The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.
Social Work

In May, 1921, the Regents of the University authorized the establishment of a curriculum in social work. This was in response to an urgent request from leaders of social work in Detroit that the University undertake to encourage students to enter this field and give them the necessary training. A "curriculum," in terms of University organization, meant a group of courses selected from various departments and so arranged as to constitute a unified program centering about a given subject. It was thus that the courses in business administration were first organized within the Department of Economics. The staff teaching courses in sociology, then within the Department of Economics, was given charge of the curriculum in social work, which covered courses in sociology, economics, political science, psychology, and history. Elementary courses in these fields might be elected as early as the sophomore year, but the main convergence of the program was upon the junior and senior years, with additional offerings on the graduate level. Besides the courses in the various social sciences there were later added to the curriculum certain professional courses specifically related to social work, such as case work, medical social work, psychiatric social work, and child welfare. A final aspect of these developments was the provision for supervised field work, designed to give students actual contacts with social agencies in Ann Arbor and Detroit, under the direction of a supervisor of field work who joined the staff in 1927. Thus, the three major aspects of education in social work were provided for in the curriculum, viz., background courses in the social sciences, specialized professional courses, and field work.

On the foregoing basis the training program of the University was carried on for a period of fourteen years. Scores of students within this period were graduated to positions with social agencies throughout Michigan and in other states, adding thereby to their academic training actual experience on the job. Many persons who have since become leaders in the profession acquired their initial interest and training through facilities established by the University. In 1927 a certificate in social work was authorized by the Regents, to be granted to those who had added to their academic work in the curriculum a year's experience in a responsible agency under supervision of both the agency and the supervisor of field work on the University staff in charge of the curriculum in social work. This certificate, analogous to that awarded in journalism or nursing, was adopted instead of a specialized degree, which as yet had not been authorized.

Meanwhile, important developments were taking place elsewhere in this new Page  731educational field, emanating largely from leaders and teachers of social work. Even before the University curriculum for the training of social workers was established the Association of Schools of Professional Social Work had been organized. In this association the staffs of the New York School of Social Work and of the Chicago School of Social Service Administration, established by the University of Chicago, took a leading role. Throughout the decade 1920-30 the demand for training in social service had greatly increased, and a large number of schools or curriculums had come into being, both within and outside established educational institutions. Obviously there was a very great need for the authorized expression of educational standards as to types and content of courses and the personnel engaged in giving them. To this task of developing educational standards the Association of Schools of Professional Social Work applied itself. Its efforts were aided by the appearance of such significant monographs as Education and Training for Social Work, by James H. Tufts of the University of Chicago, and by the organization of the American Association of Social Workers, a professional group which seeks to do for social work what professional organizations have accomplished in the respective fields of medicine, law, and education. The University of Michigan, by virtue of its curriculum in social work, became eligible for membership in the Association of Schools of Professional Social Work and was admitted in 1925. In 1940 there were thirty schools in this Association, all of them having met the requirements as to courses of instruction and personnel.

For continued membership in the Association of Schools of Professional Social Work it has recently been required that all instruction of a professional or technical character be raised to the graduate level and preceded by undergraduate work in the social sciences. Consequently, in 1935 the University reorganized its program in this field through the establishment of what was first called the Institute of the Health and Social Sciences, and later, the Institute of Public and Social Administration. The purpose of organizing this new graduate unit has been to correlate the training program in public administration, which has its backgrounds in the Department of Political Science, with the program in social administration, which, as we have seen, was long organized as a curriculum in the Department of Sociology.

In social work a two-year graduate program within the Institute has been established leading to the degree of master of social work. For entrance upon this graduate program the student must have had thirty hours of credit in the social sciences during his undergraduate period. The graduate work is for the most part of strictly professional or technical character. The work is now given entirely in Detroit at the Horace H. Rackham Educational Memorial, on the corner of Woodward Avenue and Farnsworth Street.

In some academic circles these training programs for public and social service are criticized as being outside the field of formal intellectual interests which should, it is held, be the primary concern of our educational institutions. Over against this contention it may be urged that the needs of our democratic civilization are many, not the least of which is the existence of a body of trained personnel in the various fields of public service. The depression has served, as nothing else could, to throw into strong relief the multifarious social problems which must be dealt with sympathetically and expertly if even greater chaos is not to ensue. It would seem as if a democratically supported Page  732state university would be under the necessity of devoting some of its attention and resources to the recruiting and training of students for public service in the field of social work.