Social Work

Falk announces Graduate Merit Scholarships for Syracuse University students

Syracuse University Students at CommencementFalk College is pleased to announce the Falk College Merit Award Scholarship for current Syracuse University students interested in applying for a Falk College master’s degree.

Incentives include no application fee, GRE waiver where applicable, and a 25% tuition discount incentive, which is applied after any other scholarships, scholarship credits, assistantships, and remitted tuition credits are applied.

To be eligible for the scholarship, students must be a current Syracuse University student in good standing with an overall GPA of 3.4 or higher applying for part-time or full-time study in one of the following degree programs:

Interested students must contact Falk Admissions and submit their application by February 15. Successful applicants will be officially admitted by the academic department and must formally matriculate for a 2019-2020 term.

“Falk College graduate degree programs allow undergraduates of all majors to tailor and enhance their career opportunities,” says Falk College director of admissions, Felicia Otero. “For example, bachelor’s degrees in psychology and sociology pair especially well with a master’s degree in social work (MSW), marriage and family therapy (MFT), or the SWK-MFT dual program, as well as human development and family science, public health, and global health.

“Undergraduates studying business, management, advertising, and public relations can apply their skills directly to our sport venue and event management master’s program. Students with skills in these disciplines might also apply to public health, global health, and food studies master’s programs, alongside students with bachelor’s degrees in communication & rhetorical studies, English, advertising, and education,” Otero continues. “Undergraduates in biology and chemistry programs often pursue graduate study in nutrition science, as well as public health and global health programs at Falk.”

“Falk graduate degrees lead to a variety of careers and end-credentials,” says Deborah Golia, assistant director of admissions at Falk College. “You’ll find Falk alumni working as counselors, therapists, social workers, community advocates, community educators, public health specialists, nonprofit program directors, managers, nutritionists, dietitians, sustainability program educators, and in limitless other roles.”

“Falk College graduate degrees also lead to research professions and continued study in doctoral programs,” she adds.

Falk Admissions will host a Graduate Information Session on Friday, November 2 in Falk Complex, White Hall, Room 335 at 4:00 p.m. In addition to review of Falk graduate programs, interested students can learn more about Falk Graduate Scholarships. For more information, please contact the Falk College Office of Admissions at 315.443.5555 or email

Social work professor receives Robert Wood Johnson Foundation leadership grant

Matthew Spitzmueller portraitMatthew Spitzmueller, assistant professor in the School of Social Work in Falk College, has been selected to participate in one of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) leadership development programs designed to equip leaders across the country—in every sector and field—to collaborate, break down silos, and use their influence to make communities healthier and more equitable.

Spitzmueller’s study is titled, “Upstate New York – Unfamiliar Territory: Evaluating the Impact of Health Care Reforms on Behavioral Health Care Providers in Rural Upstate New York.” This project will explore the opportunities and barriers rural behavioral health organizations experience as they implement health care payment and delivery reform.

According to Spitzmueller, “rural behavioral health services target a population that is uniquely vulnerable, costly to serve, and difficult to reach. When behavioral health systems do not effectively engage this population, health disparities worsen and untreated illnesses put added pressure on high-cost systems, such as hospitals.” This study will focus on ensuring that rural behavioral health providers can survive and flourish in a changing health care system, which is critical to building equitable and sustainable systems of care. “The findings from this project will be used by behavioral health and social service organization leaders in rural areas of New York as well as county and state government officials to continuously improve the behavioral health service system,” says Spitzmueller.

Specifically, Spitzmueller was selected for the Interdisciplinary Research Leaders program. Designed for teams of two researchers and one community leader, Interdisciplinary Research Leaders supports engaged research, crafted and conducted by innovative teams to explore a problem and apply a solution in real time, making an immediate positive impact in their home communities. The three-year program provides participants with annual support of up to $25,000 and a one-time research grant of up to $125,000 per team.

