About Tony Guzman: Tony Guzman is the Director of Online Programs at the University at Buffalo, a position he has held since May of 2012. Prior to his position as Director of Online Programs, Mr. Guzman was Dean of Faculty at Rasmussen College. Other past roles include Associate Dean of the College of Engineering and Information Sciences, Associate Dean of the College of Media Arts and Technology, and Program Architect at DeVry University. Before entering the field of higher education, Mr. Guzman served in various technology leadership roles for organizations such as Atari Games and MetLife.
Mr. Guzman earned his bachelor’s degree in Pure Mathematics at the Stevens Institute of Technology; another bachelor’s degree in Information Technology from DeVry University; two master’s degrees from DeVry University in Information Systems Management and in Network and Communications Management; and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Curriculum, Instruction, and the Science of Learning from the State University of New York at Buffalo.
[OnlineMSWPrograms.com] Currently, there are approximately 30 universities offering fully online MSW programs. Why did the University at Buffalo (UB) decide to start offering their MSW program online and how is it structured?
[Mr. Guzman] The University at Buffalo School of Social Work embraced technology enhanced courses almost two decades ago and had some regional distance education program offerings for their MSW program since 2011. After their last distance education students completed their degrees, the University at Buffalo decided to establish an online MSW, and with that sought to secure a Director of Online Programs to oversee the inception, development, and maintenance of the program and its requisite technology, staff, and course content.
The Online MSW is available for part-time students, and allows them to earn their MSW in nine semesters across three years. Since its creation, our program has followed a cohort model, with students entering every fall semester. In spring 2015, we offered the advanced standing part-time online MSW for the first time, which enables students holding a BSW to complete their MSW in five semesters.
While the program is generally asynchronous, it is up to each instructor whether he or she will conduct synchronous sessions during the semester. We provide webinar tools for virtual classroom sessions and virtual office hours as needed.
Our advanced year is “a la carte,” so students pick and choose their courses based on their career interests, and we do not have any concentrations — students can craft their own specialization according to their course selections. The majority of our Advanced Intervention course offerings have online sections, and all of our Advanced Topic Analyses are available online, along with many of our electives.
[OnlineMSWPrograms.com] For students who are just learning about the University at Buffalo’s School of Social Work, can you briefly explain the program’s mission, values, and goals?
[Mr. Guzman] Our mission is to promote a better society through the generation and transmission of knowledge, the promotion of social justice and service to humanity, and the support of diversity in academic and social settings.
We seek to achieve our mission by educating future social workers in leadership on a regional, national, and international scale. We also wish to encourage critical inquiry into and thoughtful analysis of the causes and consequences of social injustices and other problems. We hope that our students learn how to participate in the development of innovative, theoretically-based and empirically-sound solutions to problems and injustices through policy and practice.
In our teaching, we strive to be responsive and responsible members of our university, regional, national and global communities, and to honor the inherent dignity, rights and strengths of all individuals, families and communities.
Our curriculum is unique in that it is rooted in evidence-based practice and integrates trauma-informed and human rights perspectives into its courses. Recognizing and understanding the significant roles that psychological trauma and human rights violations play in a range of individual, social, and political issues provides students with a unique advantage when working in clinical settings clients and seeking to improve service delivery systems.
[OnlineMSWPrograms.com] The University at Buffalo’s online MSW program offers students a unique concentration in that it integrates trauma-informed and human rights perspectives into the curriculum. For students who are just starting to research online MSW programs, can you describe what this means?
[Mr. Guzman] We believe that trauma is at the root of many of the individual, familial, social, and political issues that people contend with throughout their lives, and that understanding the connections between trauma and people’s thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and relationships is key for social workers to be effective practitioners. When working through a trauma-informed lens, social work practitioners can help clients ask more constructive questions of themselves, such as “What happened in your past that contributed to your current struggles?” instead of “What is wrong with you?”
Trauma connects to human rights perspectives (and thus to sound social work practice) because traumatic experiences often qualify as human rights violations on an individual, community, national, and global scale.
We incorporate trauma and human rights-informed perspectives into many of our core courses such as Human Behavior in the Social Environment, Research Methods, and Perspectives on Trauma and Human Rights: Contemporary Theory Research Policy and Practice.
For more information about our online MSW program trauma-focused curriculum, please visit: UB School of Social Work
[OnlineMSWPrograms.com] Field education is a major component of MSW programs and is a requirement for graduation. Can you briefly explain the field education requirements for the online MSW program at UB?
[Mr. Guzman] Our MSW Students typically complete two field placements in order to gain the necessary skills to work with clients and collaborate on social service projects and initiatives. Field placements consist of a minimum of 420 hours for the first practicum and 480 hours for the second, each divided across two semesters. This works out to be approximately 15-16 hours a week during the academic year. Block placement options are available if students will be completing their field placement outside of the region. Students accepted into the advanced standing program complete only one two-semester placement.
[OnlineMSWPrograms.com] For students who are just starting to research online MSW programs, can you give a brief overview of how field education works at the University at Buffalo? For example, how is field education integrated into the program and do students have a faculty mentor as well as a field instructor? How are field placements determined for students in the online MSW program?
[Mr. Guzman] Students are matched to agencies for their foundation placement based on their geographic location, and their interests in particular populations or areas of practice. For the second, advanced year placement, students can select a field setting that matches their educational and professional goals. The foundation year field practicum begins in the fifth week of the fall semester, following a four-week Interventions Lab. An employment-based option is available for students who are currently employed in a social services setting.
[OnlineMSWPrograms.com] Online education requires discipline from students to stay on track and keep up with coursework and assignments. What systems are in place to ensure that online students do not fall behind? Do you have any recommendations for online students in terms of staying on track with coursework?
[Mr. Guzman] Students are connected via virtual community settings on social networks and monthly chat sessions held by our student services team. We have a designated online student services staff person who is available in person, as well as via email, phone, or video chat. We also have midterm evaluations, during which faculty will alert student services in regards to any student who is not meeting academic expectations; in such situations, student support staff reach out to the student to help them get back on track. We always advise students to follow time management best practices and to strive to stay ahead of their course schedules to accommodate for any time constraints and surprises during any given semester.
[OnlineMSWPrograms.com] For students who have already decided they want to pursue an MSW, but are unsure about online education, can you briefly explain some key considerations they should take into account prior to pursuing a MSW online?
[Mr. Guzman] Any online student should be disciplined in regards to their time management, capable of being self-directed in their studies, and open to interacting with their faculty, program staff, and classmates in real-time settings online and/or in person.
[OnlineMSWPrograms.com] For students who are ready to apply to the online MSW program at the University at Buffalo, what advice do you have for them in terms of preparing their application?
[Mr. Guzman] Students should make sure that they have all necessary documents to complete their application, and to be proactive about writing their personal statements and seeking people to write their letters of recommendation. If or when they are accepted, students should also be organized and proactive in registering for courses and connecting with program faculty.
[OnlineMSWPrograms.com] Finally, with more universities starting to offer online MSW programs, why should students consider UB?
[Mr. Guzman] Our trauma-informed and human rights perspective makes us a unique school of social work. In addition, the “a la carte” advanced year offerings allow for a customized completion of students’ MSW, which other institutions do not offer. Finally, the University at Buffalo is one of the finest public research universities in the country, and our strong doctoral program is of interest to many of our MSW graduates.
Thank you Tony Guzman for your time and insight!