Course Descriptions

Of the 57 credits needed to complete the social work major, 49 must be earned from the courses described below.

UNDSW-US.0011 4 credits.

The major goals of this course are to prepare students to act as knowledgeable, competent practitioners in developing, analyzing, and providing services and as informed, able participants in achieving social change. Content includes the history of social welfare and social work, the values and philosophical base of social work, public and voluntary auspices, models of governmental programs, and the professionalization of social work.

UNDSW-US.0012 4 credits.

This course provides an introduction to social work research methods. The objectives are to provide an elementary understanding of the research process and to develop knowledge of the range of social work research. The course seeks to develop the skills needed for conducting small-scale studies and to enable future direct service practitioners to be intelligent consumers of research-based information. A basic introduction to quantitative methods and the use of computers is included.

UNDSW-US.0013 4 credits. Prerequisite: UNDSW-US.0011.

The course goals are to develop understanding and analytic ability regarding social problems, social policy and programs, and the field of social work. Content includes analysis of contemporary social problems, use of an analytical model to evaluate issues of eligibility, benefits, financing, and the delivery of social services. The role of the social worker in assessing and achieving organizational, systemic, and legislative change is examined.

UNDSW-US.0021 4 credits.

This course centers on the biopsychosocial perspective that stresses a multidimensional view of human development and behavior. The focus is on the transactional relationship between human behavior and pertinent psychological, social, biological, economic, cultural, environmental, and institutional forces. Multiple theoretical perspectives are used to understand the behavior of individuals, families, groups, social networks, and systems. The role of social stressors such as poverty and oppression and their impact on human development are evaluated. All aspects of development and behavior are studied in the context of diversity. The life cycle stages of infancy and childhood are also viewed from a biopsychosocial perspective.

UNDSW-US.0022 4 credits. Prerequisite: UNDSW-US.0021.

The focus is on the continuing evolution and expression of personal and social identity in the stages of the life cycle from early adolescence through old age. Concepts from ego psychology and social science that relate to various aspects of normal development, integration, and socialization in later life are examined, as well as theories of stress and crisis. The impact of social structure and processes on individual, familial, and work roles over time is emphasized throughout.

UNDSW-US.0031 4 credits. Open only to majors. Corequisite: UNDSW-US.0041.

The overall objective of this course is to provide students with an integrative framework that combines direct practice with individuals, families, groups, and communities with a commitment to organizational and social change. Students are helped to develop skills in a broad range of practitioner roles. The course examines the history, values, and ethics of the profession; the societal and organizational context of practice; and the impact of diversity and oppression. Skills in systems assessment, engagement, interviewing, collaboration and advocacy, relationship issues and self-awareness, and the practice principles of both crisis and extended intervention are taught. A social work laboratory component provides students with opportunities for experiential learning.

UNDSW-US.0032 4 credits. Open only to majors. Prerequisite: UNDSW-US.0031. Corequisite: UNDSW-US.0042.

This course equips students with the knowledge and skills essential to the use of a range of social work modalities, including individual, family, group, community, and organizational intervention. Students learn to examine ethical and value dilemmas and to consider the practice implications of social work research. The course is designed to help students consolidate their social work identity and to prepare them for entry into generalist social work settings.

UNDSW-US.0040 5 credits.

Taken in the spring semester of the junior year, this course combines a direct agency-based experience, designed to introduce the student to the social worker's role and responsibilities, with a prepractice seminar. As part of this agency-based experience (approximately 100 hours), the student works under the supervision of a professional social worker. The prepractice seminar is designed to promote the student's adaptational skills in the field of social work. Using the student's field experience as a base, the seminar deals with the staffing patterns and staff collaboration procedures of social service agencies and the community's service delivery system. The seminar also focuses on aspects of the student's role in field work, including the supervisory relationship, process recordings, and expectations for field performance.

UNDSW-US.0041,0042 12 credits. Open only to majors. Prerequisite: UNDSW-US.0046. Corequisites: UNDSW-US.0031,0032.

Taken during the senior year (approximately 600 hours), these two courses provide students with opportunities to acquire skill in social work practice, to try out social work practice roles in the field, and to test in the field setting the theories and principles learned in the classroom. Students are assigned to social agencies or social work programs and learn by directly participating in the delivery of social work services under the supervision of professional social workers. Faculty advisement on both a group and an individual basis is an ongoing part of the field internship.

