Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative Fund (MEIF)

University of Maryland School of Social Work Awarded E-Nnovation Grant for Groundbreaking Financial Social Work Professorship

A leader in financial social work, the University of Maryland School of Social Work (UMSSW) will continue to build pioneering programs in the field thanks to a $500,000 award through the Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative Fund (MEIF). Matched by $500,000 in qualified donations, the funding will support the newly created Woodside Professorship in Economic Justice and Financial Social Work. The school plans to use this position to recruit a world-class clinical professor and researcher in financial social work and economic justice to Maryland.  

“The MEIF grant affords us the opportunity to bring in a specialist in developing and expanding an economic justice program in Baltimore and across the state, working with our schools across the campus to really focus on the economic well-being of individuals, families, and communities in Maryland,” said Judy L. Postmus, PhD, ACSW, dean and professor, UMSSW. 


The new professorship is a product of the longtime work of alumna Meg Woodside, MBA, MSW ’07 who co-founded the Financial Social Work Initiative (FSWI) at UMSSW in 2008 with alumna Robin McKinney, MSW ’01. The Woodside Professorship builds upon 15 years of FSWI’s efforts to integrate social work practice and theory into the fields of individual and community wealth building and prepare social workers to advance economic justice and financial well-being. 


“The person in this role will focus on bringing financial stability and prosperity to communities impacted by poverty and oppression in the state — designing and building social work education, practitioner trainings, and community-partnering programs that address issues of economic injustice and support individual and community economic empowerment,” said Woodside. “Weaving through all of that will be research that informs practice in the community to develop evidence-based practices to uplift the economic prosperity of Marylanders.” 


Created against the backdrop of the Great Recession, FSWI began as an innovative idea, and has developed into a wide array of services and educational programs that have made it a trailblazer in the field of financial social work.  


“The FSWI was initially focused fairly internally on campus to develop the skills of social workers in what was the then emerging field of asset building,” Woodside said. “It’s grown much beyond that now.”


Since its inception, the FSWI and its partners have worked to train new and practicing social workers in the field of financial social work, giving them skills and knowledge to intervene effectively with clients in financial distress, along with the ability to advocate for greater financial and social stability and social and economic justice for individuals, families, and communities. The FSWI has done this through the development of direct service initiatives, educational content, capacity building, and evidence-based practice, enhancing the unique and longstanding role social workers play in helping clients and communities stabilize and improve their outcomes and quality of life.


Woodside, who has an MBA in Finance and enjoyed a successful career in commercial and private banking before retiring and pursuing an MSW at UMB, holds a deep conviction that personal financial life skills are one, but not the only, strategy to overcome racial and other disparities in life opportunities. She believes that it’s imperative to prepare social workers and their clients to build financial capability and self-determination, acknowledging that financial issues can be both a cause and result of larger challenges, and that financial well-being is tied closely to physical and mental well-being.


As she explained, “We have community clinics on campus, and students might see people who are labeled ‘medically non-compliant,’ and the student might think, ‘Oh, it’s because they forget to take their medication, or they don’t want to take it.’ But when you peel the onion back, you understand that it’s because of a financial crisis as much as a health crisis, because the patient is making a choice to take their medicine or pay rent or buy food.”

Woodside continued, “When we founded the FSWI, our goal was to better equip social workers to recognize and deal with those kinds of financial issues. We wanted to enable them to understand that a client’s situation or challenge, however it’s presented, might be related to finances, and to know how to get people resources that can help get temporary benefits or other services that can move them from crisis to stability. We also intended to prepare social workers to be at the forefront of changing policies, systems, and structures that perpetuate economic injustice and wealth inequality.”

The FSWI’s track record is significant, with work today that encompasses education, community partnerships, and research and scholarly contributions, and it has had a tremendous influence and impact on the profession. The new Woodside Professorship will add to both UMSSW and FSWI’s noteworthy reputation in this area.

The professorship is planned to be housed within the Center for Restorative Change, which brings together the expertise of UMSSW’s longest-standing community outreach initiatives, Promise Heights and the Social Work Community Outreach Service (SWCOS), under one entity that furthers the School’s mission to advance social justice and promote the well-being of individuals and communities.

“The Center for Restorative Change does great work across West Baltimore, across the city, and the state. One of their new areas of focus is economic justice. The Woodside Professor is expected to play a large role in that initiative and build partnerships to support financial well-being in communities,” Postmus said.

She continued, “Money is at the core of the needs of the families and communities with which we work, but for a long time, social workers didn’t talk about it. Meg has been a champion of destigmatizing the subject of money within the profession. The FSWI has sought to do that through teaching and training, program development, building community partnerships, and supporting individuals and families across Baltimore and at UMB as well.  Having an endowed professorship will help us expand and grow that focus.”


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