Loyola University Chicago

School of Social Work


Migration-Focused Chicago and Study Abroad Options 

Note: the only study abroad currently available is Mexico 

Mexico Study Abroad 2018 Loyola SocialWork

Loyola University Chicago School of Social Work is creating ways to better prepare our students for practice with immigrant communities. Some of the programmatic options offered to students:

  • The Migration Studies track
  • First and second year summer block internships in Jalisco, México City or México border immersion course during Spring break
  • And a 2-week long summer immersion course in Mexico City in collaboration with the Universidad Iberoamericana, ITESO - the Jesuit University of Guadalajara, and Jesuit Migrant Services of Mexico

In addition, the School of Social Work has partnered with the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) to provide Spanish language courses with an emphasis on social work vocabulary. The UNAM language courses and can be taken as electives and credit can be transferred directly. For more information please visit: UNAM’s website. The study abroad program in Mexico and language classes with UNAM complement the Migration Studies Sub-Specialization, but are not required.

Note: Spanish is NOT required for the Mexico and Border Immersion Courses, but conversational Spanish is required for the Mexico Internship Program.

All students studying abroad must complete a general application.

The Mexico internship can be used as a generalist or specialized internship (except for students pursuing a 2nd level schools track). Interested students will need to complete the application materials and be interviewed by Dr. Maria Vidal de Haymes. Those who wish to complete the internship must submit a separate application.

*Information and options are subject to change based on enrollment, availability and COVID restrictions.

SOWK 502/370:

The School of Social Work offers an intensive border immersion course over Spring Break in Tucson & Nogales, Arizona & Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. Content for this course is covered in pre-departure sessions and during the trip.

SOWK 733 and SOWK 504:

The School also offers two courses in Mexico City. Students are required to enroll in both courses if they wish to participate in the Mexico summer course program. The courses are offered in May immediately following the May graduation. The Mexico City courses are offered concurrently and include several pre-departure sessions and two weeks of intensive study in Mexico.

Many students desiring to complete a summer-block internship in Mexico also enroll in the Mexico City courses that immediately precede the internship. While this option provides an excellent introduction to Mexico, it is not necessary for the internship, which can be completed independently from the course option.

Globally, the number of individuals that have experienced displacement due to conflict, generalized violence, development projects, environmental degradation, and climate change has escalated dramatically in the last decade. Displacement can be an internal or a transnational occurrence or have dimensions of both. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre reports that at the end of 2014, 38 million people around the world had been forced to flee their homes due to conflict and violence and 19.3 million people were forced to flee due to disasters in 100 countries that year, with hundreds of thousands more still displaced following disasters in previous years.[1]

International migration has also grown exponentially. The number of international migrants is greater today than at any other time in history, with more than 244 million, or one in nearly every 30 persons worldwide living outside their country of birth in 2015. [2] Nowhere is the trend of international migration more marked than in North America between Mexico and the United States, with the most popular bilateral migration path in the world. With nearly 46 million foreign-born residents in 2013, the U.S. is the country with the largest immigrant population in the world[3]. This figure amounts to 13% of the total current U.S. population. Furthermore, U.S. immigrants and their children constitute one–quarter of the nation’s population.[4]

While migration may present a chance to improve some life circumstances, it also poses a series of risks for migrants, particularly irregular migrants and their families that occur before, during, and after migration. Migration also presents challenges, as well as opportunities for countries of origin, transit, destination, and return. In response to these global trends and the associated human, social, and political challenges that migration presents, the Loyola University School of Social Work have responded with the development of a Migration Studies Sub-Specialization. This track is designed to prepare social work professionals for international, transnational, and domestic practice with internally displaced persons, immigrants, and refugees.

General Requirements

This track can be taken with the Leadership, Mezzo, and Macro Practice (LMMP) Area of Specialization. Migration courses are taken in conjunction with elected specialization course requirements. Students must complete the requirements of a main specialization.

How to Apply
  • Advanced Standing students must submit their applications by May 1st. All others must submit their application by December 1st. Admission is at the Program Director’s discretion.
Required Courses

Three courses are required, (two policy and one practice course) and can be taken during any year of study: SOWK 731, SOWK 732, and SOWK 730 or SOWK 733.

