Community & Field Impact

SSA & Chicago

The City of Chicago is an irresistible context for the student of social welfare. Chicago has been the center of pioneering movements in social work, community organizing, women's rights, urban planning and architecture, labor organizing, and black politics. Through Chicago's leadership, Illinois was the first state to pass a Mother's Pension Act (forerunner of AFDC) and the first to create a Juvenile Court. A list of its movers and shakers would include not only Cyrus McCormick, Montgomery Ward, and Richard J. Daley, but also Jane Addams, Saul Alinsky, Julia Lathrop, Frank Lloyd Wright, Bertha Palmer, Clarence Darrow, Gail Cincotta, Reverend Jesse Jackson and Barack Obama. Chicago confronts the major issues facing American cities in such areas as economic development, public education, and the political empowerment of minorities, and its efforts are watched by other cities throughout the country.

After a century of immigration, the city's people are extraordinarily diverse. The city and metropolitan area support a vigorous cultural life whose chief glories are the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Art Institute, the Lyric Opera, a distinguished literary tradition, a nationally hailed theatrical scene, and the finest urban architecture and contemporary blues and jazz music in America.

SSA has both benefited from Chicago's vitality and played its own part in Chicago activism. Julius Rosenwald, an early president of Sears Roebuck and one of the School's founding trustees, established scholarships for two African American students with the specification that they do their fieldwork among the city's early African-American community on the West Side. In the years since then, students and faculty have studied and worked in Chicago's ethnic communities, its housing projects, its criminal justice reform movements, and other social experiments. Students who come to study at SSA thus have access to an extraordinary community. 

Currently, SSA has relationships with over 600 agencies and programs throughout the Chicago area. Each year, over 400 students are placed in internships (field placements) and work in the field for an estimated 255,000 hours. Students are guided by practitioners who teach them the best practices while providing services to these communities. 

View a map of field placements in Chicago, or see a list of field education sites.


Community Care and Outreach

Our ever deepening partnerships with the neighbors in our community serves to enhance the quality of life and economic development of Chicago's South Side, the city of Chicago more broadly, and beyond to the national and international levels. The following are just a few examples of our impact on our surrounding communities:

  • Deborah Gorman-Smith, Professor, is the Principal Investigator and director of the Chicago Center for Youth Violence Prevention, one of 6 national Academic Centers of Excellence funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;

  • Jens Ludwig, McCormick Foundation Professor of Social Service, Law, and Public Policy and Harold Pollack, Helen Ross Professor established the University of Chicago Crime Lab in an effort to reduce youth violence in Chicago and nationally;

  • Jens Ludwig is also the co-director of the Urban Education Lab (UEL) that was created in 2011 as part of the University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute, with the goal of generating knowledge to help improve educational outcomes for disadvantaged children growing up in some of the most distressed urban neighborhoods in America and overseas.

  • Melissa Roderick Hermon Dunlap Smith Professor leads research at the Consortium for Chicago School Research, a think-tank to inform and assess policy and practice in the Chicago Public Schools; she also leads the Network for College Success, a professional learning community for Chicago Public School leaders and partners who are working to prepare students for college;

  • SSA launched the Interdisciplinary Scholar Network initiative to bring together scholars across disciplinary and professional lines and to generate innovative and more comprehensive knowledge aimed at addressing some of society’s most intractable social problems. Two networks have been established:

    • Associate Professors Susan Lambert and Julia Henly and Assistant Professor Marci Ybarra created the Employment Instability, Family Well-being and Social Policy Network: This research network will enhance the capacity of the field to study employment instability at the lower end of the labor market and to develop and evaluate interventions aimed at reducing employment instability and its effects on children and families.

    • Professor Dexter Voisin and Assistant Professor Alida Bouris created the STI and HIV Intervention Network (SHINE): This network conducts research on the biological, behavioral, and structural factors that heighten vulnerability to sexually transmitted infections and HIV among ethnic minority communities in the United States. SHINE will develop and evaluate interventions to alleviate existing STI/HIV disparities.

  • SSA has relationships with more than 600 agencies and programs throughout the Chicago area for its field placement program. Annually, SSA students provide more than 250,000 hours of service in the field. Students are guided by seasoned practitioners who provide hands-on professional mentoring in the field.