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New Leaders in African-Centered Social Work Scholars Program

New Leaders in African-Centered Social Work Scholars Program

Focusing on Culturally-Responsive Social Work Practice in and with Black/African American Communities

The University of Michigan School of Social Work is pleased to offer the New Leaders In African-Centered Social Work (NLACSW) Scholars Program for on-campus MSW students. The NLACSW Scholars Program enhances practice preparation by engaging students in culturally-specific and affirmative curricular and training experiences for service to Black/African Americans.

The NLACSW program will accept incoming on-campus MSW students who are genuinely committed to gaining skills and knowledge for culturally-responsive social work practice in and with Black/African American communities. This program is open to students in all pathways.

NLACSW Program Funding

  • $6,000 per term (3 terms for 12-month / 4 terms for 16-month students)

Specialized Courses

Scholars are required to enroll in the following specialized courses:

  • Culturally-responsive Practice with African American Communities
  • An Afrocentric Approach to Practice w/ African Amer/Black Indiv., Families & Communities

Program Requirements

  • Enroll as a full-time On-Campus MSW student in the 16-month, 12-month (Advanced Standing, MasterTrack MSW, UM-Dearborn Human Services & SW, or UM Sociology & SW) curriculum.
  • Select any pathway and complete all pathway requirements.
  • Complete specified NLACSW required coursework.
  • Agree to accept a field placement in an organization or agency that focuses on addressing issues/topics that affect Black/African American populations.
  • Participate in formal and informal extracurricular cohort activities and supportive cohort consultation monthly meetings.
  • Commitment to delivering culturally responsive practice with Black/African American individuals, families, groups, organizations, or communities as a professional.
  • Due to course and field requirements, dual MSW/MPH students are not eligible to participate in this program.


  • All potential On-Campus MSW students interested in culturally-responsive social work practice in and with Black/African American communities are encouraged to apply.
  • Application deadlines: December 1, 2023 (early application), February 1, 2024 (priority), March 1, 2024. The final deadline has not been set and will be posted at a later date. Selection of applicants will be made from all dates with priority given to those applicants that meet the December and February deadlines.
  • Deferred admits planning to enroll in fall 2024 must submit their special program application by November 1, 2023.
  • Financial need will be considered in the review of special program applications.
  • Your MSW application must be complete by the scholarship deadline.
  • If you would like to apply for the New Leaders In African-Centered Social Work Scholars Program, then please answer "yes" to the question, "Do you plan to apply to an SSW Special Program?" found on the Financial Assistance page of the MSW application and select the New Leaders In African-Centered Social Work Program checkbox. The NLACSW application pages will be added to the end of your MSW application.
  • Be sure to include your name and "NLACSW Program Statement" in the upper corner of your statement before you upload it to your application.

For more information on the New Leaders In African-Centered Social Work Program, contact Trina Shanks at [email protected].

Building on Black/African Traditions to Better Serve the Community

Michigan Social Work’s New Leaders in African-Centered Social Work (NLACSW) Scholars Program is designed to help MSW students develop the skills and training necessary to build culturally-responsive social work practices in and with Black/African American communities. The program was inspired by Michigan Social Work’s 30-year affiliation with the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW), which began with the late Howard V. Brabson, a former president of NABSW and Associate Professor Emeritus of Social Work. 

In 2015, Associate Professor Emerita of Social Work Leslie Hollingsworth looked to build on this legacy by creating a course of study that is culturally specific and affirmative. “We work to serve from a place of understanding,” says Admissions Coordinator Nyshourn Price. “The more you have a background and history of a people, the better you can can give and serve.”

Each year, the NLACSW program accepts a cohort of eight students who are dedicated to working within these communities. Students can choose from all pathways. “Anyone interested in working with Black/African American communities is welcome in this program, and anyone working within these fields should have a culturally rich toolbox - we want to give you the tools,” says Price.

The program receives support and guidance from an active community board; monthly cohort meetings and special events enrich students’ experience. In October of 2018, the program hosted a two-day visit from Dr. Aminifu Harvey, a pioneer in bringing Africentric theory to the field of social work. His visit included a reception, small dinner and public discussion, where he used traditional methods such as storytelling to discuss the history, legacy and descendancy of the diverse cultural issues affecting Black/African-American communities through a social work lens.

I Want to Change the World by Fighting for Racial Justice

Student Profile
Sarah Gettel

  • Scholarship:
    New Leaders in African-Centered Social Work

Sarah Gettel’s interest in community organizing began in her hometown of Grafton, Wisconsin, north of Milwaukee. “I grew up with little awareness of what it means to be white in America,” she says. “While I saw racial segregation in my own community and as a volunteer in Milwaukee schools, it wasn’t until college that I recognized my white privilege and how racism operates today.”

After graduating from Lawrence University in Appleton, WI, Sarah worked in Washington, DC for Polaris, an anti-trafficking organization. In Baltimore in 2015, police arrested a 25-year-old African American man for possessing an illegal knife; he was injured in custody and died. The Black Lives Matter movement, two years old at the time, gained even greater urgency, and greater still as the 2016 election inflamed racial hostilities across the country. Now working for another anti-trafficking organization, Free the Slaves, Sarah found her focus turning toward racial justice.

“Free the Slaves took a community-based approach to anti-trafficking,” Sarah explains. “It made me think that community building, conflict mediation, and intergroup dialogues could support racial healing. As someone who is patient, a peacekeeper, and works well under pressure, I believed that I could do this type of work well. A master’s degree in social work seemed like the right fit, because it would help me sharpen skills in community building and mediation and help me better understand racial issues.”

Of her choice to earn that master’s degree at U-M, Sarah says, “UM School of Social Work felt like the right fit from the beginning. When I visited, I felt like I was a part of the community and could contribute here. The community organizing concentration and the New Leaders in African-Centered Social Work program were an ideal combination that I couldn’t find anywhere else.” The New Leaders in African-Centered Social Work Scholarship helped Sarah financially, as she had to pay for commutes from home in Dearborn to school in Ann Arbor and a field placement in Lansing—a three-hour round trip in all.

“At the School of Social Work and in the New Leaders in African Centered Social Work program, I have found a community that I think of as family. I have built my dialogue and facilitation skill­–in community organizing classes, in restorative practice mini-courses, in my field placement, and in training as a facilitator for social justice dialogue sessions. The hands-on approach in these settings has been invaluable; I can’t imagine learning what I have learned any other way. The professors continually challenge us about what we think we know. You can’t put a price tag on that.”

Sarah’s field placement is with One Love Global, a Lansing organization dedicated to racial equity through community and youth organizing and political empowerment. “It has been an ideal environment for me to learn because it centers communities in social change and racial justice,” Sarah says. “I love supporting youth organizing and building community power for racial justice. The work is important and directly impacts the lives of people I care about, which motivates me to keep going.

“New Leaders in African-Centered Social Work has reinforced my sense of purpose and my belief that we have a responsibility to create a world where equal rights, justice, and opportunity are available to all. I have spent my whole life identifying and working toward this. Without the scholarship, I would not have had the same access to these amazing learning and growth opportunities.”

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