Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Manoj Pardasani

Dr. Manoj Pardasani joined Adelphi University as dean of the School of Social Work at a very precarious time.

“I started in June 2020 in the midst of a pandemic,” Dr. Pardasani said. “It was a strange time to start as a leader of any school.”

Though the timing wasn’t ideal, Pardasani embraced his dual role at Adelphi. In addition to being an administrator of Adelphi’s on-campus and online MSW programs, he’s a tenured professor, specializing in gerontology, non-profit leadership, community practice and social policy analysis.

Prior to his experience as an administrator and educator, Pardasani developed his experience in the social work field, where he worked with several populations, including older adults.

“One of my interests is case management for homebound older adults who do not need a nursing home, but who are in need of support services, programs and other resources,” said Pardasani.

Read on to find out Pardasani’s thoughts on the importance of customized courses like Social Work Practice In Health Care, what stands out most about Adelphi’s online MSW program, and how Adelphi has made its residency for online MSW students accessible.

Please tell me a little about your role at Adelphi as a dean and professor.

When I started at Adelphi University, it was going through a period of transition in a positive way. A year ago Adelphi celebrated its seventieth anniversary as a school of social work. We’ve been around for a long time as a nationally ranked school of social work in this country.

A few years ago we started our online MSW (OMSW). This program has a nationwide reach, and we’re really proud to have this impact across the country. Our graduates go on to work in the field of social work across the United States—sometimes even internationally—and we’re proud we’ve helped our graduates pursue opportunities everywhere.

I’ve read that you are interested in public policy reforms for aging populations on social welfare. Please expand on this.

I started my career in social work in gerontology. I was a program director, and then the director of a senior center in the Bronx in New York City. Those experiences really sparked my interest in working with older adults and conducting research on social work practice with that age group. Our over 65 population is going to double in just a few years. We also have a significant proportion of our population that’s going to be 50 years and older.

What we really need to look at is not just programs and services, but social policies that are designed to help older adults age successfully in their communities, with the support and resources they need to be as independent as long as possible in order to have a great quality of life.

As my research has expanded and transformed over the years, what I get really excited about is conducting research where I see gaps or needs in social policies or social services .

Why do you think students would choose the Adelphi online MSW program over others offered in the region?

Our program was developed in-house by our faculty and administrators with an accredited curriculum that is identical to the one offered on-campus. We offer the same quality, content and expertise in our online program as we do in-person.

Our program is focused on engaging students and helping them grow professionally and personally, so that when they graduate they become effective and ethical practitioners. Another area of focus in the program is social justice and human rights. We prepare our students to not only be effective, ethical practitioners that work with multiple populations, but to also strive for social justice, and figure out ways to address disparities, inequities and injustices in society.

Another benefit of our online MSW is that our classes are small. This means that we are able to give our students a lot more direct attention in the virtual and field environments.

In addition to wanting our students to become changemakers, we also want them to be able to get licensed as practicing social workers. We created a comprehensive licensure prep program that is available to all our MSW students. We’ve developed an eight-module course that gives our students access to strategy sessions on licensing and the licensing exam, including how it is structured. We also provide an exam bank of prior licensing exam questions so that they can practice on their own.

We also offer refresher sessions and exam practice tests. And our licensing advisors are available at no cost to students throughout their programs.

These are some of the things that set our MSW program apart from some others in the region. We are focused on education as well as professional development—we don’t forget about our students once they graduate. We offer a comprehensive array of continuing education programs to social workers in the field, including our own alumni.

I know that Adelphi’s online MSW is customizable to fulfill the needs of your students. Please tell me more about the Health Across Life specialization, and what outcomes you have seen from that.

In our Social Work Practice in Health Care course, we teach our students about health in a comprehensive way. What social work does best is really look at human beings holistically. When we talk about health, we’re not just talking about physical health, but also emotional, social, economic and environmental health.

Often in social work—both in education and practice—the focus is on health and development in the early stages of life, as if to say that development ends at 18. But the brain continues to evolve past the age of 21, and human beings continue to grow and develop throughout their lifetime through all their experiences. The Health Across Life specialization helps students understand the importance of comprehensive and holistic health across a person’s life span. As a result, we’re seeing these students more effectively able to market themselves for jobs because they haven’t been so siloed to one age population.

Another positive aspect is that this understanding of development through the lifespan, really brings more knowledge and skills to their practice. This concentration gives students the ability to learn about the full breadth of issues and conditions that impact people at different stages of their lives.

Finally, the Social Work Practice in Health Care course really utilizes the strengths of our faculty. Many of them focus on health care throughout the lifespan. Some of them have more expertise with older adults, and some with children, adolescents and young adults. Our faculty members also have a range of experience in mental health, substance abuse and general healthcare.

We are able to bring those strengths together and create a comprehensive continuum of life model which I think is really helpful.

Please tell me about the field work opportunities available for Adelphi MSW students.

Traditionally, MSW students have a field placement for 600 hours in their foundation or beginning year, and then another 600 hours in their advanced year.
First-year field placements are more generic. Students are just learning to engage clients, conduct preliminary assessments, develop intervention plans, evaluate whether what they are doing is working or not, and learn how to work in an organization with different stakeholders and multiple disciplines.

