Valerie Shapiro: Student Q&A

Prospective Students

I am considering applying to the PhD program in Social Welfare at Berkeley. Are you taking doctoral students?

At the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare, students are admitted to the program, not to a specific person's research center, lab, or team. That being said, doctoral training occurs in the context of a strong mentoring relationship. If you have an interest in working primarily under my mentorship in the doctoral program or combined MSW/PhD program, please list my name in your application materials as your primary mentor. Although paths to doctoral training can be quiet diverse, and may include a masters degree in a discipline other than social work, doctoral students that I work with tend to have had multiple research positions and/or long-term involvement in research prior to applying to the doctoral or combined program. Prospective students who are most likely to benefit from involvement in my current research projects are those who (a) want to develop expertise in the measurement of children's social-emotional strengths and protective factors; (b) want to cultivate knowledge in the area of infrastructure development for the delivery of effective prevention services for youth who are not (yet!) experiencing mental, emotional, or behavioral problems; or (c) seek to use quantitative methods for intervention research to further the field of prevention science. Prospective students who would like to learn more about prevention science should visit the webpage of the Society for Prevention Research.

I am applying to the PhD program in Social Welfare at Berkeley, but have not yet been admitted. Can we talk about oppportunities to work together?

Yes, we can certainly talk. The best way to initiate communication is by e-Mail. In the e-Mail, please tell me why you are interested in earning a PhD, describe your personal research interests (which is more helpful that repeating mine), and attach a resume or CV for context.

I am considering applying to the MSW program in Social Welfare at Berkeley. Are I a good match for graduate training?

Please consult with the Berkeley Social Welfare Admissions Office for an overview of the admissions process. Information Sessions and Recruitment Events may provide the most useful information to help you determine whether you are a qualified candidate. If you are applying to the Masters in Social Welfare (MSW), or any concurrent Masters program, there is no need to align yourself with the specific research interests of the faculty. I advise students in the Strengthening Organizations and Communities specialization. Further questions can be sent via email at

I am a student enrolled or working at a non-US university looking to spend a semester at Berkeley. Do you sponsor visiting students or fellows?

Unfortunately, I am not in the position to sponsor any visiting students or fellows from overseas at this time.

Current Students

I am a graduate student at Berkeley. Do you have any Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) or Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) positions available at this time?

I do not have any funded GSR or GSI positions that are open at this time. I will make announcements of such positions as available. Further information about funding your graduate education in social welfare is available in the Admissions portion of this site. If you are a doctoral student interested in these positions for the sake of professional skill development and are in the position to receive course credit rather than compensation for research or teaching activity in accordance with your professional development goals, you may be interested in a research or teaching practicum. Please contact me directly to create or submit a proposal.

I am a Berkeley student looking for faculty to serve on a supervisory committee. Are you available for this purpose?

In your search for a supervisory committee member, please consider making sufficient time and space for a mentoring relationship to develop over the course of your studies rather than recruiting faculty for the sole purpose of gate-keeping for the university at the time of a programmatic milestone. Since I receive more requests to serve on supervisory committees than I can accommodate, I need to prioritize students with whom I have ongoing mentoring relationships and with scholarship in an area in which I can make an honest assessment and contribution. In addition, priority will be given to doctoral students who have completed a research practicum with myself or other faculty affiliates of the Center for Prevention Research in Social Welfare, the single MSW/MPH student best aligned with my research area as determined by the MSW/MPH Dual and Concurrent Degree Committee, and the single undergraduate student completing an honor's thesis in social welfare most aligned with my research area, bi-annually, as determined by the instructor of SW H195. I am also glad to work with undergraduates participating in the Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP).

Is SW375, Teaching in Social Welfare (a section of the university required Pedagogy Seminar prior to serving as a Graduate Student Instructor or Reader), open to students from other departments?

I am open to students from other disciplines and fields of study enrolling in the course, but there are some things you should consider in order to make an informed choice for yourself. The course that I teach is very social welfare specific -- we discuss teaching in the context of social services workforce development, the Council for Social Work Education accreditation standards, and the implementation of a social work curriculum. I teach in a professional school with a strong social justice mission for practice and scholarship, that treats higher education as an important mechanism for social mobility, equity, and inclusion. Social welfare students in the SW375 are almost exclusively doctoral students actively preparing for the professorate, which sometimes broadens our conversation beyond the needs of concurrent Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs). Some social welfare students will be current GSIs and others will not have a current GSI appointment.

All this is to say there are likely to be some aspects of the course that you will not find relevance in. If you are willing to learn something about social work education in the way aspiring social work faculty need to, embrace and contribute to much conversation about diversity, equity, and inclusion, complete a bit more work than may be required in other pedagogy seminars for the sake of your own professional development, and there are spaces left in the course, you are welcome to enroll in SW375. It would of course make more sense to do so if you see yourself on a similar trajectory, eventually seeking a position teaching in higher education, rather than seeing your current instructional role as a funding source but not a career goal. When outside students meet these criteria, we have found it to be very enriching to have an interdisciplinary perspective in the course. If you have further questions or require an entry code, please contact me directly. I'd be happy to help you make an informed choice.

I am looking for a faculty sponsor of a DeCal course. Are you available?
Unfortunately, I am not in the position to sponsor any DeCal courses at this time.