UNDSW-US.0055 4 credits.

The course centers on expanding the student's understanding of the meaning of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and culture, as well as the concepts of prejudice, discrimination, oppression, stigma, and stereotyping. Racism, particularly as it impacts on personal, professional, institutional, and societal levels, is studied. Special attention is given to the experiences of African Americans and Latino/as in U.S. society in general and in the New York City metropolitan area in particular. Within an integrative perspective, implications for direct and indirect social work practice are explored. Specifically, the importance of ethnoculturally competent practice for the individual worker and the design of service delivery systems are covered.


The remaining 8 credits in the social work major are electives. Recent examples of elective courses offered are listed below.

UNDSW-US.0065 4 credits

The course will explore theories and causes of homelessness and the political, economic and social dimensions as well as the historical context. There will be emphases on special groups of the homeless including women, children, adolescents and people with mental illness and substance abuse. We will look at the policies affecting them, the role of social workers in relation to the homeless and the relevant research knowledge. Opportunities will be provided to gain first hand knowledge of the experiences of the homeless.

UNDSW-US.0025 Variable credits.

Students may engage in individual study under special circumstances. The independent work is approved if the student furnishes evidence of mastery of the basic content in the social work area selected. The work done by the student in this course is carried out with the guidance of a member of the faculty. This course is subject to availability of faculty.

UNDSW-US.0052 4 credits.

This course will focus on policies, programs, clinical, ethical and legal issues that social workers encounter while working with the mentally ill in the community. The course will begin with a review of definitions of "mental illness" from an historical perspective, observing the connection between how mental illness is perceived and how it is treated-both on the individual and on the policy levels. Case studies of recent efforts to provide comprehensive community services to the mentally ill, as well as legal and ethical dilemmas, will be examined.

The course will review clinical approaches (emphasizing the biopsychosocial model) to working with individuals, families, groups and the community. Special populations including the elderly, racial and ethnic minorities, severely and persistently mentally ill clients and veterans will be examined. In addition, the course will look at specific issues relating to gender, sexual orientation and international perspectives of mental health. The course will also focus briefly on the evolution and development of services and programs that address the needs of mentally ill in the community. Students are expected to actively participate in class discussion through presentations on the readings and by bringing "field" examples. Course material will be presented through lectures, student discussion and debates, guest speakers and field visits.

UNDSW-US.0053 4 credits.

This course provides an overview of supportive, supplemental, and substantive services for children and their families. Special emphasis is on funding patterns, the current legal structure and requirements, child welfare research and theories of child development (particularly those related to maternal deprivation and separation), and the implications for social work practice with children in their own homes and in foster care.

UNDSW-US.0059 4 credits.

This course conceptualizes the family as it exists today in its myriad forms. The course examines the stresses impinging on families. Special attention is paid to poverty, race and ethnicity, divorce and remarriage, adoption and foster care, and lesbian and gay families. The course explores different types of social service interventions with families. The impact of changing family patterns on welfare policy and programs is considered, as is the effect of social policy and programs on family structure.

Note: not offered at this time.

UNDSW-US.0060 4 credits.

This course describes major social and psychological theories relating to substance abuse. Special issues related to women, youth, the homeless, and dually diagnosed mentally ill/substance abusing populations are explored. Selected social policies and service delivery issues are considered.

UNDSW-US.0061 4 credits.

This course focuses on the psychosocial issues associated with chronic disease and terminal illness, examining their impact on the individual, the family, secondary survivors, health care workers, and the health system. Attention is given to the psychological processes of grief, dying, and death as these relate to life-threatening illness. Special emphasis is placed on the role of class, race/ ethnicity, and other cultural elements that shape individual, family, and community responses to illness and dying. The course examines issues of professional responsibility within the context of the health care delivery system. A substantive focus for the course is HIV/AIDS.

Note: not offered at this time.


