Exterior window of Edith Abbott Hall. A clear light blue sky above and light green, yellow leaves in the foreground.

Mission & Approach

The Mission of the School

The Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice 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, The Crown Family School 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.

Our Values

The Crown Family School’s educational program is informed by the values of the social work profession. As such, we prepare professionals who are committed to improving the lives of vulnerable and diverse populations and promoting social and economic justice locally, nationally, and globally. Social work values ensure that service is driven by a humanistic perspective that values difference and asks us to consider the impact of our ideas and our work on the well-being of our clients, of our colleagues, of our agencies, and on society as a whole. Our values require that we treat others with dignity and respect and make human rights and social justice central to our work. As a School, the Crown Family School strives to be an exemplar of social work education, committed to fostering an inclusive, engaging, and rigorous educational experience, welcoming to all.

Our values require that we behave ethically in both our personal and professional lives. Our ethical precepts encompass such matters as treating our clients with dignity, honoring human diversity and differences, never exploiting clients for our own interests, and always acting in the best interest of clients. This is accomplished through human relationships, honoring the value of integrity, and giving graduates the competence to achieve professional goals of the highest quality. Similar precepts govern our relationships with other professionals. We recognize our responsibilities to the organizations for which we work, but we also have the obligation to question policies and practices in the workplace that may not be aligned with the best interests of our clients. We value scientific inquiry and the use of scientific evidence, as well as the development and implementation of evidence-based policy and practice. Finally, our values require continued professional growth and development through lifelong learning.

Guiding Principles of the Master's Curricula

The Crown Family School Master's curricula promotes social justice through their commitment to pluralism, rigorous inquiry, engaged interdisciplinary scholarship, integrative practice, critical thinking, and informed action. These curricular commitments prepare students to understand the complex contexts and power structures that maintain and reproduce inequality and injustice, and to take action to promote individual, social, and structural change.

1) Social Justice

The Crown Family School supports students to analyze the social, historical, political, economic, and organizational factors that reinforce inequity and injustice. Students and faculty consider their own and others' positionality within those structures, with an appreciation of how identities and affiliations may intersect to compound or mitigate privilege and oppression. We work to increase access, opportunity, and agency in order to dismantle systems of oppression and to help meet the basic needs of diverse individuals, families, and communities with compassion and humaneness.

2) Intellectual Pluralism

Intellectual pluralism is at the heart of The Crown Family School's teaching. The curriculum reflects the intellectual diversity of our faculty, who come from an array of academic disciplines and professions and represent a variety of political perspectives. This pluralism allows our students and faculty to appreciate multiple ways of knowing, to be critical of what counts as knowledge and research, and to be more inclusive of perspectives that have not traditionally been centered in social work curricula. Our intellectual pluralism also encourages ongoing interrogation of the concept of social justice, which is central to the mission of social work. It also provides us with the tools and flexibility to engage effectively with a broad range of individuals, communities, and social institutions.

3) Engaged Scholarship and Teaching

The Crown Family School faculty are committed to promoting social justice and social equality through engaged scholarship and education. Scholarship at the School emerges from interactive engagement with practitioners, policy makers, and communities. The Crown Family School faculty actively integrate their research into curricula and teaching. Students are educated to identify and analyze the causes, consequences of, and approaches to ameliorating human suffering and social injustice.

4) Integrative Practice

Our curriculum is built on the assumption that all social workers need to understand and act to mobilize change with and within individuals, families, communities, organizations, public institutions, and political and economic systems. Drawing upon and integrating field and classroom experiences, students will develop skills to practice across multiple levels. In addition, students are trained to use integrative frameworks that move beyond the micro-­macro dichotomy.

5) Critical Thinking

Students learn to effectively question, assess, evaluate, and respond to assumptions, claims, and values, including those from social science and social work research. Students learn to consider a range of perspectives, carefully assess their assumptions, validity and implications, and become skilled and insightful evaluators of their own thinking. This process includes reflection on how one's own affiliations and identities may lead to blind spots and biases. Students learn to integrate a critical sensibility into practice so as to make meaningful contributions to the profession, the client base, and to the analysis and resolution of social problems.

6) Theory to Action

Students prepare for positions of leadership and to be stewards of change while working in dynamic sociopolitical and fiscal contexts in hundreds of vetted field placements throughout Chicago and its surrounding communities. Chicago has a rich history of social reform, social service innovation, and community organizing that gives context and continuity to students' field experiences. The field model provides opportunity for students to engage in coursework and field work concurrently, challenging students to assess, understand and address the extraordinary range of needs that bring people into contact with nonprofit, public and private agencies.

Simultaneously, students learn from the tremendous strength, resilience, and knowledge held by the individuals and communities they serve. Students are encouraged to identify practice questions that lead to analysis, research and new approaches toward ameliorating social exclusion through community-­engaged fieldwork.

While we strive to create conditions that will largely negate the need for a social work profession, we realize that social service programs and organizations serve vital safety net functions and can aid in societal transformations toward equity and social justice. The Crown Family School faculty recognize that individuals, families, and communities are rarely helped by mediocre interventions and programs. Similarly, society is rarely served by poorly conducted research or poorly crafted social policies. Therefore, The Crown Family School strives towards excellence in our practice, teaching, and scholarship.

Goals of the School

Carrying out the Crown Family School’s mission to enrich human life through scholarship, education, and service dedicated toward advancing a more socially just and humane society, we tackle the most intractable and costly of social problems by developing rigorous knowledge and rigorously trained professionals, as well as by leading and informing the field in ways that advance our society and the concerns of those who are most vulnerable. In keeping with its mission, the School’s goals are:

  • To educate competent and effective professionals able to apply clinical, analytical, and organizational knowledge and skills to solve social problems and relieve the distress of vulnerable individuals through ethical practice in a rapidly changing global environment. This requires a learning environment that models respect for diversity and lifelong learners who can think critically about the world around them.
  • To produce scholarship that enhances our understanding of the nature and sources of problems of individuals, families, communities, and society and of effective means of preventing and intervening with those problems.
  • And to use the School’s resources to advance social justice and to serve its immediate community and the field of social welfare through the translation of knowledge into action. We aim to provide leadership both institutionally and through the efforts of individual faculty.

Graduates of the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice should be able:

  • To understand that the foundation of effective service lies in a grasp of the environment. Individual distress occurs in a social context involving the interaction of biological, psychological, familial, economic, community, and cultural factors.
  • To understand that theories supported by empirical evidence serve as conceptual frameworks for examining individual distress, organizational functioning, community contexts, and social policies. These theories are drawn from multiple disciplines and become the foundation for a coherent framework from which to respond to human needs and promote social justice.
  • To think critically and challenge the underlying assumptions, core values, conceptual frameworks, and evidence on which our professional knowledge is based.
  • To engage in competent, ethical, and effective social work, clinical practice, or social administration.
  • And to become effective leaders in the fields of social work and social welfare.