Winter 2022
School Updates

BASW Program Growing, Offering New Opportunities

Toya Jones, director of the Pitt School of Social Work BASW Program...

Toya Jones (MSW ’07), director of the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work Bachelor of Arts in Social Work (BASW) Program, has a lot to be excited about right now. The BASW Program is offering new opportunities to undergraduate social work majors. Jones also is celebrating an educational milestone of her own, having just earned a doctorate in education from the University of Pittsburgh School of Education in May 2021.

We asked Jones to tell us a little more about the BASW Program and her own life and work.


Q: What is new in the BASW Program? What are you most excited about right now?

A: We recently elected new BASW executive board leaders from the junior and senior classes. It’s often a challenge to get a balanced representation of our upper-division BASW students, but this year we have diverse and engaged student leadership.

I am also excited about the University Honors College honors distinction and honors degree option for BASW students, which we just began this academic year. This allows students to be involved in some unique and beneficial opportunities that the honors college offers and to get full recognition for their exceptional academic efforts. The program also offers many opportunities to students to grow their research skills, including summer research placements with experienced faculty and our BASW honors courses.

Q: What are the key features of the BASW Program?

A: We are an upper-division program, so our students come to us as juniors in one of two ways: either as transfer students from local community colleges or internally from various schools and majors in the University. Like Master of Social Work (MSW) students, BASW students must complete a field placement in a real-world practice setting, but our students are required to complete 600 hours of field education during their senior year, while MSW students complete 1,080 hours over two years.

Our program prepares students as generalist social workers, exposing them to all aspects of social work through a person-in-environment/multicultural lens. This includes learning about communities and organizations, individuals and families, research, policy, and group social work. BASW students receive a well-rounded education to encourage them to graduate and go directly into social work practice or continue into the MSW program.Toya Jones

One of the most appealing aspects of our BASW program is that if a BASW graduate enters the MSW program, they are eligible to complete their MSW in just one year as an advanced-standing student. I wish they had this opportunity when I was a student in Pitt’s MSW program!

Q: What do BASW graduates go on to do?

A: Often, BASW students will continue their educational journey postgraduation [by earning] an MSW and enter the direct practice field to become a licensed therapist or director of a program or agency. They may also go into advocacy, policy, or nontraditional career spaces.

There are so many choices for a social worker to make that one cannot get bored with this career. Social workers are everywhere: in hospitals, the legal system, community agencies, schools—you name it!

Pennsylvania just began licensing BASW graduates, meaning that our students now have the option to get state-certified licensure after completing their undergraduate studies. That is great news because it will open up better-paying jobs and higher-level positions and will make our graduates more marketable across the board.

Q: Tell us about your journey to become BASW program director. What brought you here today?

A: My journey starts back when I was an MSW student at Pitt. I seized the opportunity to surpass my expectations in the MSW program and dreamed of teaching at Pitt someday.

That day came shortly after I spent a couple of years in the field, working with survivors of crime and facilitating training in the community, when I was hired as an adjunct professor by Dean Larry Davis (who I’d always admired even as a student). The dean promoted me shortly after that to full-time professor.

Another opportunity arose several years later, when Dean [Betsy] Farmer and the search team promoted me to BASW director. This all felt like a whirlwind of exciting opportunities in just five years. What a ride!

Q: You recently completed another step in your education journey by returning to school for your doctorate. Congratulations!

A: I knew I wanted to go back and get my doctorate. After my children were old enough to be more independent, I went back [to Pitt’s School of Education]. My research focused on social work students experiencing trauma symptoms and the use of self-care tools in the PTSD Coach app. I didn’t know that I would be doing all of this right smack in the middle of a pandemic!

This by far was the biggest challenge of my career. I was promoted to this new position as [program] director while writing my dissertation and juggling with my husband, trying to act like K-12 teachers while our children were at home last year. Geesh, what a challenging year! I finished in three years, including summers, and I now have my doctorate in education.”

Q: What’s your favorite thing about running the BASW program?

A: My favorite part of the BASW Program is the students! I love teaching, and I love talking with students. They are intelligent [and] eager to learn and share their thoughts. BASW students have a passion for advocacy and grassroots activism. They make ‘good trouble’ and motivate others around them to do the same. They keep me fresh and on my toes.

Q: What do you do when you aren’t at work?

A: I love hanging out with my two children, Naomi and CJ, and my husband, Cornell Jones. They are the best of my world. I also sing (shhhh, don’t tell anyone). I’ve been singing since I was 3 years old, and music is truly my favorite way to take care of myself. I love going to concerts and enjoying live music. I also love to laugh, and my family and friends give me a lot of opportunities for laughter.