Learning From Their Stakeholders

Social Work Students’ Perspectives on a University’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic


  • Stephanie K. Boys Indiana University
  • Tayon R. Swafford




Scholarship of teaching, pandemic response, Covid-19, mixed-methods, social work students, social work education


Emerging initially in Wuhan, China in December 2019, COVID-19 steadily spread throughout and overtook the world by March 2020. College and university administrators were tasked with responding to COVID-19’s unpredictability and persistence. The purpose of this study was to learn social work students’ attitudes toward a large, public Midwestern U.S. university’s response to COVID-19 at the outset and in January 2022 during the surge of COVID-19’s Omicron strain. Using mixed methods, 43 social work students were surveyed (28 MSW and 15 BSW) in January 2022. The survey’s data suggested four important lessons for universities navigating public health responses. First, students are not oblivious to the politics and budgeting concerns that drive many university decisions. Second, pertaining to the emergence of the Omicron variant, students are extremely divided over their level of concern with contracting the virus themselves and/or infecting others. Third, colleges and universities need to have a plan of action prepared for addressing future public health emergencies and digital equity. Finally, faculty and staff from social work departments need to be “at the table” when university decisions are made because social workers will ensure that student concerns and well-being are at the core of policy decisions.

Author Biography

Stephanie K. Boys, Indiana University

Assistant Professor of Social Work


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