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School of Public Affairs: Social Welfare MSW Program - Gero Specialization

Mission Statement: 

The Social Welfare MSW Program — Gero Specialization in the School of Public Affairs aims to prepare highly skilled social work practitioners and leaders who are able to identify, anticipate, and meet the social service needs of the expanding older adult population.


The Gerontology Specialization prepares students for direct practice careers in social services to older adults and their families. Through specialized gerontology courses and a variety of supervised field placements, students learn to address the complex psychosocial issues of aging. Gerontology-focused courses in social policy, advanced direct practice, and research provide students with state-of-the-art knowledge regarding the aging process, health and mental health problems, the aging services network, and social policies that affect the elderly and their families. In addition to coursework and aging-enriched field placements, we offer strong campus-wide interdisciplinary resources and career and leadership development through the student-lead Gero Caucus and a growing UCLA gero social work alumni network.

Program Activities: 

Second year gero specialization students have the opportunity to participate in the Geriatric Social Work Education Consortium (GSWEC), a collaboration of six graduate social work programs and six premier geriatric social work agencies serving as Centers of Excellence in geriatric education. GSWEC offers students enriched field training through university and community partnerships, competency-based education, rotations along the continuum of aging services, leadership development, select recruitment of students in the field of aging, and stipends. Agencies serving as Centers of Excellence include Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, the Veterans Administration, the Alzheimer’s Association, Huntington Senior Care Network, Pacific Clinics, SCAN, Motion Picture & Television Fund and the Area Agency of Aging.

California Social Work Education Center (CalSWEC) Aging Initiative – The Aging Initiative consists of a statewide coalition of key stakeholders representing the academic community and providers from the public and private sectors. Its purpose is to develop a statewide plan with specific strategies to address the need for building the training and education capacity, creating incentives for attracting students, and improving the diversity of the workforce. The Aging Initiative promotes the development of a full continuum of gerontology training and education programs at every level of education, and it develops gerontology curriculum and specialization in social work schools statewide.

Gero Student Caucus – The caucus aims to promote a dialogue between students and professionals currently working in the field to increase interest in and raise awareness about the issues and opportunities in this growing and changing field of practice.

Gero Alumni Network – We offer an active and engaged network of UCLA gero specialization graduates who communicate via an email listserv and organize gatherings to promote professional networking. For more information, please contact:


A.E. (Ted) Benjamin
(310) 206-6044
Campus Extension: x66044
Office Location: Public Affairs 5232
Research Expertise: Patterns of public response to the needs of people with disabilities; access, quality and organizational models of home- and community-based services; politics of long-term care and inter-generational issues.

JoAnn Damron-Rodriguez
Adjunct Professor
Email: jdamron@ucla.edu
Phone: (310) 206-3233
Campus Extension: x63233
Research Expertise: Community-based long-term care; gerontology/geriatric education; minority aging.

Karen Lee
Education Faculty
Email: klee@spa.ucla.edu
Phone: 310-794-4441
Office Location:
Public Affairs 5342
Research Expertise: Geriatric Social Work; Mental Health; Case Management; End of Life; Older Adult issues.

Lené Levy-Storms
Associate Professor
Email: llstorms@ucla.edu
Phone: (310) 825-7388
Campus Extension: x57388
Office Location: Public Affairs 5226
Research Expertise:
Aging, Communication, Social support, program evaluation, mixed methods

Ailee Moon
Associate Professor
Email: aileem@ucla.edu
Phone: (310) 825-6219
Campus Extension: x56219
Research Expertise: Social welfare finance and policy; social service program evaluation; gerontology; welfare reform.

Fernando Torres-Gil
Professor and Associate Dean
Phone: (310) 206-1994
Research Expertise: Gerontology; the politics of aging; long-term care and services to the elderly; social policy; health care, Social Security and welfare reform; urban planning issues.

Contact Us: 

Karen Lee

To apply for a degree in Social Welfare, click here.