UB School of Social Work to begin a new online Doctor of Social Work degree program

Release Date: August 27, 2018

Louanne Bakk.

Louanne Bakk

“The DSW program will produce graduates who will work in direct practice settings providing services that can transform communities and improve the well-being of vulnerable populations.”
Nancy Smyth, professor and dean of social work
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. – The University at Buffalo School of Social Work (UBSSW) will launch a part-time, fully online, three-year Doctor of Social Work (DSW) degree program beginning in the fall of 2019.

Prospective students can apply online beginning Sept. 1.

The 39-credit DSW program builds on the strengths of the school’s trauma-informed and human rights perspective, and is aimed at experienced social workers with a desire to advance their professional practice.  DSW students will have the opportunity to build knowledge and learn to more effectively incorporate these concepts into the implementation and evaluation of evidence-based treatments with vulnerable populations.   

“The DSW program will produce graduates who will work in direct practice settings providing services that can transform communities and improve the well-being of vulnerable populations,” says Nancy Smyth, PhD, dean and professor in UB’s School of Social Work. “The inherent nature of advanced social work practice makes the School of Social Work an ideal educational forum to engage social workers who can address complex health- and mental health-related problems, and adapt rapidly evolving evidence-based practice modalities to ensure high-quality care.”

Nationwide, only 15 schools currently offer a DSW.  The UBSSW is the first SUNY and first in the region to offer this program.  The DSW is the latest addition to a suite of graduate-level degree and dual-degree programs offered at UB, and is the school’s second doctoral program.

The school’s PhD program, established almost 25 years ago, is directed by Laina Bay-Cheng, PhD, associate dean of doctoral programs.  Bay-Cheng describes the PhD program as “embracing research as another mode of social work practice and social justice advocacy.” 

UBSSW PhD students pursue research-intensive and interdisciplinary courses of study in theory and analysis to prepare for research careers in academia and beyond.  While the DSW shares this mission of advancing social justice through knowledge, its emphasis is on the translation of research into practice.  As a part-time, fully online program that is accessible to students regardless of geographic location, the DSW capitalizes on the latest digital technologies to innovate social work education and practice.

The online DSW is an ideal fit for social work practitioners interested in becoming leaders in the field and advancing their skills in the practice setting, according to Louanne Bakk, PhD, the DSW program director.

“We’re initiating this program because of a recognized need in the direct practice setting,” says Bakk, an expert on aging and online education. “The DSW is targeted toward licensed practitioners with a desire to strengthen their ability to bridge research and practice, and develop knowledge that can be introduced into clinical and practice settings.”

Bakk adds that the advanced training provided through the DSW is becoming essential in treatment of co-occurring disorders, severe and persistent mental illnesses and other health problems. She expects that individuals with a DSW trained in trauma-informed care will be in particularly high demand.

DSW program application requirements include a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree and a minimum of two years post-MSW direct practice experience.  Interested individuals can refer to a complete list of the program’s prerequisites and apply online at http://socialwork.buffalo.edu/education/dsw-online.html.

There will be a one-hour virtual information session at 6 p.m. on Sept. 25 covering details about curriculum, field placement requirements, the application process and more.

Registration for the session is not required. 


“I’m extremely excited to assume the role of DSW program director,” Bakk says. “Based on my own practice experience, I see there is a definite need for this advanced training within the social work profession.”

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