Meet The Dean- UNR- School of Social Work

View all blog posts under Social Work

Meet the new Dean of the School of Social Work, Dr. Shadi Martin. Dean Martin will host a live question and answer session to ensure you understand everything there is to know about this degree.


Tammy:  Alright.  Thank you so much, guys, for joining us this evening.  Uh, so we have our agenda up on our screen.  Shadi Martin is our Dean for the School of Social Work and she’s going to go over her mission and her vision.  Uh, she’s going to talk about some career outcomes and then we’re going to do a Q&A session at the end.  So I’m going to go ahead and hand it over to Shadi to be able to introduce herself.


Shadi:  Thank you, Tammy.  And welcome, all you who joined me this evening.  I really appreciate you taking the time and it’s an honor for me to, uh, speak to you and tell you a little bit about myself and also, uh, the vision that I have for the UNR School of Social Work.  Just, uh, I think what would be beneficial for us today is that I – I leave you with a sense about who I am as a person, uh, a little bit about my areas of research and also the way that I envision, uh, social work and a degree in social work and how that may be beneficial to you.  Uh, and then from there we’ll open it to questions and uh, uh, you can – hopefully I can be helpful to you in terms of your curiosity about the program.


Well I was – I’m originally from Iran.  I, uh, grew up there until I was about 12 years old and then I left Iran following, uh, the 1979 revolution and, uh, very bloody Iran/Iraq war.  Uh, in many ways it was those experiences of war that made me want to go into a helping profession although to be honest with you at the time I had no idea what social work was.  And – but I had a commitment and a desire to do something because I had seen so much suffering at such a young age that I felt that, uh, I needed to do my part to make this world a better place.  And so I ended up going to Switzerland first and then I ended up in Salt Lake City, Utah, which is where I ended up, um, getting six degrees from the university, some of them I think are listed on this page.  Uh, but I really didn’t know what degree would prepare me for the kind of work that I wanted to do and the work that I wanted to do was really to help people, uh, in the Middle Eastern countries and I wanted to help particularly in the health field.  So I combined the various degrees in order to help me do that.  Uh, I had all the degrees short of my social work degree and ended up getting a job with the United Nations.  I went on to work for the World Health Organization and also for UNHCR for some time.


Uh, while I was working in development and keep in mind at this point I still don’t have a degree in Social Work so my career really started in International Development and not Social Work.  Uh, in facing some really serious world problems, very complicated problems while working for the United Nations, I noticed that I worked with a lot of colleagues from various disciplines.  Some of them were physicians, some of them came from Political Science, Anthropology, Sociology – all different disciplines.  And I struggled because I realized that each of us try to solve problems from the narrow perspective of our own discipline.  So the health professionals saw things purely from a disease/illness perspective, political scientists looked at it in terms of the politics behind things, historians looked at the historical element and I realized that in order to really solve complex problems we need to bring all these disciplines together.


And I would honestly tell you one of the greatest benefits of Social Work is that it does exactly that.  It’s a very multidisciplinary profession.  It realizes that we are most effective when we bring disciplines together in solving problems.  Some of you may have already heard the term “person and environment.” We often talk about Social Work as being a – a discipline about dealing with the person and environment because we don’t just look at the person as say Psychology would do, but we look at all the elements, all the other areas of one’s life, whether it is family issues, issues around job, issues around politics, issues around oppression – all of those elements are things that social workers consider in solving problems.  Unfortunately, the world – there’s not a shortage of problems.  We have problems are growing and becoming more complicated and for all that reason we need social workers, we need competent social workers to tackle these issues.


So after all the degrees that I had I went back to University of Utah and I did my Ph.D. in Social Work, for those reasons that I just highlighted.  But I realized that to be really a social worker I needed an MSW.  The MSW in my opinion was the heart of our profession to become a social worker.  Therefore while I was doing my Ph.D. I also obtained my MSW and that’s how I ended up with the six degrees that you see highlighted.  Uh, but I wanted, with that bit of perspective about my – my career and how I ended up here, uh, I wanted to share with you how all of that plays into my vision for the School of Social Work.


