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Welcome Prospective LGBTQIA Students

Our faculty and staff extend a warm welcome to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning/Queer, Intersex, Ally (LGBTQIA) students. We are committed to providing and maintaining a "Safe Zone" for LGBTQIA students where social work values are modeled. We believe in providing students an open space for dialogue, and support so you will be successful in your field placement.

OUT in Field

Social work graduate students want a field placement that will provide them with a good educational experience. They have the right to a safe and comfortable field environment. Transgender, bisexual, lesbian, gay, queer, questioning, intersex and ally (TBLGQIA) people may withhold personal information about their lives because they fear discrimination, rejection, or isolation. They also may decide to be “out” in all areas of their lives. This “Management of Disclosure” is a personal decision made by each individual student based on age or stage of life, length of time they have been aware of their sexuality, level of TBLGQIA community connections, along with the intersection of class, race, and abilities.

Where We STAND

The University of Michigan School of Social Work (U-M SSW) Office of Field Education, faculty and staff are committed to providing and nurturing a “safe zone” for our students. U-M SSW has a nondiscrimination policy, which includes a commitment to inclusivity. We ask all fieldwork sites and field instructors to sign an Affirmation Agreement with U-M SSW that states they will “support the assignment of students without discrimination.”

How To Be An Ally

For Agencies:

  • Have agency-wide diversity and human rights policies
  • Provide an inclusive and physically friendly environment
  • Support and encourage the presence of “out” staff
  • Provide resources for TBLGIQA clients

For Field Instructors:

  • Assess your knowledge/skills & seek out learning opportunities
  • Assess your agency for TBLGQIA friendliness
  • Support diversity in hiring
  • Advocate for equity and justice

Finding Support

UM-SSW Field Faculty along with the Director of Field Education, want to hear from all students who may have questions or concerns:

  • TBLGQIA friendly field placements
  • Experiences of heterosexism, homophobia, or transphobia within a fieldwork setting
  • Support for disclosure of sexual orientation and gender identity within the field placement setting

Talk About It

Talk to an OFE Field Faculty about your fieldwork site. Does it have:

  • A non-discrimination policy that addresses sexual; orientation and gender identity?
  • “Out” TBLGQIA staff?
  • TBLGQIA cultural competence training or TBLGQIA focused professional development opportunities for staff?
  • Policies/expectations related to staff self-disclosure with clients.

Coming Out in Field

U-M SSW students from the Out in Field community share some of their experiences:

“I was uncertain how I would be accepted by my clients because I am a gay, multi-ethnic male. Out in Field helped me understand I have to do what feels appropriate for me. Since I am “out” at field, it has fostered discussions about the TBLGQIA community and has allowed me to be a resource for TBLGQIA clients.” – John McDowell, MSW, 2014

“My sexual orientation is part of me that I am now allowing myself to get to know and is, at this point, my lightly guarded secret. Being able to introduce my queer identity—and my whole self—at my discretion, has been strengthening. I couldn’t imagine having taken the steps I have without the guidance found through Out in Field.” – MSW, 2014




  • Dooley, J. (2007). Coming out in field placement: Some considerations for LGBT students. The Social Worker Magazine, 14(1). Retrieved from The New Social Worker Online Magazine
  • Messinger, L. (2004). Out in the field: Gay and lesbian social work students in field placement. Journal of Social Work Education, 40(2/3), 187-204
  • Messinger, L. (2007). Supervision of lesbian, gay, and bisexual social work students by heterosexual field instructors: A qualitative dyad analysis. Clinical Supervisor, 26(1/2), 195-222
  • Newman, P. Daley, A. & Bogo, M. (2009). Breaking the silence: Sexual orientation in social work field education. Journal of Social Work Education, 45(1), 7-27

Authored By

Leigh A. Robertson
Field Educator / LEO Lecturer IV

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