NYCT Grant Will Establish NYU Silver as Regional Hub for Social Work Leadership Education

Clinical Assistant Professor and Katherine and Howard Aibel Executive-in-Residence Linda Lausell Bryant (center) with consultant and Adjunct Lecturer Marc Manashil and Caroline Williamson of the B. Robert Williamson Jr. Foundation
Clinical Assistant Professor and Katherine and Howard Aibel Executive-in-Residence Linda Lausell Bryant (center) with consultant and Adjunct Lecturer Marc Manashil and Caroline Williamson of the B. Robert Williamson Jr. Foundation

Clinical Associate Professor and Katherine and Howard Aibel Executive-in-Residence Linda Lausell Bryant has been awarded a two-year, $262,000 grant from the New York Community Trust (NYCT) to replicate NYU Silver’s robust social work leadership training program at a public graduate school of social work and establish a Social Work Leadership Development Institute at NYU Silver. The initiative is designed to increase the pipeline of social workers prepared for and pursuing senior human services roles while more broadly building the capacity of social workers to exercise leadership to effect change in organizations and society.

“Social workers bring an orientation and a set of values that are vital to government and nonprofit agencies as well as the communities we serve; however, it is estimated that only 25-30% of such agencies are led by MSWs” said Dr. Lausell Bryant. “That low representation of social workers in executive management positions is evidence that social work education as a whole is not sufficiently preparing our students to take up positions of authority. NYCT, with its long history of partnering with nonprofits to improve the lives of New Yorkers, recognizes that social work professionals should be rigorously trained not only to provide human services and advocate for their clients, but also to sit at the tables where policies are formulated and funding decisions are made.”

While some schools of social work offer concentrations or electives in organizational management, Dr. Lausell Bryant believes leadership training should be integrated in the overall curriculum. “The profession and the people it serves will benefit if all MSWs understand how to exercise leadership for social and organizational change and know that they have the option of pursuing senior management roles.”

Toward that end, Dr. Lausell-Bryant collaborated with consultant and Adjunct Lecturer Marc Manashil to introduce a range of leadership development programs at NYU Silver that are grounded in the Adaptive Leadership framework. “The premise of this framework,” she explained, “is that organizations and communities must be able to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances if they wish to thrive, and even survive. In this context, the work of leadership is about helping people figure out which practices to preserve, which ones to discard, and the new innovations that can help us function more effectively in a changing environment. Adaptive Leadership also holds that the more complex a situation is, the less likely any one person will have all the answers. As such, the framework emphasizes cultivating leadership in others and leveraging the contributions that everyone across an organization has to make – an approach that is particularly apt for the social work profession.”

With funding from the B. Robert Williamson Jr. Foundation and the Katherine and Howard Aibel Foundation, Dr. Lausell Bryant and Mr. Manashil established an Adaptive Leadership Fellowship at NYU Silver for second-year MSW students. Now in its fourth year, the competitive fellowship features intensive weekend seminars as well as coaching and guidance to help fellows directly apply what they have learned through interventions at their field placement agencies. Dr. Lausell Bryant and Mr. Manashil have also incorporated leadership training into the School’s MSW-level, macro-focused Practice III curriculum, and introduced an MSW-level elective on Exercising Leadership in the Non-Profit and Public Sectors. Furthermore, they created and teach a required course on Adaptive Leadership for Organizational Change for students in the School’s DSW program; integrated adaptive leadership concepts in the School’s Post-Master’s Certificate program in Executive Leadership in the Not-for-Profit Sector; and designed and presented a two-day workshop on nonprofit and public sector leadership for a post-masters audience.

The NYCT grant will fund the replication of NYU Silver’s adaptive leadership initiative at a public school of social work in the New York area, with the intention of growing the number of impacted schools and/or students in subsequent years. This will include the formalization of a replicable adaptive leadership curriculum for social work educators and the development of “train-the-trainer” modules that prepare new faculty to teach adaptive concepts in their respective contexts.

The grant will also fund the establishment of a Social Work Leadership Development Institute at NYU Silver to disseminate training, research, and promising practices in the application of adaptive leadership in the human services sector. As part of this work, Dr. Lausell Bryant and Mr. Manashil will build additional teaching capacity by engaging Adaptive Leadership Fellowship and DSW course alumni as trainers while formalizing a network that will serve as a support hub for all those who have gone through adaptive leadership programming through this initiative.

“By funding this initiative,“ Dr. Lausell Bryant said, “NYCT is not only helping to close a major gap in current social work education but it is increasing the likelihood that the critical social work voice and lens actively contribute to progress in addressing our society’s biggest social challenges.”