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Information on this page is for 2020-2021 applicants. If you were admitted prior to Fall 2020 please click here to view information accurate to your curriculum.

Global Social Work Practice

The Global Social Work Pathway is for those social work students interested in dedicating themselves to global issues. The pathway addresses topics, such as migration, displacement, poverty, climate change, indigeneity, etc. from a perspective that recognizes an imbalance of power and cultural differences within a global context.

Students will engage with culturally diverse communities, domestically and abroad; they will become part of a global community of social workers who use their knowledge, skills, and values to work with communities in promoting social change, empowerment and supporting the liberation of people.

Students will develop a critical understanding of how their own assumptions, values, biases, positionalities (gender expression, age, race/ethnicity, etc.) affect their practice of global social work. Students will examine issues of power, privilege, oppression, social justice, and the processes and impact of the global capitalist project - acts of war, colonization, extraction, international aid and development, and democratization.

Implications for global social work policy and practice will be explored by evaluating programs and policies, co-developing training with agencies in international settings, advocating and organizing in collaboration with diverse communities, and by participating in field-based projects, global independent studies, and courses and lectures by local and international experts, community leaders and practitioners.

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Pathway Practice Scope & Clinical Licensure

Students interested in pursuing social work clinical licensure in the United States of America are recommended to select a primary pathway that focuses on direct, interpersonal practice such as 1) Interpersonal Practice in Integrated Health, Mental Health, & Substance Abuse, 2) Welfare of Children and Families, or 3) Social Work Practice with Older Adults and Families from a Lifespan Perspective and the Global Social Work Practice pathway as their secondary pathway.

For more information on licensure, please visit the Professional Licensing and Exam Preparation website.


Examples of career (job) titles and positions relevant to this pathway include but are not limited to:

  • Academic Advisor/Student Affairs Advisor (provide international student support)
  • Capacity Building Specialist
  • Case Manager (resettlement and immigration)
  • International Family Development Specialist (i.e. international adoption)
  • International Development Worker
  • Health Educator
  • Human Rights Advocate
  • Policy Advisor
  • Program Assistant (international or research grants)
  • Program Development (international or research grants)
  • State Department or U.S. Embassy Worker
  • Study Abroad Program Manager

Field Experience

Types of agencies and settings where students in this pathway may engage in field learning:

  • Michigan-based placements that focus on global issues/populations
  • National based placements that focus on global issues/populations
  • Field placements outside the US with U-M partners

Global Opportunities

Global Field Placements

Global field placements offer students who are committed to global social work in the Advanced Standing, MasterTrack MSW, or out-of-sequence, 16-month curriculum track the opportunity to complete a spring/summer field placement in a global location. The Office of Global Activities also works with the Office of Field Education to provide domestic field placements that address cross-cultural and global social work issues. If you are interested in a field placement outside the U.S., please make sure to reach out to the Office of Global Activities by emailing ssw.oga@umich.edu.

Learn more about global field placements »

Global Independent Study

The global independent study option offers students in all curriculum tracks the opportunity to work with a social work faculty sponsor to develop a project to explore or research a particular social work issue in a global context. Travel occurs during the spring/summer term.

Learn more about global independent study »

Peace Corps

The Masters International Volunteer Program offers 20-month and advance standing students in any practice area or concentration the opportunity to incorporate 27 months of Peace Corps service into their MSW program. The Peace Corps Coverdell Fellows Program provides Returned Peace Corps Volunteers the opportunity to earn a Master in Social Work at the University of Michigan.

Learn more about Peace Corps related programs »

Program Details

Students enrolled in the Global Social Work Practice pathway may take language courses to fulfill 3 credits of the Global Social Work Practice pathway electives.  SSW students may apply up to 4 graduate-level language credits toward their MSW degree.

For other courses that can meet the pathway elective requirement, please see the Outside Courses tab.

Please make sure to read the Graduate Credit for Language Courses page in its entirety for important information about how language credits are applied towards the MSW degree.

Language courses can be taken at the undergraduate or graduate level through the College of Literature, Science and the Arts (LSA) and its various language and culture departments or the Residential College. A list of languages offered at U-M through LSA and their affiliated departments is included here for your reference. To view a list of associated course numbers please refer to the LSA Language Requirement webpage.

If you are interested in further developing language skills but not necessarily for credit, or if the language you are interested in developing is not offered through a U-M department, the U-M Language Resource Center provides resources to support language learners on campus, including language tutors, workshops, and access to various international print and media.

Pathway Faculty

  • Fernanda L. Cross

    Fernanda L. Cross

    Assistant Professor of Social Work
    Latinx mixed-status families, undocumented immigrants, ethnic-racial socialization, discrimination experiences, adolescent mental health and academic outcomes

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