Community, Organization, and Social Action (COSA)

The Community, Organization, and Social Action (COSA) specialization in the MSW Program is seeking socially active and civically engaged students who would like to pursue leadership careers in human services management, community development, and social change as professional social workers.  MSW students who complete the COSA Specialization, which is offered only at the Pitt-Main campus, gain the advanced knowledge and skills required for contemporary macro social work practice. COSA students acquire the ability to engage, assess, intervene, and evaluate practice with groups, organizations, and communities, bringing to bear evidence-informed approaches; a deep and abiding respect for diversity and difference; an emphasis on the strengths, assets, and empowerment of constituents and stakeholders; and a commitment to the social work profession’s values.

Students develop specialized skills in community organizing and mobilization as well as organizational management and administration, bringing to bear on their social work practice an understanding of how it can contribute to securing human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice for all people. They also hone their critical thinking and self-reflective skills through their field practicum and coursework.

COSA graduates pursue established and emerging professional opportunities in public, private, profit and nonprofit organizations in such fields as health care, disability services, children and youth, family services, community revitalization and development, philanthropy, policy and planning, business and human resources, community centers, and more.  Currently, COSA graduates are serving as executive directors, program managers, organizers, planners, grant officers, researchers, and educators in local, state, national, and international agencies and organizations.

The Pitt School of Social Work has the first and longest standing program in Community Organizing (CO) in any social work or professional school in the country.  In fall 1958, the School launched its first two-year curriculum in Community Organizing!  For more information, click here for a report created for the COSA 60th Anniversary in 2018 to Read a history of the community organizing program.

COSA Curriculum

The COSA Curriculum involves six (6) required courses, one of which is the 12-credit total, two-semester Specialization field education placement. In addition to their required courses, students must complete two COSA skill electives from a menu of possible courses. The COSA Curriculum is comprised of the following required courses:

Required Skills Courses:

  • SWCOSA 2084: Human Services Organization Management (3 credits)
  • SWCOSA 2088:  Community Organizing and Planning (3 credits)

Second Level Courses:

  • SWBEH 2008:  Human Behavior in the Urban Environment (3 credits)
  • SWWEL 2087:  Organizations and Public Policy (3 credits)
  • SWERES 2033B: Evaluation Research in the Social Services (3 credits); SWRES 2045B: Qualitative Research (3 credits); SWRES 2047B Community Based Participatory Research (3 credits); or SWRES 2051B Single-Subject Research (3 credits)

SWCOSA 2099:  Specialized Field Work (6 credits/term [12 credits total])

Click here for the MSW COSA Curriculum Guide 2019

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COSA Focus Areas and Certificates

Students can pursue specialized coursework in one of two focus areas: Human Services Organization Management or Community Organization. In addition to these two focus areas, COSA students have the option of completing a certificate in Human Services Management.

Human Services Organization Management

Social workers in the administrative and management area focus on aspects of human service agencies and organizations that provide resources and services especially for vulnerable populations and those most at risk. Macro practice social workers in this area understand leadership behaviors, performance management, organizational behavior, evidence-based or promising practices, finances, and budgeting and know how these features of organization life interconnect and influence service effectiveness and talent management (CSWE, 2018, p. xxviii).

Students in the Human Services Organization Management focus area select from the following specialization skills elective courses which build students’ competencies in human services administration and management:  Human Resources, Supervision and Financial Management (SWCOSA 2086); Grant and Proposal Writing (SWCOSA 2040); Leadership and Teams (SWCOSA 2054); and Social Entrepreneurship (SWCOSA 2087). Students also engage in a specialization field placement specific to the human services management focus area.

Human Services Management Certificate:  Students completing this focus are can also obtain a Human Services Management Certificate in collaboration with the Network for Social Work Management. Click here for the Requirements for the Human Services Management Certificate

Community Organizing

Social workers in community practice recognize that the social environment that sustains all people consists of many types of communities, including geographic, identity and cultural, faith or spiritual, mutual interest, organizational or associational, and more. People belong to many different communities simultaneously; therefore, social work practice in communities targets diverse stakeholders, constituencies, and power holders (CSWE, 2018, pp. xxviii-xxix).

Students in the Community Organizing focus area can select from the following specialization skills elective courses which build their competencies in community organizing practice:  Community Planning and Development (SWCOSA 2096); Group and Intergroup Relations-Facilitation, Bargaining and Mediation (SWCOSA 2090); Social Entrepreneurship (SWCOSA 2087); and Leadership and Teams (SWCOSA 2054).  Students also engage in a specialization field placement specific to the community organization focus area.

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Dual, Joint and Cooperative Degree Programs

Some students seek to complement their graduate social work education and training by earning a degree in another discipline or profession.  The dual, joint, and cooperative degree programs, offered only at the Pitt-Main campus, afford students a unique way to complete their MSW studies while also pursuing another graduate degree.  Students can enroll in one dual, joint, or cooperative degree program and must also apply separately for admission and be admitted to our MSW Program as well as the respective joint or dual degree program.

COSA students can pursue dual, joint, and cooperative degree programs in the following areas:

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