Domestic violence is an issue so complex and highly charged that it challenges clinical, legal and policy professionals. It can prove devastating for its victims. This course will discuss the many controversies, myths and interventions surrounding family violence. Beginning with a macro perspective, students will examine family violence within a historical context of social change and social control. Moving on to an examination of the experiences of battered individuals and families, students will learn how victims survive the trauma experience and how clinical and advocacy work have been used to influence policy and programs. The financial, emotional, cultural, racial, gendered and religious challenges experienced by survivors will be analyzed. The effects on children will be explored. Domestic violence within gay and lesbian relationships will be examined. The treatment of batterers including the effect of arrest and prosecution will be debated.


This course will introduce students to the overarching framework of international social policy and development with comparative references to developing and developed regions of the world. Emphasis will be on the identification of social, economic and political problems that impact those most vulnerable and disadvantaged by poverty, sex, age, disability or ethnicity; and will explore the development and implementation of global responses, public and private. Social policies, interventions, and solutions will be analyzed highlighting critical areas of poverty, human rights of children, gender issues including violence against women and trafficking, health including HIV/AIDS and non-communicable diseases, migration, and complex emergencies including conflicts, climate change and natural disasters.


In our contemporary global reality, where talk of war and terrorism fills the air and "peace" is a complicated notion, what does it mean to engage in the work of social justice as a social worker? To whom can we look for wisdom and guidance? In light of these questions, we will study the words and deeds of four persons whom many consider to be social justice laborers. They are Peace Pilgrim, an American woman who walked over 25,000 miles for peace and justice; Badshah Khan, known as "The Frontier Gandhi," of the Pathan, Northwest Frontier, at the Pakistani-Afghani border; Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist monk and social activist nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr.; and Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize winner from Belfast, Northern Ireland. We will get to know these contemporary social justice advocates and activists. We will read their own words, read what others have to say about them, and discuss their relevance to the profession of social work in light of our post September 11th reality. In light of their values and vision, we will work to create our own paradigm for social justice practice in the field of social work.


This course is offered as a co-requisite for student participation in a weekly community service opportunity on the Lower East Side. Students will provide tutoring for K-12 youth and/or adult learners from disadvantaged backgrounds at the University Settlement House. The accompanying course will offer broad and general content related to students' service experiences. Emphasis will be placed on understanding the individuals with whom they are working and the contexts in which they live and learn. The course will touch on the fundamentals of engaging individuals in a helping situation; theories related to individual development; implications of race, ethnicity, culture and immigration; impacts of multiple social contexts: the family, peers, school, social agencies and community; understanding the effects of social oppression on people's lives: poverty, racism, sexism, classism, etc. Students will be expected to do journal writing and will have opportunities in class to share their experiences.


This 2 credit course complements a volunteer experience with Holocaust survivors. Students will conduct weekly visits with a Survivor and will have the opportunity to learn about the Holocaust and its impact on public life today and reflect on the experience of working with survivors. The weekly hour-long class will explore the social, psychological and historical effects of the Holocaust on the lives of survivors as well as the impact of the Holocaust on life in the United States.


This weekly one-hour course is offered as a co-requisite for student participation in a weekly community service opportunity with refugees. Emphasis will be placed on students. understanding of the individuals with whom they are working and the contexts in which they live and learn. Students will learn about immigration and resettling refugees. The course will touch on the fundamentals of engaging individuals in a helping situation; theories related to individual development; implications of race, ethnicity, culture and immigration; impacts of multiple social contexts: the family, peers, school, social agencies and community; understanding the effects of social oppression on people's lives: poverty, racism, sexism, classism, etc. Students will be expected to do journal writing and will have opportunities in class to share their experience. As part of their community service they will provide academic coaching and mentoring for refugees from such nations as Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Burma, Moldova, Uganda, and Sudan for a minimum of two hours weekly at a Brooklyn high school.


This service-learning course explores gender and sexuality-based social justice movements, non- governmental organizations and queer cultures in the cities where New York University has study-away or satellite campuses. Its primary focus is to provide a theoretical backbone to understanding issues of gender and sexuality in a comparative paradigm between United States and international sites. The secondary purpose is to provide students with the opportunity to examine the interface between globalization and LGBTQ human rights across the NYU sites.  In particular, using an academic approach (based on Advanced Qualitative Research Methods) that includes both the NYU Study Away Sites and the LGBTQ experience in those sites to systematically address what expectations NYU students, staff and faculty may have in regard to each of those NYU locations. This approach would be a resource to demonstrate strategies to manage being a queer or ally-identified person at any of the NYU sites; as well as being an opportunity to document and promote the realities of queer life across all the sites that make NYU the Global Network University.


