Global Social Work and Practice with Immigrants and Refugees

Immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers comprise 38% of the population of New York City, representing the fastest growing population group reporting to the US census. Workers born outside of the United States represent 43% of New York City’s workforce and 70% of the direct care workforce in health, social service and mental health.

Global Social Work and Practice with Immigrants and Refugees (GSWPIR), as a Field of Practice (FOP) specialization, is defined by its mission to incorporate indigenous social work perspectives from around the globe – to inform learning and practice with families and communities wherever they are located, globally or in the US urban environment, with special attention to all forms of migration.

Why combine global social work with practice with immigrants and refugees? The 21st century is characterized by unprecedented levels of global interdependence in which people, communities and their institutions are affected by transnational forces on multiple levels. From climate change to political and economic adversity, these realities have called forth responses based on an increasing awareness of human interconnectedness, leading to migration both forced and voluntary. Environmental, economic, political and social policies taken in any one country affect people everywhere. Many families are transnational, whether children are living with grandparents who receive remittances in the country of origin or the grandparents themselves are participating in the global workforce that powers our social work institutions here in New York City. Some families are awaiting the papers necessary to bring members from abroad while others are saving whatever they can to “go home.” Still others are waiting to join family members forcibly deported to their country of origin. Therefore, the same basic competencies are required for practitioners working with people in any part of this process, whether overseas or in the US.

GSWPIR students will become aware of the differing discourses in this field, and the varied understandings of and responses to adversity in the context of internationally recognized standards of social justice and human rights. Social ecological theories and the approaches derived from them are central to the field and students will learn how to define, analyze and collaborate with the communities within which they and their clients live and work, as well as to utilize methods learned from global experience. Textbooks by authors from around the globe, as well as current thinking on cross cultural learning will be used to assist this process.



Students who select the Global Social Work and Practice with Immigrants and Refugees FOP develop a plan of study that includes the following requirements:

  • The 2nd year platform course, Global Social Work and Practice with Immigrants and Refugees;
  • A 2nd year field practicum in a global, immigrant- and/or refugee-related placement in metropolitan New York;
  • Professional Seminar or Research I & II, with a project on a topic relevant to some aspect of global social work or practice with immigrants and refugees.

In addition, students often choose from among the following courses to supplement the requirements:

  • SSW 702.22         International social welfare policy and services
  • SSW 702.19         Immigrants and Refugees; Policies and Issues
  • SSW 791.88         Spirituality and Healing
  • SSW 791.71         Social Work Practice with Immigrants and Refugee
  • SSW 796.70         Work with Veterans and Military Service Members


Note: All MSW students at Silberman choose from one of three concentrations known as Practice Methods, the foundations of the School’s academic program. Students must meet all graduation requirements and core competencies of their Practice Method, in addition to those set forth by their chosen Field of Practice.



GSWPIR students complete their field instruction in approved field settings that specialize in working with immigrants, refugees and/or global practice – and that align with their chosen Practice Method.

Field placements include community agencies working with people throughout the lifespan, schools and other education programs, health facilities including nursing homes, clinics and hospitals, public and private social welfare institutions, legal settings, and selected international agencies. For some placements, we will require proficiency in a language other than English and/or previous grass-roots experiences in cross-cultural contexts or with immigrants, refugees or multicultural populations.

All field placements are located in the New York/New Jersey Metropolitan area and environs.



List of the core full time faculty members currently and actively working in the GSWPIR field of practice:


Scan QR code to go to
Global Social Work and Practice with Immigrants and Refugees Webpage