Never underestimate the power of a social work degree. That’s according to Chong-suk Han, an alumnus of Temple’s Master of Social Work program and associate professor of sociology at Middlebury College in Vermont. Han’s roots in social work remain strong, and he says hardly a day goes by when he doesn’t use the skills he learned in his Temple MSW courses.
“An MSW provides you with real skills in terms of how you deal with people, read a situation, learn to anticipate an environment and how people interact within that environment,” says Han. “It’s a phenomenally flexible degree.”
Thanks to that versatility, those with social work degrees can focus on areas beyond counseling and therapy. Han knows that first-hand: last year he authored a book called “Geisha of a Different Kind: Race and Sexuality in Gaysian America,” and he was recently interviewed in The Atlantic about RuPaul’s Drag Race.
And the courses Han teaches—including summer classes at Temple’s School of Social Work—often address sensitive issues like racism, sexism, gender and social class. “I talk about these very controversial topics,” he says. “The training that I’ve had, particularly working in group settings, has been helpful in how I manage and navigate those difficult conversations in the classroom.”
Han says that in healthcare, too, social workers are increasingly seen as integral members of patient care teams. “Social workers are uniquely positioned, because they’re specifically trained to think about why people engage in unhealthy or risky behavior”—taking into account big-picture factors like a patient’s social and economic environments.
That’s something that physicians might not be trained to do, but that social workers have long known plays a critical role in a patient’s long-term wellbeing. “There’s a huge recognition in healthcare now,” says Han, “that social work was on to something all along.”