  • SOWK 730- Migration Dynamics and U.S. Social Policy: Only offered during the Spring semester. Meets 1 of 2 policy courses required.
  • SOWK 731- Social Work Practice with Refugees and Immigrants: Only offered during the Spring semester. Meets practice courses requirement.
  • SOWK 732- Migration, Social Justice, and Human Rights: Only offered during the Fall semester. Meets 1 of 2 policy courses required.
  • SOWK 733-North American Migration Dynamics & Policy: Only offered during the Summer. Meets 1 of 2 policy courses required / Spanish is not required.
Migration Studies Track relationship to your specialization and study abroad options
  • Migration courses above are taken in conjunction with specialization requirements.
  • Students must complete the requirements of a track.
  • Students pursuing mental health or child and family specializations do not have to take 610F or 610H. SOWK 730 or SOWK 733 substitute for the required policy courses for these tracks. However, students must complete all 3 courses for the track. In order to receive credit for the course track; students who do drop the track, are required to take 610F or 610H if they are child and family or mental health.
    Students pursuing health, schools, or LDSS have to take all required specialization courses and sub-specialization courses. However, students who are LDSS will have both policy electives and their clinical/methods course requirement upon completion of this sub-specialization (730/733 & 732=policy courses; 731=method/clinical course).
  • SOWK 733 is a pre-approved course substitute for SOWK 730.
Study Abroad Options
  • The study abroad program in Mexico complements this sub-specialization but is not required.
  • The Mexico internship can be used as a 1st or 2nd year placement (except for students pursuing a schools specialization; this internship must be taken in the U.S.) Students will need to work with Dr. Maria Vidal de Haymes to assess for fluency in Spanish, as some skill in this area is required.
    We have partnered with the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) to provide Spanish language courses with an emphasis on social work vocabulary. The UNAM language courses can be taken as electives, and credit can be transferred directly. See www.unamchicago.org for more information.
Important Contacts
  • Mini Datta manages all 1st. and 2nd level fieldwork placements; these fieldwork applications should be directed to her email at mdatta@luc.edu. In addition to this, students who want to pursue a field placement in Mexico will also meet for an in-person interview with Dr. Vidal de Haymes and complete the Mexico-field placement application forms as well.

Access application here: Migration Studies Track Application

SOWK 509: Policies and Strategies of Community Intervention:
  • Instructor: Professor Ivan Medina. This is a 3-credit social work elective.
  • Pre-requisite: None.
  • Description: This course will focus on providing an understanding of community as a major element in the social environment that influences an individual’s development and behavior. Theoretical understandings of the community are explored include ecological systems, communitarian, and transnational perspectives. Organizational theory and theories about community change and the tactics and strategies are examined through an exploration of various local, national, and regional governmental and non-governmental organizations focused on migration.​
  • Note: If you have already taken SOWK 509, please e-mail sowkmx@luc.edu and professor Medina at imedina@luc.edu to sign up for an independent study (SOWK 690).
SOWK 733: North American Migration Dynamics: Challenges, Opportunities, and Alternatives: 
  • Instructor: Dr. Maria Vidal de Haymes. This is a 3-credit migration elective.
  • Pre-requisite: this is a 700 level course that can be taken by both undergraduate and graduate students. It does not have any prerequisites.
  • Description: This course will focus on central themes concerning opportunities as well as challenges for fundamental social institutions presented by the contemporary migration dynamics and policies of North America. The course incorporates site visits and multiple interdisciplinary guest lectures by various researchers from Mexican Universities and research institutes, social workers from the Mexican public and private human services sector, and migrant rights advocacy organizations. The class will provide an opportunity for Loyola students and students from various Mexican universities to come together to study migration-related issues affecting our respective countries and shared region.
Dates of Immersion Component
  • Not available at the moment
  • Location: Mexico City, Mexico.
Sites of Interest

The immersion course includes field visits to government and non-governmental agencies. Course participants will visit several important cultural, historical, and religious sites and museums, including:

In addition to many educational site visits, students will have one day of sightseeing where they can use the hop on and off tour bus (www.turibus.com.mx) to visit important historical and cultural sites around Mexico City, and one additional free day to see the city. Students will also have several evenings free to explore the city. The course-related site visits vary by year. A brief description of several of the sites and organizations frequently visited follow.