The questions "What is memory?" and "What is forgetting?" have intrigued thinkers for millennia. Thanks to the written records that serve as our cultural memory, we know that memory has been a topic of inquiry at least since those records began. Today's philosophers, psychologists, and literary scholars are continuing to hone the concept of the self as it was understood by John Locke, David Hume, and Ralph Waldo Emerson among others, as a dynamic tension between memory and consciousness. Together this work pursues such questions as "How is memory embodied?" How and why do we forget? What is the connection between memory and the self--and with language and story-telling-- and with moral and ethical reasoning? What events are best forgotten and how do we go about forgetting them? The proliferation of memorials of war and conflict today has led some cultural critics to wonder if so much remembering gums up the salve of forgetting so necessary for the healing process of forgiving. The course is structured around six units: Life Memories, The Idea of Memory, The Science of Memory, The Art of Memory, Cultural Memory, and Forgetting. Readings represent the full spectrum of western thinking about memory, from Plato to the Pew Research Center's report on memory and the internet. It is hoped that in addition to learning a great deal about memory and forgetting as academic topics, students will come away from the course having gained new insights into the workings of their own memories and having developed a personal practice of memory that will serve their growth as individuals long after their memories of the course itself have dimmed.


Social science has often struggled to understand and define the change process. It is clearly complex and requires overcoming forces of both an internal and external nature. Individuals and societies will often work hard to sustain behavioral and cultural patterns that no longer serve them either personally or collectively. What in human nature compels us to resist change and what enables others to become revolutionaries? This course will examine the personal and cultural challenges the process of change presents. Through readings from the disciplines of philosophy, history, psychology, sociology and contemporary cultural studies the course will explore the process of change on the micro and macro levels and their relationship to each other. The course will also include the writings of revolutionary thinkers such as Marx, Che Guevara, Gandhi and Martin Luther King to gain insight into what enabled them to become revolutionaries and ultimately permit us to gain a greater understanding of how we may become agents of change ourselves.


This theoretical and experiential course will examine the concept of social justice dating back to Roman Catholic teachings by St. Thomas Aquinas regarding poverty; leading up to modern day umbrella movements which include race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, national origin, first language and the ways in which ideas about social justice have shifted. This will include intersections with global human rights movements, evangelicalism and intersectionality regarding identity politics. The course will also explore the ways in which religious ideology has fostered civic engagement interrogating the work of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Dalai Lama, Imam Khalid Latif, Desmond Tutu, Parker Palmer, and bell hooks. Students will participate in ethnographic community-based projects learning about how religion and/or spirituality are utilized for civic engagement.


In spite of some hopeful signs, wide regional disparities and world poverty persist. In this class we will first examine the explanations for the world’s uneven development and the persistence of poverty. Then we will critically explore strategies and assumptions that governments and non-government organizations have employed to guide poverty reduction efforts. The role of culture, capital, and modernization will be critically evaluated. Finally, we will examine several poverty reduction strategies that are currently being used including foreign aid, capabilities and empowerment, social marketing, and microfinance, among others. We will draw from multiple perspectives to facilitate successful and integrated applied efforts and meaningful research questions.


The course is a small discussion group meeting for 8 consecutive weeks during the spring semester, allowing current NYU undergraduate students who are planning to study at another global site the opportunity to participate in open and honest conversations in preparation for successfully meeting the challenges of studying in another culture. The course aims to create a safe space where students can participate in a developmental conversation about self-identity, cultural identity and global citizenship and to thereby increase students' capacities for making meaning of their global experiences. The course is to be co-facilitated by trained and experienced graduate students in order to create a safe and welcoming atmosphere where members of the group can speak candidly about their experience with diverse cultures and their own personal and social identities.


Interested in talking about diversity and social justice AND get course credit?! Apply to participate in the Intergroup Dialogue Program. Intergroup Dialogue (IGD) is a nationally recognized 1-credit course that brings together small groups of students from diverse backgrounds to share their experiences and gain new knowledge related to diversity and social justice. This 8-week course is open to all NYU undergraduate students and topics include race/ethnicity, spirituality/religion, gender/sexuality and more.