Abstract: Looks Matter: Are Schools of Social Work Representing Diversity and Inclusion on Their Websites? (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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524P Looks Matter: Are Schools of Social Work Representing Diversity and Inclusion on Their Websites?

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Ijeoma Nwabuzor Ogbonnaya, PhD, Assistant Professor, Arizona State University, AZ
Traci Wike, PhD, Associate Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Leah Bouchard, AM, PhD Student, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Aaron Kemmerer, MSW, Doctoral Student, Virginia Commonwealth University, VA
Mauricio Yabar, LCSW, Doctoral Student, Virginia Commonwealth University, VA
Background and Purpose: Schools of Social Work (SSW) are charged with preparing students to practice with diverse populations in our efforts to achieve a more equitable society. According to social constructivist theory, knowledge is gained through direct interaction with others. Thus, to teach students how to best serve diverse populations, SSW must model values of diversity and inclusion, including how we incorporate these efforts within our own institutions. One way that schools communicate their identities is through websites. Websites provide the ability to showcase schools’ diversity and inclusion efforts, which can attract a more diverse pool of students, faculty, and staff into the organization. It is unclear how SSW currently use their websites to communicate these types of efforts. Thus, we sought to explore how diversity and inclusion are reflected in SSW websites.

Methods: Using guided content analyses, we explored a random sample of SSW websites. All CSWE-accredited, graduate-level MSW programs (n = 311) were eligible for inclusion; 47 Schools (15%) were randomly selected.

Guided by our data extraction form based on Mor Barak and Travis’ (2010) two-stage process of diversity and inclusion, we explored links on SSW websites to collect diversity and inclusion data. Additionally, we collected demographic information (e.g., program types, public vs. private designation).

Data were independently coded through open, first-level, and second-level coding, leading to thematic analysis. Discrepancies were resolved by consensus. We also conducted descriptive analyses to further understand the extent of diversity/inclusion efforts.

Results: Of the current sample (n=21), 71.4% offered masters degrees only, and 61.9% were in public institutions. The following themes emerged: inclusion-focused characteristics well-represented at the student-and-faculty-level, limited inclusion-focused characteristics represented at the school-level, and diversity/inclusion information available but difficult to access.

The top diversity/inclusion-focused characteristics at the student-level were not requiring the GRE for admission (90.5%) and a standardized exam to graduate (85.7%). Less information existed regarding diverse student organizations (e.g., Black Social Work Student Caucus; 19.0%), and no (0.0%) websites included student body demographics.

At the faculty-level, the top represented diversity/inclusion-focused characteristics were having a female dean/director (85.7%) and having faculty of color (81.0%). The lowest represented characteristics were having a person of color as the dean/director (23.8%) and preferred gender pronouns in faculty profiles (4.8%).

At the school-level, many websites included mission statements with diversity-related content (71.4%) and images of diverse persons (66.7%). Fewer included activities/policies/programs for diversity/inclusion (38.1%), evidence of global outreach (23.8%), and content regarding diversity-focused institutes/centers/offices (14.3%).

Conclusions and Implications: Websites are likely the first place that potential consumers, including students, faculty, staff, and community providers, look when wanting to learn about a SSW. SSW websites should include more information to help potential consumers from diverse backgrounds determine whether they would feel included at the School. Such information should be not only available but also easily accessible. Diversity efforts may attract members of diverse populations to a school, but inclusion initiatives increase chances they feel satisfied and remain connected. These positive outcomes can allow students to flourish directly and indirectly, through learning from one another.