This study fits Spitzmueller’s background and trajectory as an ethnographic researcher of mental health policy and organizational practice. Spitzmueller earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration. His research examines direct service provision to adults with severe and persistent mental illness, the strategies behavioral health workers adopt as they negotiate changing work conditions under Medicaid reform, and the impact of policy reform on socially and economically vulnerable people.

As a participant in the RWJF leadership program, Spitzmueller will benefit from high-caliber curricula and coaching from national leaders, collaborate with other cutting-edge thinkers to create greater impact, and accelerate his ability to build healthy communities, inform public opinion and policy, and contribute significantly to building a Culture of Health.

To learn more about Interdisciplinary Research Leaders and RWJF’s other leadership development programs, visit the IRL website.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the nation’s largest philanthropy dedicated solely to health. Since 1972, it has supported research and programs targeting some of the nation’s most pressing health issues, from substance abuse to improving access to quality care.

Alford Appointed Syracuse University Interim Chief Diversity Officer

Keith Alford PortraitChancellor Kent Syverud has appointed Professor Keith A. Alford to the newly created post of interim chief diversity officer (CDO), effective July 1. Alford is an associate professor, chair of the Falk College’s School of Social Work and graduate program director. The Chancellor’s Workgroup on Diversity and Inclusion recommended that a CDO position be created to strengthen the University’s diversity initiatives.

Read the full story at SU News

Explore Falk Graduate Programs at November 2 Info Session

Campus pictureSyracuse University’s Falk College will host a Graduate Information Session on Friday, November 2 in Falk Complex, White Hall, Room 335 across from the Falk College Admissions Suite. Faculty, staff, and current students will welcome potential graduate students interested in helping professions in counseling, therapy, public policy, and advocacy; health professions such as public health, epidemiology, nutrition, and wellness; as well as careers in sport and sporting events management. The two-hour event will start at 4 p.m. and will include a brief overview presentation, a question and answer session, and time to meet with faculty and students. Light refreshments will be served.

Detailed information will be provided on graduate programs in human development and family science (MA, MS, PhD), food studies (MS), global health (MS), public health (MS), marriage and family therapy (MA, PhD), social work (MSW) as well as the dual degree program (MA/MSW) in marriage and family therapy and social work, nutrition science (MA, MS), and sport venue and event management (MS).

Details on Falk College Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS) programs in addiction studies, child therapy, dietetic internship, global health, food studies, and trauma-informed practice will also be provided.

Admissions staff will be available at the information session to meet with students and provide information on academic programs, housing, and scholarships, including the new Falk College Scholarship Merit Award program for high achieving Syracuse University undergraduate students applying to a Falk College master’s degree program in 2019.

For more information about this event, and to register for it, contact Falk College Admissions at 315.443.5555, email, or visit the event webpage on the Falk College website.

Study explores New York State behavioral health service delivery reform

Matthew SpitzmuellerScholarship suggests that behavioral health outcomes improve when healthcare consumers and their family members are involved in key decisions affecting the services they receive. An ethnographic study by Falk College assistant professor of social work, Matthew C. Spitzmueller, is taking an in-depth look at this premise specifically in New York State. The study’s findings have potential positive implications for mental health service delivery statewide and across the country.

Ethnographic research methods study individuals in their own environments through participant observation and face-to-face interviewing. “The value of ethnography is that it allows you to get under the hood of the process,” says Spitzmueller. Since 2014, he has observed meetings, conducted informal and structured interviews, and analyzed documents provided to Regional Planning Consortiums, or RPCs, including one in Central New York. Understanding how effectively consumers and family members are integrated into the mental health service delivery process and what obstacles are encountered will help to inform an effective model for collaborative governance, which policy makers believe can improve mental health care through consensus building and local participation.

In April 2014, New York State was awarded one of the largest Medicaid waivers approved by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to improve patient care and overall health while reducing public costs to do so. The state’s governor-appointed Medicaid Redesign Team identified mental health services as an area in particular need of reform. People with serious mental illness place an onerous financial toll on the system yet have among the poorest health outcomes.

