Advocacy Scholars Program

MSW Program Components

The Advocacy Scholars program is structured to make modest demands on your academic planning and can fit with most students’ schedules without complications. This includes part-time and full-time students, regular and advanced students, and students in the East Lansing, Flint, Mid-Michigan, Oakland, Statewide-blended, and Weekend programs.

  1. There is one course requirement (minimum grade of 3.0): SW891 Advanced Advocacy Skills for Changing Systems & Promoting Social Justice, the political social work/policy practice elective. This course is typically offered Spring semester.
  2. One of your field placements needs to be in an advocacy/policy practice setting for the equivalent of one academic year (typically, nine months/480 field work hours).

Additional Program Components

  1. Participate in six two-hour seminars featuring policy advocacy leaders working in diverse settings (e.g., government, issue-based advocacy organizations, foundations, think tanks, political campaigns, voting reform campaigns). A list of past seminar guests is available here.
  2. Participate in Campaign School, a two-day boot camp for social workers on how to run for political office, typically held at the University of Connecticut during Spring semester; and
  3. Meet with a policy-practice/advocacy career mentor, selected for their expertise in the student’s specific policy area of interest and/or career goals. Students are expected to meet with their mentor at least twice prior to graduation (typically during the student’s last year in the MSU MSW program).

Field Education

A core component of the Advocacy Scholars program is the specialized advocacy/policy practice field placement. Advocacy Scholars are typically placed with a field education agency during their Advanced Practice Year and 80% or more of their field work involves practicing policy practice/advocacy skills.

MSU has developed a number of high quality, policy-focused field placement opportunities for our Advocacy Scholars and continues to create new ones based on incoming Scholars’ interests/needs. If these field education settings do not have a licensed social worker on staff to supervise an Advocacy Scholar, the program pays for external supervision.

Past field placements for Advocacy Scholars include:

  • American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU] – Michigan Office
  • Community Mental Health Association of Michigan
  • Genesee County Habitat for Humanity
  • Office of Michigan State Senator Stephanie Chang, MSW
  • Office of Michigan House Democratic Minority Floor Leader Yousef Rhabi
  • Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence
  • Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency
  • Michigan Developmental Disabilities Institute
  • Michigan Federation for Children & Families
  • Michigan League for Public Policy
  • Michigan State Appellate Defender Office
  • National Association of Social Workers – Michigan Chapter, Public Policy Director’s Office
  • Safe & Just Michigan [formerly Citizens Alliance on Prisons & Public Spending]

Additional Certificate Programs for MSW students

It may be possible to earn a certificate in another program while participating in the Advocacy Scholars program so long as this does not interfere with student participation in program requirements. One’s field placement would need to meet requirements for both the certificate (if applicable) and the Advocacy Scholars program. This field requirement could be accomplished by one field placement in each program (first field placement: certificate focused, second field placement: advocacy focused) if one’s course of study includes two field placements. If one’s course of study only includes one field placement, it may be possible to combine both program foci into a single field placement. However, this could mean that only 50% of field work involves practicing policy practice/advocacy skills.


MSU's Advocacy Scholars enter the workforce with the education and skills to compete successfully for employment in a variety of policy and advocacy career settings. Some of our program alum include:


Haley Hildebrand

Bezil Taylor

Algeria Wilson

Elizabeth Henderson

Heather Olson

How to Apply

The ADVOCACY SCHOLARS Program is open only to students who can fulfill the program requirements. Two steps are necessary to apply for the MSU School of Social Work (SSW) ADVOCACY SCHOLARS Program.

  1. You must apply to, and be accepted into, the MSU School of Social Work MSW Program. Please visit our Application Process page for more information.
  2. You must complete a separate application to become an ADVOCACY SCHOLAR. This involves completing a brief essay as described below:
    • Submit a statement of no more than 1,000 words that articulates why you are interested in the ADVOCACY SCHOLARS Program and why you think you are a strong candidate. Include a description of the policy advocacy and systems change skills you hope to acquire, career goals, social issues of greatest interest in your study, and how the ADVOCACY SCHOLARS Program would contribute to these interests and goals. Also, include any previous work, volunteer, or classroom experience you have that is specifically related to advocacy.
    • Both MSU MSW Program applicants AND current MSU MSW students who will be returning MSW students in academic year 2022–23 are welcome to apply for the Advocacy Scholars Program. All applicants must complete the application essay. Returning MSU MSW students must also submit a letter of recommendation from an MSU SSW faculty member and a copy of their MSU transcripts.
    • Email your completed application in a Word or PDF file to; please write “Advocacy Scholars Application” in the subject line.


There are a number of faculty members with expertise in social policy and passion for advocacy. The Advocacy Scholars program is lead by Dr. Sacha Klein.

Sacha Klein
Sacha Klein, MSW, PhD, Associate Professor
Sacha Klein has over 15 years of policy and advocacy experience, which was launched when she received a W. M. Keck Foundation – Vivian Weinstein Child Advocacy Fellowship. Since then she has served as the Child Welfare Policy Director for an association of 80 nonprofit agencies in Los Angeles County, as the Policy Director for First 5 LA, and as a Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) Policy Fellow in Washington DC where she worked with the Office of Child Abuse Prevention and the research and evaluation arm of the Administration for Children and Families. Dr. Klein currently co-chairs the SRCD Science & Social Policy Committee and is helping SRCD develop guidelines for expanding its policy engagement to include lobbying on social policies issues. Dr. Klein teaches SW 891 Advanced Advocacy Skills for Promoting Social Justice and SW 820 Social Welfare Policy & Services. Her practice and research interests include child maltreatment prevention and early intervention, child welfare services and neighborhood effects on parenting.