The Block Plan
The Smith master's degree program alternates intensive curricular preparation with rich, closely supervised field internships to provide the optimum learning experience for tomorrow's social work professional. Organized into what is called the block plan, the academic calendar is a full-time master's program that begins in June and continues for 27 months, ending in August. The block plan consists of five sessions. Three 10-week academic sessions are held at Smith from June through mid-August over three successive summers; these are devoted exclusively to course work (Sessions I, III, and V). In addition, two intervening 8-month sessions, scheduled from September through April (Sessions II and IV), are reserved for full-time (30 hours/week) field work internships in settings across the country.
During the first academic summer (June-August/session I), courses focus on the knowledge, skills and values which form the foundation, or core, of the social work profession. This also prepares students for the school's specialization in clinical practice. Students are introduced to the major social work methods, the psychological and sociocultural theory upon which practice rests, the history of social work and social welfare, social policy analysis and research methods.
Coursework in the second summer (session III) is firmly rooted in an understanding of human development and adaptation within a sociocultural context utilizing multiple theories of intervention including: psychodynamic theory, family theories and social constructivist and eco-systemic perspectives. Elective courses (session V) provide the opportunity for students to focus on particular areas of interest by exploring content on specific populations, particular problems, and/or in innovative practice settings.
The rich curriculum is presented by an expert and diverse resident faculty who are joined by a national association of adjuncts who come to campus from across the country, and around the world, to contribute their expertise. The unique structure of the school's academic calendar makes it possible for these clinicians, who work at other universities or in the field during the traditional academic year, to join the Smith community from June through August. Classes are small, averaging about 20 students, allowing for personalized attention, small group discussion and individual support.
The Smith SSW field work experience is a unique and intensive learning opportunity that provides students with one of the most advanced training opportunities found in graduate education. Being nationally based, Smith has the advantage of selecting from the finest training institutes from across the country, providing students with a breadth of clinical experience unmatched by other social work programs. The two supervised field work internships (September to April/sessions II and IV) allow students to apply and integrate their learning from the summer coursework and to practice their skills in work with individuals, families and small groups. Enriching the field work experience is the community project, which is completed during the first year of field work. In the second year, students make use of their research skills and participate actively in the pursuit or development of knowledge for professional practice through the completion of a research project; students also complete an anti-racism field assignment during the field internship.