Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Personal Statement for PhD Application

One of my mentors, a social work professor, asked me for a copy of my PhD application in order to share it with her student, who is interested in applying.  I dug up my personal statement and smile at who I was three years ago - same and different than who I am today.  This is what I said back then:

In recent years, my own desire and encouragement from colleagues to pursue a doctoral education has been steadily building.

In 12 years of post-master’s work experience, I have had the opportunity to practice micro to macro-level social work, particularly in the school setting.

In addition, I have taught courses in the undergraduate social work program at CSULA and the School Work Services in Schools course for masters and post-masters level students interested in earning the Pupil Personnel Services credential at UCLA.

I have presented in various graduate-level courses at UCLA, CSULA and CSULB, as well as at state and national professional social work conferences.

In both my post-bachelor’s and post-master’s work experience, I have had numerous opportunities to participate in evaluation research.

All of these experiences provide me with confirmation that I want to dedicate the remainder of my career to teaching, writing and research.

I am currently a team leader for the South Los Angeles Resiliency (SOLAR) Project. I have been involved with this counseling demonstration grant and its program evaluation activities from conceptualization, proposal writing, program start-up and implementation to now our third and final year of federal funding. The SOLAR Project provides a full range of school social work services - universal, targeted and intensive interventions - at four South Los Angeles elementary schools. We collaborate with Dr. Brown and Dr. Agbayani from CSULA to conduct program evaluation looking at both mental health and academic outcomes for all levels of intervention.

This involvement in evaluation research, in addition to my experiences conducting research for the MSW degree at UC Berkeley and evaluating health education programs as an administrator, has not only increased my capacity for program evaluation research – it has fueled a deeper interest and passion.

My educational objective while in the doctoral program in social welfare is to develop knowledge and skills in social research. Specifically, I would like to engage in research related to evidence-based mental health interventions in school settings.

Also, my recent practice and research in resiliency has increased my interest in examining the role that our expectations, implicit or explicit, play in our own behavior and that of others. I wonder how adult expectations may be influenced, shaped or examined in order to consistently lead to positive results for students?

Teaching undergraduate and post-master’s level courses at CSULA and UCLA since 2001 and 2007 respectively, has expanded my interest in an academic career as a social work educator.

After completing my doctorate, I will seek an academic position as a professor of social work. I look forward to educating the next generation of social workers and would like to have a positive influence on the knowledge, skills and values that they develop in graduate school as emerging professionals.

Also, I plan to engage in intervention research to expand knowledge of evidence-based practice with children, youth and families in a research clinic or school setting. More specifically, I would like to teach and conduct research about effective practices in family therapy, working with immigrants and refugees, strengths-based approaches, social marketing strategies and community organizing. I am interested in using participatory action, qualitative and quantitative research methods.

I want to take what I’ve learned about clinical and community work, over the last 12 and 19 years respectively, and integrate that with a deeper knowledge of evaluation and research. I want to work at the intersection and dynamic relationship that exists between practice and research. This includes exploring what particular interventions and approaches seem to benefit particular problems in specific populations and why. This is especially critical for minority and underserved communities where resources are so limited that the need for clinical and cost-effective interventions is acute. As an example: what other approaches for prevention and treatment besides specialized and expensive psychotherapy are imaginable, much less available, to monolingual immigrant uninsured teens who are presenting with anorexia and/or self-injurious behaviors?

I have a particular interest in developing life-long learning opportunities for professional social workers, moving beyond simply offering continuing education units, to providing opportunities for seasoned and mid-career social workers to continue to have access to the latest research about effective practice. There seems to be a lag in the application of knowledge that the latest research produces. This does a disservice to our profession, practitioners and clients. I’d like to take what the latest science is learning about what works and make it more accessible to front-line practitioners via newsletters, podcasts, blogs, and formal or informal community-academic communication and partnerships.

Conversely, I would like to explore strategies and innovations to create a stronger connection between research and practice including what practitioners are discovering as a result of their practice and what gets published and disseminated. I’d like to take what practitioners learn over time and systematically record it so that it can be scientifically-tested and replicated in order to elevate practice wisdom to the level of evidence-based practice where applicable.

In social work, we are increasingly asked to incorporate evaluation measures by funding sources, policymakers and other interested stakeholders for sound ethical, financial and practice reasons. For many practitioners, these skills were not taught in their clinical tracks in graduate school. I plan to work toward creating practical strategies for social work practitioners to hone these advanced generalist practice skills and respond to shifts and new demands placed on them in a dynamic and changing world and profession.


  1. Well, I gone through your personal statement an would say that it's really an interesting and impressive statement. You have explained your experiences and influences very effectively and other students should take this as an example and follow the same.

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  3. Thanks so much! Your personal statement as well as this sample of pediatrics personal statement really helped me out. I think it is important to follow the requirements in your personal statement, keep positive attitude and concentrate in your strengths rather than your weaknesses. Thanks for help!


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