While exploring graduate school programs, Cassandra McKay Jackson, PhD, LCSW, came to an important revelation: Families do not live in a vacuum. Communities, cultures, and governmental systems help shape them, and helping those families calls for a professional who is capable of thinking of their situations in this broader context.
It was this understanding that drew Dr. McKay Jackson to social work.
“The issues impacting an individual do not solely lie within the person — the role that the environment plays in his or her circumstances is also a factor” she says. “That idea is threaded throughout social work. Social workers are trained to explore the interactions between the individual, family, community, and larger society and consider how to engage people in helping them change the situations in which they find themselves.”
As director of Erikson’s Master of Social Work program, she is looking toward the future, considering how the preparation students receive will serve them as professionals and allow them to respond to the changing needs of children and families.
“One of the things we need to be aware of is preparing a culturally diverse workforce that is capable of supporting and being representative of the communities in which we work,” she says.
Erikson’s MSW program, she says, is uniquely suited to prepare professionals to serve families because of a curriculum that is deeply informed by an understanding of child development. Social workers are becoming increasingly aware of the need to provide support to children at a young age in order to ensure better outcomes as they grow older.
“Research shows a focus on young children early — providing the resources they need and supporting their families — is critical to the beginning of life,” Dr. McKay-Jackson says. “For social workers, it’s important to be a source of support early on so families aren’t trying to make up for lost time as children get older. In that sense, Erikson’s MSW program is ahead of the curve.”
Because of the critical nature of the work they are pursuing, Dr. McKay-Jackson seeks to challenge students while also offering new opportunities for them to think deeper. One of the ways she strives to connect teaching with research and practice is by inviting students to write articles with her for publications.
“I expect more of my students and for them to expect more of the clients they serve,” she says.
- BA in psychology, University of Iowa
- MS in social work (MSSW), University of Wisconsin-Madison
- PhD in education, University of Illinois at Chicago
Areas of Expertise
- Critical service learning/youth activism
- Social emotional learning
- Critical race theory
- Qualitative research methods (phenomenology, case study)
- 2016-2017 — Principal investigator: Training the Trainer: Training Field Instructors in Coaching Social Work Interns on How to Facilitate Critical Service Learning, Service Learning and Civic Education Consortium (SLCEC), Loyola University Role: Principal Investigator
- 2016-2017 — Principal investigator: Engaging Parents and Supporting Students, Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement, University of Illinois at Chicago
- 2012-2013 — Co-principal investigator w/ M. Humphries: Developing Multidisciplinary Pre-Service Training as an Integrated Approach to Social Emotional Learning, Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago
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- Johnson, A., McKay-Jackson, C. & Grumbach, G. (in press). Critical Service Learning Toolkit: Social work strategies for promoting healthy youth development. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- McKay-Jackson, C. (2017). Words Matter: Interrogating Master Narratives [Guest Editorial]. Children & Schools. 39 (2), 67-69.
- McKay-Jackson, C. (2014). A critical approach to social emotional learning instruction through community-based service learning. Journal of Transformative Education. 12 (3), 292-312.
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- McKay-Jackson, C. (2017, May). On the Table (co-facilitator), “Where has childhood gone in Chicago?” Chicago Community Trust, University of Illinois at Chicago-Hull House, Chicago IL
- McKay-Jackson, C. & Humphries, M. (2017, January). The Role of Race and Class in Promoting Students’ Social Emotional Development: Findings from a Multidisciplinary Pre-Service SEL Training. Oral presentation at the Society for Social Work Research- 21st Annual Conference, New Orleans, LA.
- Johnson, A., & McKay-Jackson, C. & Grumbach, G. (2016, November). Critical Service Learning: An Interdisciplinary Strengths-Based Intervention Approach In Schools And Community. Panel presentation at the Council on Social Work Education -Annual Program Meeting, Atlanta, GA.
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Related professional experience
- 2000-present — member, Council on Social Work Education
- 2015-present — member, School Social Work Association of America-Oxford Editorial
- 2007-present — member, Society for Social Work and Research
- 2012- present — member, Service Learning and Civic Engagement Consortium
- 2008-2013 — member, Illinois Children’s Mental Health Partnership of Mental Health of America – Higher Education Sub-committee
- 2003-present — University Relations Committee member and former chair, Illinois Association of School Social Workers
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