The New York State Conference of Local Mental Hygiene Directors built a regional structure to provide oversight and troubleshooting of mental health service delivery reinvestment and reform that includes 10 RPCs with local state officials, managed care organizations and health homes, service providers, and consumers and family members. The RPC model’s design purposefully involves local stakeholders to ensure they have a voice in mental health system reforms as they are implemented.

The hope of collaborative governance is to strengthen and broaden the public behavioral health system allowing more individuals with mental illness to be supported with high-quality, cost-effective services within home and community-based settings vs. costly inpatient psychiatric stays. As the process unfolds, RPCs will use data sharing and service system planning to assess and provide input into reinvestment, establish local priorities, and share best practices both within the region and statewide.

This study, with support from a seed grant from the Falk College Research Center, fits Spitzmueller’s background and trajectory as an ethnographic researcher of mental health policy and organizational practice. Spitzmueller earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration. His research examines direct service provision to adults with severe and persistent mental illness, strategies community and mental health workers adopt as they negotiate their changing work conditions under Medicaid reform, and policy reform’s impact on the nature and distribution of mental health services. In the School of Social Work, Spitzmueller teaches courses in fundamentals of social work practice and mental health policy. He uses his research to help students develop skills for directly engaging underserved populations and to conceptualize the linages among public policy, organizational context, and street-level practice.

Spitzmueller’s published findings from this study will assess the use of collaborative governance for steering behavioral health reform, the means by which different stakeholder groups exercise voice and influence, and the nature of representation in multi-stakeholder decision-making. “New York State is a laboratory for the rest of the country. By increasing opportunities for voice and allowing people to be agents in their own care, it is at the forefront of overhauling behavioral health,” concludes Spitzmueller.

Karen Kirkhart Named NSCS National Advisor Of The Year

Karen KirkhartThe National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS), the nation’s preeminent honors organization for first- and second-year students, named Karen Kirkhart the Laura Taddeucci Downs National Advisor of the Year. Dr. Kirkhart, a professor at the School of Social Work in Falk College and director of its baccalaureate program in social work, has been a Syracuse University chapter advisor for NSCS since 2008.

Laura Taddeucci Downs was the first NSCS advisor at the organization’s inaugural chapter founded in 1994 on the campus of the George Washington University.

“Laura believed in the vision of NSCS to make a positive difference for students, even when it was simply just an idea,” said NSCS Founder Stephen Loflin. “A leading advocate for supporting first-and second-year students, Laura knows firsthand what it takes to meaningfully impact the student experience and embodies a student-first philosophy, for which Dr. Kirkhart has emulated for more than a decade with NSCS members.”

The selection process was quite rigorous, starting from a pool of more than 300 higher education professionals nationwide, including the 2018 NSCS Regional Advisor of the Year candidates. In the end, however, Dr. Kirkhart’s unwavering support and dedication to the NSCS Chapter at Syracuse University for the past ten years put her ahead of the leading finalists.

“NSCS advisors are often responsible for the unglamorous tasks that in the end are vital to the success of the chapter. They’re the backbone of NSCS,” says Laura Taddeucci Downs. “My husband and I have followed Steve Loflin and NSCS for years, and thought it would be nice to endow the award. Our hope is that the $1,000 professional stipend may help compensate the advisors in some small way for the countless hours they have dedicated to NSCS over the years.”

“I have been privileged to advise the wonderful Syracuse University Chapter of NSCS since 2008, when one of my Honors students invited me to serve,” says Dr. Kirkhart. “NSCS stands for integrity, a core value for all citizens. I especially value the diversity of our officers and members and how well they respect one another and work together. Their commitment to community service – both individually and collectively – is inspiring, and we continue to build partnerships with other recognized student organizations on campus.”

The National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS) is an honors organization that recognizes and elevates high-achieving freshmen and sophomores. With its three pillars of scholarship, leadership and service, NSCS is proud to provide career and graduate school connections, leadership and service opportunities and gives out a million dollars in scholarships, awards and chapter funds annually. NSCS has more than 320 chapters nation-wide with more than 1.5 million lifetime members globally.

