Toward the Common Good: Fairfield’s New Master of Social Work

Toward the Common Good: Fairfield’s New Master of Social Work

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The Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions is now accepting applications for the newly launched Master of Social Work (MSW).

Having an MSW program makes coming to Fairfield so much more attractive since students can complete both their undergraduate and their master’s degrees in just five years.

— Department Chair Rona Preli, PhD, MSW

Respect for the dignity of all people, a passion for social justice, and a commit­ment to use one’s education and talents in service to oth­ers are core principles of a Jesuit education. As these principles are also the cornerstones of the field of social work — with its acknowledged aim to enhance human well-being and to advocate against oppression — it was a natural fit for Fairfield University to launch a bachelor of social work (BSW) major in the Egan School of Nursing & Health Studies and a master of social work (MSW) program in the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions (GSEAP).

“Our commitment to service and caring for others dovetails nicely with the behavioral health programs already in ex­istence in GSEAP,” said Dean Bob Hannafin, PhD. “We’re happy to announce that, in coordination with the un­dergraduate BSW program, GSEAP will introduce a master of social work (MSW) degree this fall.”

Hannafin and Rona Preli, PhD, MSW, are currently working to make the MSW a reality. Dr. Preli is chair of the Family Therapy and Social Work depart­ment where the new MSW program will be housed.

As a clinical specialist program, the newly created MSW will graduate students with knowledge and skills in the prevention, assess­ment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health problems. The program is designed to prepare professionals for careers in school social work, mental health, homelessness and hunger advo­cacy, and policy. Dawn DeBiase, LCSW, will direct the MSW program and Jay Taylor, LCSW, will serve as clinical director.

The need for social workers with advanced degrees is as strong as ever, noted Dr. Preli. “One doesn’t have to look far to see under­served populations in our neighboring com­munities, whether in the field of education or labor. And we have an immigrant population in sore need of social services.”

The MSW will benefit from a body of professional knowledge already established within GSEAP, Dr. Preli added. “We have faculty with extensive expertise in addiction, behavioral health, autism spectrum disorders and other special needs, and those who specialize in LGBTQ issues.” Each social work faculty member is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) and maintains national and international recognition through published works, research presentations, and service on professional, state, and national committees. 

Fairfield is currently accepting applications to the program and classes will begin in September. Coursework will be offered in a hybrid (online and in-class) format – a plus for students who are working. For applicants with a bachelor’s degree in a field other than social work, the MSW will be a two-year, full-time program. Graduates of an accredited program can apply for the advanced standing track, which allows them to earn their master’s in just three semesters, or 14 months. The advanced standing track will begin in the summer of 2020.

“Having an MSW program makes coming to Fairfield so much more attractive since students can complete both their undergraduate and their master’s degrees in just five years,” said Dr. Preli. “And earning that master’s means students will be prepared to enter the marketplace with a wider variety of employment opportunities.” Upon graduation and passing a licensing exam, students will work under supervision until they complete the required clinical hours, at which point they will be fully licensed for independent practice.

To learn more about the MSW program visit



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