And I – I have the vision, the mission statement for the school, which is a very new one that we just passed by the faculty, on the screen.  And, as you will notice, there are a couple of words that are highlighted or underlined.  And I’ll read it to you just quickly.  “The Mission of the School of Social Work at UNR is to educate, train and nurture competent, committed, compassionate and diverse social worker leaders” – leaders being the key word here – “who advance the social justice mission of social work through their leadership in research public policy, academics and clinical practice at local, national and global levels.”  So the words that are underlined are diverse – we really value diversity in social work and we really want to have a workforce that is diverse.  Social justice is the heart of our profession.  Whenever somebody asks you:  “What is the difference between social work and other similar helping profession like, let’s say, counseling or sociology?”  I say it’s the social justice focus.  We really are committed in to solving systemic problems at the systemic and global and macro level.  We want to understand how systems can be changed to solve problems.  We look at issues of oppression, discrimination, uh, sexism, racism, all of those are at the heart of how we tackle problems in social work.  And then the word leadership which is really the component that I have truly wanted to promote in our new mission for social work because I truly believe that social workers are uniquely, uniquely positioned to take on leadership positions in health and social services and I will go into that a little more in our next slide.


Uh, in the next slide you will see the vision statement for the University of Nevada in Reno and you will see – I won’t read it to you; you have it in front of you.  You will see that it’s very much aligned with the School of Social Work vision and it also highlights the notion of confident leaders.  So, consistent with the University, our vision is to produce the next generation of leaders.  And that’s very much what makes our program at UNR, our Masters in Social Work, unique because it very much has the focus on leadership.  Now you might say:  “Why?  Why the focus on social work and leadership?  Why is the school putting that emphasis on leadership?”  And I want to answer that first by telling you a little story that, uh – that I read in one of my favorite books – it’s called Element.  It talks about if you talk to a group of kindergartners in school and ask them:  “How many of you think of yourself as being creative?”  You will see every little hand go up.  If you ask the same class:  “How many of you imagine some day becoming the president?”  Again, almost every little hand will go up.  If you ask them:  “How many of you do you see yourself as leaders?”  Again, every hand goes up.  As time goes by and this group of students gets older, then you ask the same questions.  Unfortunately fewer and fewer hands will go up and those hands that don’t go up unfortunately tend to be increasingly women.


That tells me that somewhere along the way we are failing our students, even in the way that we are providing education.  They are basically, as humans, they’re born with the desire for leadership, yet somewhere along the way we feel that we lose that confidence, that belief in ourself.  So I truly believe in education.  We have a responsibility to nurture that and to re – reignite that desire that we were born with and that we have lost somewhere along the way.  Interestingly enough, when we think about Social Work which is 94% of our – I’m sorry, 84% of our students tend to be women.  We often think of our profession as a female-dominated profession.  But when you look closely, we’re actually not female-dominated, we are female-majority, which is very different, meaning that even though we are majority women, the leadership in Social Work still remains with men.  In many contexts when you look at whether it is in Health and Social Services, the leadership positions – or even in academia, you will see still leadership being mostly with men, which is again interesting given that 84% of our students are women.  So keep that in mind, as I explained to you again my notion around why we need to focus on leadership in our profession.


As you see in the slide I have noted two things:  Social Work values and the fact that we are multidisciplinary perspective.  Those I think are the two elements that make social workers uniquely prepared to take on leadership positions.  When you think about great leaders they don’t just have great leadership skills, whether that means budgeting and accounting and all those other management skills.  But to truly be good leaders we want to have leaders to have values and ethics and principles and they make decisions based on those.  Now, what profession do you know that is more value-laden than social work?  Every social worker knows that you have a Code of Ethics that we all have to abide by.  So we prepare students who are very ethically oriented and I think for that reason they are well positioned to be in leadership and should be in leadership positions.


The second point, the fact that we are multidisciplinary perspective.  For the reasons that I talked to you from my experience with working with the United Nations, the fact that we bring all these disciplines in trying to solve problems makes us uniquely well equipped to tackle complicated problems and take on the leadership in trying to solve those.


Now, interestingly enough, there are plenty of jobs in leadership within Health and Social Services.  In fact some people will argue there’s a crisis in leadership.  There are more jobs that we cannot fill.  But sadly, most of those jobs are not being filled by social workers, by people with an MSW but they are being filled by people who have MBA’s, MPA’s or NPH’s, which is very sad given everything we talked about in terms of what makes social workers uniquely the ones that should be taking on these positions that are open.  Now, when these leadership positions are being filled by people other than social workers, it actually hurts the very communities that we’re trying to help.  So when I promote the idea of leadership in Social Work it’s not just a self-serving thing, that I want more of our graduates to be leaders.  I do, but I actually believe that they need to be at the decision-making table because by being there they will make decisions that will help the very communities that we’re trying to help.  Because the fact that social workers have been not at the decision-making table has caused the services to be less and less aligned with the values of Social Work which only hurts the very constituents that we’re trying to help in Social Work.  So I truly believe that we have an obligation to take on the decision-making roles, to take on the leadership positions and be present at the table when these decisions are making – being made so that we can advocate on behalf of the very clients that these affect.


