Rachel Schwartz’s Ph.D. Dissertation Proposal Defense – Understanding the experiences of women with multiple roles in online social work education programs

1:30 pm - 2:30 pm

Committee: Dr. Richard Edwards (Chair), Dr. Karen Stubaus (Member), Dr. Saundra Tomlinson-Clarke (Member), Dr. Allison Zippay (Member)

Date: November 29, 2022

Time: 1:30pm

Location: Winants, 3rd Floor, Conference Room 302


Women’s access and representation in higher education has dramatically increased over the past 50 years, with recent data indicating that women make up 59.5% of all college students, surpassing men in both new applications and recent program completion rates (Belkin, 2021). Within the field of social work, graduate social work degree programs report 85.6% of students who identify as women (Council on Social Work Education, 2019). Many of these women report that they combine student roles with full or part-time employment, and with parenting or other caretaking responsibilities (Cragg et al., 2005; Furst-Bowe, 2002; Home, 1997; Rockinson-Szapkiw et al., 2017; Stone & O’Shea, 2019). They also participate in the wide range of educational formats offered in the field: part-time, full-time, traditional on-the-ground, hybrid (online and on-the-ground), and fully online.

The proposed qualitative study seeks to understand the lived experiences of women enrolled in online graduate level social work education. Through individual, in-depth interviews with participants who identify as women, are enrolled in online graduate social work programs, and hold both caretaking and employment roles, participants will be asked to consider how their gender may influence their experiences. This phenomenological research will provide evidence for future research which can potentially provide educators with an enhanced understanding of women students, specifically those who hold multiple roles and responsibilities in addition to that of student, and the supports that can aid retention and completion. On a macro-level, it is also important for those within higher education to understand the implications of gender inequality more fully within education, the workplace and home, and how the roles of student, employee and caretaker are intertwined for many women. The findings from this phenomenological study could help to provide rich information to enhance understanding, and spur future research relevant to the development of student supports within online programs, and advocacy for gender equality issues outside of the classroom.