Oct. 26, 2020

Leadership grad says Leadership MSW enables people to "grow into who they're meant to be."

Online MSW in Leadership in the Human Services is the only program of its kind in Canada. Applications for the popular program close Nov. 2
Jerilyn Dressler MSW'15, exec. director, Calgary Distress Centre
Jerilyn Dressler, MSW'15, Leadership. "The Leadership MSW helped her become who she was meant to be David Kotsibie Persuasion Photo

Over the years, our MSW in Leadership in the Human Services has trained generations of transformative leaders for different government and non-government organizations across Canada and around the world.

As alumna Jerilyn Dressler (MSW ’15) explains when she was promoted to the position of Executive Director of Calgary’s Distress Centre, it reflected her vision, accomplishments and natural leadership. However, Dressler says she soon realized she needed leadership training to succeed. “I realized,” she says, “that I needed more.”

 “I think the practical skills that I gained were something that in an MSW leadership program, I wasn't sure that I would get. But I sure did,” she adds. “I learned how to read a financial statement. I learned how to read a balance sheet. We learned the difference between leadership and management leadership.  Leadership is always preferred, but sometimes those concrete management skills are needed. That is definitely something that I received from my time in the program and those were critical skills for me.”

“I think the practical skills that I gained were something that in an MSW leadership program, I wasn't sure that I would get. But I sure did,” she adds. “I learned how to read a financial statement. I learned how to read a balance sheet. We learned the difference between leadership and management leadership.  Leadership is always preferred, but sometimes those concrete management skills are needed. That is definitely something that I received from my time in the program and those were critical skills for me.”

Flexible program a good fit for working parents

Dressler points to several elements that made the two-year Leadership in the Human Services MSW so effective. As a working mother of young children, she appreciated the flexible, mostly online program delivery that features annual in-person residencies.

Although MSW in Leadership is mostly an online program, Dressler says she made deep connections with a cohort of women from across Canada, who she says were a crucial part of her experience.

“I was a relatively new leader,” she says, “I was a brand-new mom. And so being able to be connected to people in similar situations – most of them were moms of young children and also relatively new leaders within their space. I just found such a bond with that group. We supported each other going through so many things. Things we were dealing with in the program, but also things in our personal and professional lives.  I found that cohort models to be so valuable, we learned as much from each other, I think, as we did from our instructors and from the program, it was a really powerful.”

Distress Centre CEO Jerilyn Dressler

As CEO of the Distress Centre, Dressler has led initiatives such as introducing chat, which more teens feel comfortable using. In 2019 the distress centre responded to 133,834 contacts. During the first months of the pandemic, the centre says contacts nearly doubled.

David Kotsibie Persuasion Photo

Are you ready to lead?

Dr. Regine Uwibereyeho King, PhD, leads the MSW leadership program and says that Dressler’s experience is typical for many social workers who are promoted into leadership roles.

“Many of the social workers who come to our program have social work degrees, but really were only taught to become clinical practitioners,” she says. “They were promoted because they were excellent clinicians, however they didn’t feel ready to take on a leadership role in their organizations. That’s why they found our program so valuable. We offer leadership and organization theories. Just as importantly we also train you in the practical skills you need to lead, including budgeting, grant writing, supervising staff and human services.”

“Many of the social workers who come to our program have social work degrees, but really were only taught to become clinical practitioners,” she says. “They were promoted because they were excellent clinicians, however they didn’t feel ready to take on a leadership role in their organizations. That’s why they found our program so valuable. We offer leadership and organization theories. Just as importantly we also train you in the practical skills you need to lead, including budgeting, grant writing, supervising staff and human services.”

Pathway for non-social work degree holders.

If you don’t have a Bachelor of Social Work, your pathway begins with a foundational year of social work study at our Calgary campus, meaning that your MSW journey will be three years. A foundation year followed by your two-year leadership specialization.

“The first year,” explains King, “teaches you social work theory as well as the practice skills of a generalist social worker. The foundation year prepares you to combine your leadership skills with the understanding of the social work issues we face in the 21st century.”

In reflecting on her degree, Dressler adds, “The university of Calgary Faculty of Social Work is a wonderful place, a place where people like me have been able to grow into who they're meant to be. I think the fact that it's offered online is amazing, especially for people who are moms, leaders and parents like me. I would highly recommend the Leadership MSW.”

If you’re interested in applying, you should hurry, since applications for this popular program close November 2.

>> Find out more about the Leadership MSW