  • Casa Tochan: This NGO, located in Mexico City, offers shelter to migrants and asylum seekers. Students have an opportunity to visit with residents of the shelter and the human rights workers that coordinate the program.
  • Jesuit Migrant Services of Mexico (SJM-MX): Students will have opportunities to visit various programs supported by SJM-MX, which can include support groups for migrant women, shelters, soup kitchens, and human rights violation documentation programs. They will also have an opportunity to visit with the staff and volunteers of JMS-MX.
  • Desarrollo Integral de la Familia: The students may have an opportunity to visit some of the programs of DIF, the public human service agency of the Mexican government. DIF programs attend to issues of poverty, abuse, neglect, child labor, domestic violence, health, education, and nutrition.

For the past eight years, Loyola University Chicago students have been involved in intensive summer block-field internships with the people and communities in Mexico. These internships have challenged students to apply classroom knowledge to real-life situations that transcend borders. These transnational opportunities also facilitate comparative and complementary understanding of social issues, social work interventions, and the role NGOs and the public sector can play in addressing social problems and promoting human capabilities. The Mexico internship can be used as a generalist (first-level) or specialized (second-level) internship (except for students pursuing a schools track- their specialized internship must be completed in the U.S.) Interested students will need to complete the application materials and be interviewed by Dr. Maria Vidal de Haymes.

Language Requirement
  • Minimum conversational Spanish is required. Students must have a conversational level of Spanish to participate in the Mexico internship. Students are placed in internships that match their interests and Spanish fluency.
  • Students will be assisted by Loyola University to secure housing.
  • Not covered. Students can buy food and cook, depending on their living situation, or eat at local restaurants.
  • Dr. Vidal de Haymes co-facilitates the orientation in Mexico with the Mexican agency supervisors. Students will remain in contact with Dr. Vidal de Haymes throughout their internship and complete written reflections and supervisory conferences through email, phone, and Skype. Students also have a local supervisor at their internship site that provides weekly supervision. In addition, students may also have several in-person supervision and check-in sessions with professional staff or faculty from the Universidad Iberoamericana or ITESO - the Jesuit University of Guadalajara, during their stay in Mexico.

Mexico Study Abroad 2018 Loyola

Arizona-Mexico border

Social Work 502: Power, Oppression, Privilege, and Social Justice
  • Allows students a visit the Arizona-Mexico border for an immersion course that examines oppression, privilege & diversity in relation to immigration and border communities. The class is comprised of several pre-departure sessions held in Chicago during the Spring semester, followed by a six-day immersion in Tucson and Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, during the spring break. A valid passport is required since part of the immersion takes place outside of the United States.


  • This class can be taken by both undergraduate and graduate students as either SOWK 370-010(BSW) or SOWK 502-010(MSW), Power, Oppression, Privilege, and Social Justice taught by Professors Ivan Medina and Maria Vidal de Haymes. Students also have the option of taking the course as an independent study.
Sites of Interest
  • Kino Border Initiative/Initiativa Kino para la Frontera: Kino has a functioning comedor or soup kitchen, that provides breakfast and lunch daily for migrants, as well as a hub to access multiple other services, such as basic health care, financial services, a shelter for women, clothing, backpacks, toiletries, phone calls, and consular access. Class participants have an opportunity to serve migrants and support the Kino mission of migrant social and pastoral accompaniment. Visit https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/ for more information.
  • Desert Walk: Kino Border Initiative staff guide class participants on a walk in the desert to familiarize students with the desert terrain and conditions. The aim of the walk is to provide students with a small approximation of the perils and difficulties experienced by irregular migrants in transit through the Arizona desert.
  • Border Patrol: The United States Border Patrol (USBP) is the American federal law enforcement agency with the mission and authority to detect and prevent the entry of "unauthorized aliens", and contraband. Visit https://www.cbp.gov/border-security/along-us-borders/overview for more information.
  • Operation Streamline— According to the NGO No More Deaths / No Mas Muertes: Operation Streamline “is an initiative of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice begun in 2005 with the intention of establishing “zero-tolerance” immigration enforcement zones along the U.S.-Mexico border. Under Operation Streamline, unauthorized migrants face criminal prosecution and potential prison sentences in addition to formal deportation and removal from the United States. Operation Streamline has drastically increased immigration prosecutions, making ‘Illegal Re-entry’ the most commonly filed federal charge. In Arizona, Operation Streamline annually costs some $120 million in court proceedings and over $50 million for detention and incarceration.” http://forms.nomoredeaths.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/nmd_fact_sheet_operation_streamline.pdf).