SDSU School of Social Work Gets $1.24M Grant from Prebys Foundation

Hepner Hall at San Diego State University
Iconic Hepner Hall at San Diego State University. Photo by Chris Jennewein

San Diego State University has been awarded a $1.24 million grant from the Conrad Prebys Foundation to make its master of social work program more financially accessible to students from diverse backgrounds, the school announced Wednesday.

The grant is intended to address a critical shortage of behavioral health workers, “a need exacerbated by the stress and isolation many experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic,” a statement from the university reads. It will also help graduates of the program on their path to becoming licensed clinical social workers in California.

Stipends will be granted over two years to 10 MSW students who have a specific interest in youth behavioral health services and whose cultural and linguistic backgrounds make them well-suited to address the needs of underserved communities.

“This extra support goes a long way in helping students persist through the program,” said Natasha Bliss, director of strategic partnerships in the Division of Research and Innovation and co-principal investigator on the grant.

Jong Won Min, director of SDSU’s School of Social Work, said many of the school’s students have been influenced by the encouragement of a social worker at some point during their lives and want to give back to the community in similar ways.

“The students that we have here in School of Social Work — none of them are here for selfish reasons, but for the altruistic motivation that they have,” Min said. “They are there spending their resources and time to learn how to professionally help others.”

The grant will also support 40 MSW candidates and graduates toward licensure by funding supervision at the nonprofit organizations where they work. MSW graduates working toward licensure frequently pay out-of-pocket for supervision at large companies or organizations, according to SDSU.

The new program will help support alumni who are passionate about working with small community-based organizations.

Preference will be given to MSW stipend and licensure supervision applicants who speak Amharic (the official language of Ethiopia), Arabic, Burmese, Khmer, Somali, Spanish or Vietnamese to help “serve those communities and facilitate their clients’ access to the health system and reduce the stigma surrounding behavioral health,” the SDSU statement read.

“Supporting career pathways for students and alumni with lived experience in the communities they serve will help ensure that our vulnerable youth will have the opportunity to benefit from behavioral health services that are targeted to their specific needs,” said Hala Madanat, professor in the School of Public Health and vice president for research and innovation.

“What’s more, the partnership with the Prebys Foundation will have a ripple effect on the larger community by increasing the overall pool of well- qualified social workers in the region.”

–City News Service