Social work professor Keith A. Alford receives 2018 InterFaith Leadership Award

Keith Alford PortraitIn acknowledgement of a professional and personal life devoted to social justice and social transformation in building a civil community, Keith A. Alford will receive the 2018 InterFaith Leadership Award at the “Creating a Civil Community” celebration on May 1 at the SRC Arena & Events Center.

Dr. Alford is chair and associate professor in the School of Social Work, Falk College. A former child protective services worker, outpatient family therapist and therapeutic foster care supervisor, he has devoted his professional life to serving and researching the needs of children and families. He became affiliated with InterFaith Works in 1996 when the agency was launching the Community-wide Dialogue Circles to End Racism.

“Dialogue is so important versus debate,” he says. “When you debate, you have winners and losers. But when you engage in dialogue, it is a process of really trying to understand where the other person is coming from and where he or she would like to go. Through dialogue, we are always looking for ways to clear up misperceptions and understand the lived experiences of others. It also provides the opportunity for relationship building. Sometimes lifelong relationships develop across multicultural lines as a result of dialogue circles.”

In addition to his involvement with InterFaith Works, Dr. Alford has regularly served other organizations across Onondaga County. For eight years, he served as a trustee of the Onondaga County Public Library. He is a current board member of Access CNY, an organization that serves people with disabilities. In 2014, he was named by Social Work Degree Guide as one of the 30 most influential social workers in the nation. In 2015, he was given the Harriet Tubman Spirit Award from Bethany Baptist Church and the Excellence in Service Award from Falk College, Syracuse University. His academic writings have appeared in numerous social work journals and he has authored book chapters in Mental Health Care in the African American Community (Haworth Press, 2007) and Educating Our Black Children (Routledge, 2001). He is co-editor of Rural Families and Reshaping Human Services (Routledge, 2015).

Says Alford, “I am humbled by this award. I am aware of others who have received it over the years and they are people I have always admired. It is also a reminder that my work is not complete. There is still much to do. So this award will be an energizer in many ways—inspiring me to persevere in the work I have always done and will continue to do with a renewed sense of purpose.”

2018 InterFaith Leadership Awards will also be presented to Dennis Baldwin, Esq., Counsel, Mackenzie Hughes; The Rev. Frederick Daley, Pastor, All Saints Church; Rabbi Daniel Fellman, Rabbi, Temple Concord; Melanie Littlejohn, Regional Executive Director, National Grid; Peggy Ogden, Former President/CEO, Central New York Community Foundation; The Rev. Peter Shidemantle, Pastor, Pebble Hill Presbyterian Church; and Yusuf Soule, Coordinator, OnCampus Program, Syracuse City School District, and; the Syracuse University School of Education.

Read more about this at SU News

Social Work presents Social Justice Awards, research resources

Rubenstein Portrait
Dan and Mary Lou Rubenstein

In commemoration of National Professional Social Work Month during March, the School of Social Work in Falk College presented its annual Dan and Mary Lou Rubenstein Social Justice Award program on Monday, March 19 at 6:45 p.m. in Grant Auditorium in the Falk Complex with a keynote address by Al-amin Muhammad entitled, “Many faces, many stories: The lived experiences of people who are homeless.” In partnership with the SU Libraries, the School of Social Work also introduced a new online resource to support social work research.

Al-amin Muhammad is the founder of We Rise Above the Streets Recovery Outreach, Inc. who, along with The Rescue Mission Alliance of Syracuse, N.Y., were honored that evening with 2018 Dan and Mary Lou Rubenstein Social Justice Awards for their respective demonstrated commitments to service and social justice in the Syracuse community.

We Rise Above the Streets Recovery Outreach, Inc. an organization that helps meet the immediate needs of the homeless by providing items such as food and clothing, in addition to providing education, encouragement and enrichment programs that aim to help break the cycle of poverty. The Rescue Mission has a long and positive history of uplifting humanity and building upon the strengths of individuals.

