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Gabriela Santiago-Romero, MSW '18, speaks about her experience at U-M and her run for Detroit City Council in District 6.

Policy & Political Social Work

The Policy & Political Social Work pathway prepares students to use the political system to create social change. Students learn theories and principles behind socially just policies, develop methods and skills to analyze policy, and study how politics impact the lives of those that they serve, on both a micro and macro level. They advocate on behalf of people from underserved, underrepresented and marginalized groups, addressing policies that impact communities and empower others to become politically engaged to further social justice. Students will develop the skills to run and hold public office.

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Political social workers are employed by nonprofit organizations and government agencies to enact large-scale social change. Political social workers are also elected officials. Political social workers accomplish social change through legislation, education and other interventions.

  • Elected Official
  • Campaign Manager
  • Legislative Aide
  • Constituent Services Specialist
  • Lobbyist
  • Civil Servant
  • Policy Analyst
  • Government Relations Specialist

Social workers bring important perspectives to elected office. We center justice and equity in our policymaking, having seen firsthand how laws impact vulnerable communities

Kathy Ki Tran, MSW ‘03 and Virginia House of Delegates Member

Field Experience

In the MSW program, some of the most important learning occurs outside of the classroom. Field placement is a supervised internship at an organization that provides the hands-on, real-world training portion of the curriculum. Field placements might include:

  • Political Offices
  • Professional Associations
  • Advocacy Groups
  • Legal Offices
  • Government Agencies
  • Community Organizations

Program Details

Pathway Faculty

  • Daniel Alvarez

    Daniel Alvarez

    LEO Lecturer I
  • Trevor Bechtel

    Trevor Bechtel

    LEO Adjunct Lecturer and Poverty Solutions Student Engagement Coordinator

Student Profiles

Student Profile
Emily Hopkins

Emily Hopkins is a second-year master’s Social Policy and Political Social Work student with a focus on Children and Youth in Families. Originally from Albuquerque, NM, Emily received her Bachelor’s degree in Child Development from Texas Christian University in 2018. Emily chose to attend Michigan’s School of Social Work because she thought it would be challenging and help her grow both personally and professionally. She is passionate about serving others and giving voice to vulnerable populations, specifically children within the child welfare system. When not studying, Emily can usually be found putting the ‘social’ in social work, baking desserts for friends, or boxing. At Michigan, Emily discovered her passion for policy and political social work. Throughout her time in the program, Emily has had multiple opportunities to further develop her passions and career interests such as: attending Student Advocacy Day on the Hill in Washington D.C. and lobbying to Michigan Representatives; conducting research for a State Representative to support a proposed bill; working on a local political campaign as a Campaign Researcher and Communications Coordinator. After graduation, Emily hopes to work as a Legislative Aide for a few years before going to Law School. In the future, Emily hopes to become a Judge or a Prosecutor. 

Alumni Profile
Sarah Leder

Sarah Leder is a Presidential Management Fellow Finalist (PMF) and is currently applying to various federal agencies.  She earned her Master of Social Work from the University of Michigan in December 2019. During her time in the MSW program, Sarah focused on policy and politics, earning a Certificate in Political Social Work. She interned with two different organizations. First, she worked with the Michigan State Appellate Defender Office’s Juvenile Lifer Unit. There, Sarah created Comprehensive Reentry Plans for clients who were receiving a new sentence. Additionally, she conducted mitigation and casework for individual clients. Her second field placement was with The Justice Policy Institute (JPI) in Washington, D.C. Working as a Research and Policy Graduate Intern, Sarah contributed to reports (e.g. An Analysis of Youth in the Adult System Charged with Violent Crimes) and attended community-based meetings with Baltimore-area organizations and in Maryland prisons. Sarah believes her time working in the federal government will further her ability to advocate with and for incarcerated individuals and promote criminal justice reform in the US.

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