In terms of field placements, students will work in a variety of fields, like domestic violence, with homeless populations, or in a school system. They could be working in a mental health clinic or community health clinic, or they could be working in a substance abuse treatment program or a hospital setting. There’s a really wide range of services and programs that they might work in.

In their advanced year, they can work in more specialized environments. For example, within the hospital system, they may work in oncology or neonatal care. This gives them the opportunity to work with new populations, and learn new interventions and skills in the field.

What career opportunities can people pursue with an MSW outside of a clinical setting?

Social workers work in a variety of settings. For example, a social worker might connect families to resources that they need, or work in hospitals doing discharge planning and case management. Social workers may work in community centers and senior centers with children, adolescents, adults and older adults. Social workers can also find government jobs doing policy analysis and policy advocacy. You’ll find social workers working in the corrections system, both in jails and prisons, working with clients that are incarcerated as well as those who were recently released. These social workers help people reintegrate in their communities.

Social workers may also work with immigrants and refugees, helping them resettle and acclimate to their surroundings. There are social workers who work with homeless populations, getting them housing, food services, and other support systems. And there are those who work in advocacy, connecting clients to specific services and giving them the support that they need. Social workers are employed in schools, mental health and substance abuse treatment programs, private counseling, psychiatric centers, social justice coalitions, veterans administration (VAs) and many more settings.

Please tell me about some faculty accomplishments.

There are three or four core areas of strength among our faculty that are really critical. One is that we have faculty who are very strong in practice. They’ve been able to create curriculum, syllabi and courses that study practice in diverse settings with diverse populations.

A second area of strength is what we’ve recently been referring to as diversity, equity and inclusion in social work and academia. Many of our faculty are not only engaged in their own area of service but are also teaching from the perspective of social justice and human rights. We’ve been able to merge that into our curriculum, so students are getting this perspective and are being trained through this lens, which makes for strong, effective social workers who are going to be changemakers.

A third area that I think is critical is that we have several faculty members who are focused on international social work. This encompasses work that is being done across the world in different communities, work that informs our own practice in the United States. This betters our own understanding of practice, not just with immigrants and refugees, but overall.

Finally, we also have a number of faculty members who are engaged in policy analysis and policy advocacy, which strengthens both the curriculum and the real-world preparation we provide for our students.

Are there any recent trends or developments in social work research and methods that are of general interest to your student groups?

Our MSW students take two classes on research: one on research methods, and one on qualitative analysis. I think these are very critical for two reasons. The first is that the field of social work has been pushed to implement practices or interventions that are evidence-based. It’s important that social workers are able to recognize how certain interventions are designed, how they are supposed to be implemented and what issues could come up. The second is that social workers need to be strategic and rigorous in their selection of intervention modalities for their clients.

The other focus is for social workers to be able to evaluate their own work and document the impact or effectiveness of it. We are ultimately our own advocates for what we do. If we’re not able to evaluate what we’re doing and look at the impact both positive and negative, then we are doing ourselves and most importantly our clients a disservice. So, I would say that those are really critical for our students.

Most of the instructors who teach research courses in the online MSW program are full-time faculty members who are currently doing their own research. They have the requisite skills, knowledge and experience to engage and train students.

In addition, some of our classes are taught by doctoral students, and a large part of their work involves designing and implementing research. Furthermore, most of our doctoral students are active practitioners.

In terms of field work opportunities, do you have someone who assists with the placement of the field?

Every student in the online MSW program is connected to one field professional who they work with to help craft a field opportunity during their first and second year. That’s the person who helps them locate and settle into the placement. Every student is also supervised by a licensed social worker in the agency or the placement where they are doing field work. In addition, every student who’s in the field is also assigned a faculty member who serves as a field instructor.

In addition, all students are assigned a faculty field liaison to work with the student for academic advising.

Have there been any recent changes to your online MSW program?

We now offer more residency options for our online MSW students. We have always had an in-person residency.

During the pandemic, however, we conducted everything virtually, and that gave us an opportunity to design an entirely online residency for our program. Beginning in January 2022, new MSW students will be able to choose if they want to attend an in-person residency or a virtual one. If they choose a virtual residency, they will not need to travel or come to a physical campus. They will receive all their instruction virtually.

Is there anything else you would like potential students to know?

The director of our online MSW program, Dr. Beverly Dawson, is also a faculty member in the School of Social Work. That really is a testament not just to her leadership skills and her vision, but also to her connection between the online program and our on-campus program. It’s integrated fully—it’s not a separate entity—and we never treat it like that.

The other thing that makes us special is our online academic advising. Our online students are served by the same academic advisors and field advisors as students who attend on-campus or any in-person program. Our students receive individualized attention, not just in the virtual classroom, but in all student services including field education and academic advising.

We’ve gone to great lengths to ensure a campus community engagement experience for our online students. Whether they engage in social activities, workshops, seminars or continuing education opportunities, online students can have an experience that makes them feel like they’re part of the school.

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