesters – summer entry only
  • Advanced standing part-time: curriculum must be completed within 6 semesters - fall entry only

Jones, J. B., & Pierce, D. (2006). The medium is the message: Development of a praxis-based comprehensive project model in an advanced generalist MSW program. Journal of Teaching in Social Work 26(1/2), 51-72.


Page last modified September 14, 2016