Lessons Learned

Growing Social Workers’ Preparation for Upstream Practice

  • Ann Curry-Stevens Portland State University and Wilfrid Laurier University
  • Lisa Hawash Portland State University
  • Sarah Bradley Portland State University
Keywords: macro practice, advocacy, equity, policy, organizational change, leadership


Over the last 10 years, the MSW program at Portland State University has gone from graduating 15% of its students in the macro concentration, to 32%, while the national average remains under 9%. This article traces that experience through a historically-grounded narrative line, and extracts learnings that are potentially relevant for the profession. Curricular practices include reviewing the content for horizontal and vertical integration, introducing macro content early in the first year of the program with sufficient time to inform students’ choice of concentrations, and providing students influence to shape content in the advanced year. Faculty specializations and community reputation are important, as is ensuring that macro faculty have security in status, and that they become known to first year students. The article also includes tensions that emerged during the development process, with potential to derail the effort.

Author Biographies

Lisa Hawash, Portland State University

Associate Professor of Practice

MSW Online Option Coordinator  

School of Social Work

Portland State University

Sarah Bradley, Portland State University

Associate Professor of Practice

MSW Program Director

School of Social Work

Portland State University


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