The Mission of the School

The University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration is dedicated to working toward a more just and humane society through research, teaching, and service to the community. As one of the oldest and most highly regarded graduate schools of social work, SSA prepares professionals to handle society's most difficult problems by developing new knowledge, promoting a deeper understanding of the causes and human costs of social inequities, and building bridges between rigorous research and the practice of helping individuals, families, and communities to achieve a better quality of life.

The School and its culture exhibit five unique hallmarks that distinguish us as one of the premier schools of social work leading the field into the future.

1. SSA's interdisciplinary focus:

SSA harnesses the power of interdisciplinary work. This is reflected in our diverse faculty, who are drawn from a multiplicity of disciplines. Our intellectual pluralism is one of the things we value most about our School. Both our research and teaching are infused with this interdisciplinary spirit and we are interested in, and continue to foster, ambitious collaborations across the University, Chicago, nationally, and internationally, to catalyze real world change.

2. Faculty scholarship and research:

Our faculty are actively involved in cutting-edge scholarship and research that informs and shapes the field. Faculty are well-versed in both the major issues of the day (often involved in the actual framing of those issues) and the methodologies of research required to explore those issues. They are pioneers, discoverers, and change agents. They ask tough questions and pursue knowledge with rigor because they believe in the transformative power of ideas. They bring the insights gained from their scholarly investigations into the classroom, encouraging critical questioning, and ensuring that students have up-to-date knowledge of trends in the field.

3. Person-in-environment:

Our curriculum is built on the assumption that all clinical social workers need to understand and appreciate the complexities of organizational theory and practice, the policies that govern human services, and how to advocate for change in those systems. Similarly, students who are preparing for work at larger system levels need to know and understand the needs of those who seek our services, and how to assess, intervene, and evaluate those services. Our core curriculum gives equal weight to micro and macro practice and the concentrations continue to be informed by issues at multi-system levels.

4. Students develop skills in critical thinking:

Effective and ethical practitioners must be skilled in raising questions about assertions made by theoreticians, researchers, supervisors, and colleagues. They must be able to analyze the purported rationale behind those assertions and assess the nature of evidence supporting them. We strive to produce professionals who engage in empirically-based practice, and who understand the critical importance of garnering rigorous evidence that informs practice.

5. Chicago provides the context for field work and other learning opportunities:

Chicago and its surroundings provide a superb context for learning in the field of social work as one of the nation’s most diverse cities. Chicago experiences all of the significant problems of the modern metropolis: poverty, violence, crime, dysfunctional schools, inadequate health services, drug use, family breakdown, social exclusion, and community disruption. Our students are able to witness, learn from, and contribute to the solutions of these conditions.

Zehua Cui

"I had no awareness of the existence of social work in schools in China, so I am thankful for my first year internship experience with children at Namaste Charter school, which totally opened up a new world for me. The experience broadened my horizon in terms of the various ways in which we can help children," says Zehua Cui.