Presented for more than 30 years, the Rubenstein Social Justice Award is given in honor of the late professor Dan Rubenstein, a former faculty member in the School of Social Work and his late wife, Mary Lou, a former school social worker. Recipients of this award are role models whose courage and strength inspire others to stand up—and step up—to advocate and be a voice in the Syracuse community. The values of social justice are integral to their daily lives. The work of honorees each year, by their individual and collective examples, exemplify the true spirit of the Rubenstein Social Justice Award.

To view photos of the event, please visit Falk College on Facebook.



Alejandro Garcia selected for the National Hispanic Council on Aging’s Hall of Fame

Dr. Garcia Portrait
Alejandro Garcia, M.S.W., Ph.D.
Alejandro Garcia, M.S.W., Ph.D., Jocelyn Falk Endowed Professor of Social Work, was recently selected to be part of the National Hispanic Council on Aging’s Hall of Fame. The NHCOA is dedicated to improving the lives of Hispanic older adults, as well as their families and caregivers, and its Hall of Fame recognizes those whose efforts promote this mission. Dr. Garcia has taught in the areas of gerontology, social policy, and human diversity for over 30 years.

More information about Dr. Garcia

Learn more about the event

MSW alumnus Dan Sieburg named Rescue Mission CEO

Dan Sieburg Portrait
Dan Sieburg
Dan Sieburg G’16, LMSW, was named Chief Executive Officer of the Rescue Mission by its Board of Directors in November. In this role, he will oversee a $20 million annual budget, as well as staff and programming in the Syracuse, Binghamton, Auburn and Ithaca areas. Sieburg joined the Rescue Mission 10 years ago and most recently served as Chief Program Officer responsible for the oversight and effective delivery of programs to support men, women and children experiencing hunger and homelessness.

Says Sieburg, “the School of Social Work in Falk College at Syracuse University has helped to solidify my foundation of knowledge and best practices, best preparing me to lead this 130-year-old organization.”

The Rescue Mission is a long-time collaborative partner of the School of Social Work, offering field placement and service learning opportunities for students. Currently, six MSW students are placed there. Earlier this year, in recognition of the 60th anniversary of the School of Social Work, the Syracuse University community participated in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service at multiple community sites, including the Rescue Mission. Volunteers sorted and packed boxes of clothing, prepared sandwiches for delivery by the Rescue Mission Street Outreach, and assisted with special kitchen and office projects.

“I’m very pleased that Dan received the unanimous support of the Board of Directors for this important position. I believe that he will succeed well in addressing the increasingly diverse number of homeless persons who receive a variety of services . He has been outstanding in recognizing the increasing number of homeless opioid users as well as the number of LGBT youth thrown out of their homes. His philosophical approach to the homeless has been to accept all without judgement,” says Alejandro Garcia, the Jocelyn Falk Endowed Professor of Social Work and a member of the Rescue Mission’s Board of Directors.

Prior to his work at the Rescue Mission, Sieburg worked as a pastor at a local church as well as at several local human service organizations. He holds an undergraduate degree from SUNY Cortland and a master’s in social work from Syracuse University, where he serves as an adjunct faculty member in social work. He has spoken nationally regarding the issues people experiencing homelessness face, as well as the most effective solutions needed to assist them. He also collaborates with local homelessness task forces and boards.

“Dan Sieburg is an individual who wholeheartedly embraces the cardinal value of social justice. Since I have known him as a student in our graduate program and now in his current role, Dan has always worked on behalf of vulnerable populations. He is a community change agent without a doubt. In his unassuming way, he actively pursues opportunities to build-up and advocate for those who are oppressed. I am pleased that he is now the new Director of the Rescue Mission. He is most qualified for this job and will do well in it. We, here at his alma mater, Syracuse University School of Social Work, are proud and wish him all the best,” adds director of the School of Social Work, Professor Keith A. Alford.