As you may already know, social workers make up less than 1% of congressional representatives in both House and Senate.  Imagine if we could move that number up to 5%, to 10%, to 20%, how that would affect all the different policies that are made that again affect the populations that we want to serve.  My goal is to increase these numbers.  My goal is to have our graduates graduate from this program with an understanding and with being nurtured and trained to be the next generation of leaders.


Uh, I truly believe that our graduates have the skills, the values, the knowledge and they will be nurtured to become the next, uh, leaders in our field.  I’ve been very busy in trying to think about our curriculum, our courses, in order to infuse much more of that leadership element into the courses so that our students really truly begin to understand their roles within the profession.


When we look at leadership, as many of you may already know, the majority of the leadership position is held by men.  Uh, 63% are in fact white men.  So that makes 24% women but that 24% is also white women.  So when you look at the intersection of women and – uh, race and gender the number of women of color who take on leadership position is less than 5%.  Again, these are the things that I’m passionate about.  These are the things that I want to see changed.  I want to see more women – uh, three things.  I want to see more social workers at the leadership table.  I want to see more women social workers at leadership table.  I want to see more women of color at leadership table.  Now, the situation isn’t that much better for men of color either when it comes to leadership, as you can see from that chart.  And my hope is that we can get more men of color also at the leadership position.  So the point is that we need to really begin to think of our profession as a profession that is about helping, that is value-laden, that is multidisciplinary but it’s also deeply about leadership and we need to begin to think of ourselves as leaders.  So, uh, I’m hoping that with that I can take some questions from you.  I’m hoping that that gives you a sense about where I’m going and where the, you know, the School of Social Work at UNR is headed and my hope is that you will join us in taking on this mission of becoming the next generation of leaders in Social Work.


Tammy:  Thank you so much, Shadi, we appreciate you taking the time to speak with us.  I’m going to go ahead and open it up to the group to ask any questions.  Can you please just type in your – your chat and I’ll be able to read to Shadi or even from an enrollment standpoint I can answer any questions that you guys might have.  I’m just going to give it a minute for them to be able to type in their questions, okay, Shadi?


Shadi:  Yes, no problem.


Tammy:  Alright, Shadi.  We have our first question.  The question was asked:  If I am currently working as a social worker, can my current employer count as my field placement?


Shadi:  Uh, I, I don’t know, uh, if that could count.  That’s a really good question actually for our field person who is Annie and she can probably best answer that.  I imagine there are circumstances where something can be arranged but I don’t want to, uh, misinform you so I think, given the unique situation, that’s something I would discuss with our field coordinator.


Tammy:  Okay, and I can add onto that as well, Shadi.  There is a potential for you to do it with your current employer and obviously have to meet all the parameters set for an outside social work department, typically you have to be under like a different department or a different manager, um, but you will start working very early on with your, uh, coordinator to be able to get that set up and your enrollment specialist would be able to help kind of dive into that a little bit more in detail if you have more specific questions.


Shadi:  Thank you for that, Tammy.


Tammy:  You’re welcome.  So we do have another question here.  Does the online MSW give students an opportunity to virtually see the teacher as well as other students in the class?  I would actually be able to answer that one as well.


Shadi:  Good, thank you.


Tammy:  Yeah, actually we do use a newer technology called Zoom which is a web conferencing technology that we provide to both our faculty and our students and you are able to set up instructor conferences, uh, and then also you will have lectures that will be recorded and, uh, you can view those, and then also there could be some live sessions via that Zoom conferencing as well that you could participate in.  Great question.  Thank you.


Shadi:  Yeah, I….


Tammy:  Um…


Shadi:  Go ahead.


Tammy:  No, go ahead.  You want to answer that, Shadi?


Shadi:  I second that.  I think I would have loved to be able to see all of you.  It’s – it does make it a lot more personal when you can actually and I think Zoom is a – is a wonderful opportunity to have more of that personal connection, even though we are online.


