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Our Philosophy

As social workers, we operate in a society characterized by power imbalances that affect us all. These power imbalances are based on age, class, ethnicity, gender identity, geographic location, health, ability, race, sexual identity and income. We see personal troubles as inextricably linked to oppressive structures. We believe that social workers must be actively involved in the understanding and transformation of injustices in social institutions and in the struggles of people to maximize control over their own lives.

Our Focus

Social Work has always been concerned with the entanglement of private troubles and public issues and committed to the enhancement of social justice. We aim to prepare students for practice in a wide variety of social and community services and for critical reflection on their activities as both professionals and citizens. Through our research and community engagements, we address some of the tensions in contemporary social programs and, in the context of a changing world, strive to understand and challenge various forms and dynamics of social inequality. Our areas of focus include:

Struggles for Social Justice

Injustice - dismissal of and violence against indigenous people, disabled people, people labeled 'mad', racialized people, women, people who are queer, people who are old - is embedded in society. Social workers strive to understand, challenge and transform social injustice.

Critical Practice & Leadership

'Critical' social work practice and leadership recognizes and attempts to address the historical and social inequities that cause (or make worse) individual, family and community troubles. Critical approaches also recognize the contradictions and harms of social work and social policies.

Advocacy & Support

Social workers are actively involved in supporting people and communities to gain access and voice in decision making, in their own lives and circumstances and in the public sphere.

Political & Institutional Change

Social policies and social welfare institutions significantly affect the lives and life chances of individuals and communities. Social workers study and take action to improve and transform them.

Acknowledgement of the Land

We recognize and acknowledge that the School of Social Work at McMaster University meets and learns on the traditional territories of the Mississauga and Haudenosaunee nations, and within the lands protected by the “Dish With One Spoon” wampum.

Rick Hill, historian and curator, coordinator of the Indigenous Knowledge Centre at Six Nations Polytechnic, has spoken about the Dish with One Spoon wampum: 

The dish with one spoon wampum belt, “is probably the most significant in terms of the Native people in this land,” said Hill. “The old people say this represents the first treaty made in North America. It was made between all the Native nations before the Europeans arrived. It’s a simple belt with a field of white which represents peace and unity and harmony, with a little dark figure which represents the bowl.” Of particular importance in this age of environmental degradation is the fact that the dish with one spoon is also a covenant with nature. “Nature says, ‘Here’s the great dish and inside the dish are all the plants, the animals, the birds, the fish, the bushes, the trees, everything you need to be healthy and therefore, happy’.” Hill spoke about the rules nature attaches to this covenant. “The three basic rules are: only take what you need, second, you always leave something in the dish for everybody else, including the dish, and third, you keep the dish clean…that was the treaty between us and nature, and then the treaty between us and everybody else.”

Programs and School Organization

Undergraduate Programs

Our BSW program is accredited as an undergraduate university-level degree program by the Canadian Association for Social Work Education (CASWE).

You will be eligible for membership in the Ontario Association of Social Workers both as a student and upon graduation. Also upon graduation, you will be eligible to join the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers.



Graduate Programs

McMaster’s MSW program is accredited by the Canadian Association for Social Work Education (CASWE).

The School of Social Work offers two MSW programs, a PhD program and a Graduate Diploma.

  • MSW Programs:
    • The MSW: Critical Analysis of Social Work
    • The MSW: Critical Leadership in Social Services and Communities
  • Graduate Diplomas:
    • The Graduate Diplimoa in Critical Leadership in Social Services
    • The Graduate Diploma in Community-Engaged Research and Evaluation
  • PhD Program

School of Social Work Organization & Committees

Use your voice to make a difference.  Do you have any ideas or suggestions to make things better? Well here's your opportunity to voice those ideas and make a difference in your education.  

If you are interested in joining a committee or have further questions, please contact Darlene Savoy

Our BSW and MSW programs are accredited by the Canadian Association for Social Work Education (CASWE)

School Alumni

Find out more about the directions and possibilities that open up for Social Work graduates.

About our Alumni

Word-cloud Vision

Our word-cloud vision: we want your words!

Over the past months we've been gathering together words/ terms/ phrases that express values, commitments and practices that are important to people connected to the McMaster School of Social Work, and about which we hope to achieve some more-or-less consensus.

Send us your words!