Gerontology Resources and the Aging Community in Education:
The GRACE program is a practicum-based learning program designed to increase social work students’ knowledge of and experience with older adults. The GRACE program is funded by the St. David’s Foundation and co-directed by Assistant Dean for Masters Programs Sarah Swords and Clinical Associate Professor Joan Asseff . The program is supported and implemented by a group of Practicum Instructors dedicated to increasing the number of social workers serving older adults and their care partners. Practicum Instructors are employed at various community agencies in the Austin area that provide services to older adults and collaborate closely with the GRACE Program to create internships for students. Each GRACE student’s practicum learning is complemented by gerontology focused educational events, which are held six times each academic year. These events provide specialized knowledge in areas important to social work practice in gerontology. The St. David’s Foundation also supports GRACE scholarships, which are awarded through a competitive process to some first and final practicum students who are placed at GRACE agencies and fulfill required educational criteria.
GRACE Program: Quick Overview
The Gerontology Resources and the Aging Community in Education Scholars Program prepares students to work with older adults and is supported by the St. David’s Foundation.
- Focus: Geriatric social work/Aging/Longevity
- Who: MSSW students- first and final practicum students.
- Requirements: Demonstrate an interest and/or commitment to working with older adults, GRACE practicum placement, attending 5 GRACE Educational Events.
- Funding: $7,500 award; application required, with financial need and interest in practice area taken into consideration. Students may complete both practicums in GRACE settings and apply for funding each time. GRACE students may also apply for an all-expenses paid trip to the On Aging Conference, which occurs each spring. Upon completion of program requirements, students receive the designation of GRACE Scholar.
- Questions? Contact program co-directors, Joan Asseff or Sarah Swords.
- Download a one-pager.
- Register for the next GRACE Educational event.
Sarah Swords, LCSW
Sarah Swords, LCSW is a Clinical Associate Professor and Assistant Dean for Masters Programs at the University of Texas at Austin Steve Hicks School of Social Work. She joined the faculty in 2010 and taught social work practice and field courses through summer 2017. In her new leadership role, she holds responsibility for admissions, recruitment, curriculum, reaccreditation, and student advising and progress in the MSSW and dual degree programs. She coordinates the GRACE (Gerontology Resources and the Aging Community in Education) Program, a collaborative field education program which addresses the workforce shortage in geriatric healthcare by increasing the number of professional social workers in practice with older adults and their families. Prof. Swords is a licensed clinical social worker and board approved supervisor, who presents at local, regional and national conferences on topics related to social work practice, field education, and gerontology. She is a member of the National Association of Social Workers, the Council on Social Work Education, and the American Society on Aging. She stays involved in the community through her service on the board of Austin Child Guidance Center and through Impact Austin, a local women’s philanthropy group.
Joan Asseff, LCSW-S, is a clinical associate professor, a licensed clinical social worker, board-approved supervisor for the state of Texas, and a Health Interprofessional Education Fellow with UT’s Health Interprofessional Education (CHIPE). She has served and held leadership positions in gerontology, healthcare, housing stability, financial empowerment, program development, interdisciplinary collaboration, and mental health. In 2017, Joan joined the Steve Hicks School as a full-time faculty member and was selected to lead the school’s interprofessional collaboration with a nationally based property management company. From 2020 to 2022, Joan developed and led the Earl Maxwell Scholars (EMS) Program, funded by the St. David’s Foundation and focused on supporting students completing their practicum in fledgling or expanding social service programs. Thanks to additional funding from the St. David’s Foundation in 2022, the school named Joan as co-director for the Gerontology Resources and the Aging Community in Education (GRACE) Program, along with Assistant Dean Sarah Swords. In this role, Joan provides mentorship and professional development opportunities for GRACE students and graduates serving older adults and their care partners. Joan also teaches healthcare and gerontology focused courses, liaises for students in practicum settings, and advises students in the practicum placement process. She regularly shares her work through local, statewide, and national presentations and published and online platforms.