Tammy:  Yeah, great question.  I’m just waiting a couple more minutes.  If we don’t get to all of your questions, um, we’ll make sure and have an enrollment specialist reach out to you to be able to answer those more specific questions for you.  (Pause) I’m just giving them a couple more minutes to see if there’s any additional questions that come in.


Shadi:  No problem.


Tammy:  Um, there was one additional question that came in and they were asking if there was a campus visit required.  Um, and that is dependent on which program you qualify for or meet the admissions eligibility for, which we can also discuss on a one-on-one basis with an enrollment specialist.


Shadi:  Very good.


Tammy:  Uh, one additional question, Shadi, that came in is:  With the MSW program can you be specialized?


Shadi:  Uh, if – with our program, uh, do you want me to go ahead and answer?


Tammy:  Yes, please.

Shadi:  Our program, actually one of things I really like about our MSW is its Advanced Generalist and, for the reasons we talked about earlier, Advanced Generalist is much more multidisciplinary rather than specialized because again, I do believe that it’s our multidisciplinary perspective that makes us a very strong discipline so I think it actually makes you more marketable in terms of the jobs that are out there for somebody who’s an Advanced Generalist.  So I think that’s one of the benefits of our program.


Tammy:  Here’s another question that I think would be good for you, Shadi, as well.  Someone has a passion to join the Law Enforcement sector of Social Services.  Do you think an MSW is a good degree to obtain to be a probation officer?


Shadi:  Uh, absolutely.  I think it’s a – it would be wonderful to have more social workers involved in law enforcement as it touches again various sectors of the society and I think social workers are well equipped to tackle issues around law enforcement so I absolutely think so.  I think that would be an ideal area and again, our Advanced Generalist perspective will be well suited for that, and again, you can have placements that will also further tailor your program to your area of interest.


Tammy:  Awesome.  And then, just kind of follow-up another question came in:  Can you discuss some of the career paths that you can take with a Masters in Social Work?  Do you mind just maybe highlighting a couple of career options they could look at?


Shadi:  Absolutely.  You know, you can, uh – my own career I was very interested in Aging and Gerontology so you can go any direction from focusing on Child and Family, uh, Youth, Elderly.  You can be a school social worker, you could work in hospitals, as in health care, again a very, very growing area.  You could work in politics, you can be in research, you can be in academics, uh, you can be in law enforcement, you can be in, uh, youth and family services – again, it is one of the greatest things about Social Work is that it’s so versatile.  It is – you can have – and you probably have from your own personal experiences, you may encounter social workers in all walks of life.  You could be in the hospital, uh, caring for an elderly, uh, grandparent, and sit across the social worker.  You could have a child in school that may be having struggles that brings you to be across from the social workers.  And it’s at those times that I think we realize that “Thank God for social workers”  (one) and second “I hope that social workers got a really decent education, that they learned the right set of values and that they can best serve people.”  Because oftentimes people find themselves across a social worker at a time when they feel vulnerable and, uh, that’s all the more reason that our profession is so value-laden that we depend so much on our – on our ethics and our principles.  Because people who are vulnerable can also be easily exploited and that’s why we take it very seriously that people who come into social work truly adhere to the values of social work so that when they find themselves across somebody who is in need of help, somebody who’s vulnerable, that they truly are able to help them with nothing else in mind but the best interest of their client.


Tammy:  Alright, thank you so much for Shadi, I appreciate that.  Uh, I’m just going to give it about a couple more minutes to see if any additional questions come in before we go ahead and conclude.  Um, I have put on the screen the enrollment specialists and you can reach us directly at 1-866-815-3088 and they’ll be able to answer more specific questions for you, um, and then you could see the extensions of the team members there.  And then we will be following up to all your questions that we might not have been able to answer directly tonight on the webinar.


Shadi:  I do want to say that my goal this evening really was about letting you know who I am and where my vision is.  I’m hoping that the more technical questions can be answered by all these wonderful people that you have their extensions and then they can, uh, provide you with a more specific questions – uh, answers to your questions.


Tammy:  Alright, Shadi.  I don’t see any additional questions coming in.  Thank you guys so much for joining us and we will definitely follow-up with you over the next day or so with any specific questions to answer.


Shadi:  That sounds great.  Thank you so much, everyone.  I really appreciate you taking the time and I wish you all the best, no matter what career or school you choose, I wish you all the best.


Tammy:  Thank you so much, Shadi.  Have a great evening, guys.


Shadi:  You, too, uh-huh.