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Information on this page is for Fall 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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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

The globally-focused graduate courses listed below can be taken to fulfill 3 credits of the Global Social Work Practice pathway electives. On the course planning worksheet, these electives are listed as SWeGL. Please also see the note about language courses that can be taken as SWeGL electives on the Language Courses tab.

There are many other courses not listed below that may be of interest and may also meet the SWeGL elective requirement. If you identify a globally-focused course not listed below that you want to take as a SWeGL elective, please contact your SSW advisor for approval. Interest in courses numbered below 500 should be checked for graduate-level status since many are only offered for undergraduate credit. You can check this by contacting the department offering the course or contacting the SSW Registrar (ssw.registrar@umich.edu).


The courses below have been taken by previous MSW students or have been identified as of possible interest to Global Social Work Practice pathway students. This list is not exhaustive. In addition, some courses may be restricted, require prerequisites, not be open to social work students, and/or require instructor permission. If you encounter problems registering for these courses, please contact the department offering the course. The SSW registrar will not be able to assist because these courses are not offered by the SSW.

The courses listed below are offered in various semesters. To see if a course is offered in the term you are interested please check the SSW list of outside courses, the website of the department offering the course, or the Wolverine Access Class Search page.


  • EDUC 644 Comparative and International Education
  • EDUC 647 History of Mexican American Education

Health Behavior & Health Education

  • HBEHED 617 Global Public Health
  • HBEHED 677 Health Impacts Of Immigration Law Enforcement In The U.S.

Health Management & Policy

  • HMP 677 Health Care Organization: An International Perspective



  • NURS 521 Introduction to Global Health: Issues and Challenges

Public Health

Public Policy

  • PUBPOL 534 Economics of Developing Countries
  • PUBPOL 541 International Trade Policy
  • PUBPOL 675 Human Rights and International Policy
  • PUBPOL 717 Social Activism, Democracy & Globalization: Perspective of the Global South
  • PUBPOL 763 Global Issues: Drugs, Crime, and Terrorism

Ross School of Business, Business Administration

  • BA 620 A Cross-Disciplinary Perspective on Healthcare Delivery in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

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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