Comunidad and Umoja Scholars Program (CUSP)

Comunidad and Umoja Scholars Program (CUSP), provided by the School of Social Work, is a leadership development and mentoring program designed to enhance the training of full-time, master level social work students who show a propensity for culturally responsive practice and leadership. The CUSP targets, but is not limited to, students of color pursuing a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree at Salisbury University. Applicants must identify a commitment to working with communities of color as their focus and be dedicated to seeking employment in the field after graduation

Comunidad means Community in Spanish & Umoja, the first principle of Kwanzaa, means Unity.

The date of 1st consideration is March 22, 2024, by 5:00 pm. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis thereafter, with the final date of consideration being May 3, 2024.

• Increase the number of culturally responsive social work practitioners and leaders
• Enhance individuals’ sense of belonging through the development of relationships within the School of Social Work as well as in the larger community
• Increase leadership capabilities to make a difference in communities of color

People generally have a strong preference for those who are similar to them, with race being the most significant factor. Given this, the racial/ethnic concordance or discordance between a social worker and the individuals with whom they work can affect the working relationship. African Americans and Latinxs tend to have a higher preference for social workers that are of the same race/ethnicity (Hsu, Hackett, & Hinkson, 2014). African Americans are more reluctant to self-disclose to white clinicians in clinical settings (Williamson, 2012). This preference for racial/ethnic concordance may be attributed to a perceived notion that they may receive fair treatment by someone similar to themselves. Individuals who are older, less educated, lower-income, and less geographically mobile also tend to prefer racial concordance (Hsu, Hackett, &Hinkson, 2014)

Yet, social workers often do not adequately reflect the diversity of the individuals and communities they serve, with most licensed social workers being white serving in communities of color (Center for Health Workforce Studies & NASW Center for Workforce Studies, 2006). Moreover, some white social work students and practitioners do not feel prepared to engage in culturally responsive practice (Greeno et al., 2017), hold negative racial attitudes (Loya, 2011; Loya, 2012), practice from a problematic color-blind approach (Priester,Pitner, & Lackey, 2019), and often do not identify their own race as being important in practice(Hall & Jones, 2017). Given this context, the SU School of Social Work is committed to recruiting, mentoring, and developing culturally responsive social workers, practitioners, and leaders.

Eligibility Criteria
An applicant must meet the following requirements:
• Current or Accepted MSW student in the Salisbury University School of Social Work with at least a 3.0 GPA
• Must be in good academic standing and if an incoming MSW student, cannot be provisionally admitted to the MSW Program
• Targeted to, but not limited to, minority racial/ethnic groups
• Enrolled in at least nine credit hours per semester
• Must be in a field placement during the award period

  • Must be billed for tuition and receive all financial aid from Salisbury University, students enrolled in the social work program through UMGC/Germany are not eligible to apply.
  • SU undergraduate social work students who graduate this May (or in a prior semester) are also eligible to apply as long as they have applied to the SU Graduate Social Work program and will start this coming summer or the upcoming fall semester.

General Selection Criteria
• Potential as a future social work practitioner and leader with a focus on serving racial/ethnic minority populations and communities
• Life experiences, volunteer service, or work experiences with racial/ethnic populations
• Evidence of past leadership experience
• Commitment to attending the 2-day leadership institute in late summer and a national social work conference (e.g., CSWE’s Annual Program Meeting or NASW-MD Conference).
• Academic evidence of ability to achieve timely degree completion

Program Learning Objectives
The CUSP Fellow will:
• Be prepared to enter the social work workforce with knowledge and skills for culturally responsive practice
• Build effective personal and professional relationships
• Set goals for professional growth and learning
• Develop leadership skills

Program Requirements and Expectations
Scholars are expected to participate in all program requirements to remain eligible for the fellowship.
• Must maintain a 3.0 GPA during the award period
• Serve in a field placement setting that directly serves populations of color
• Participate in the virtual leadership training seminars – summer
• Attend virtual bi-weekly professional development seminars during fall and spring
• Meet bi-weekly in one-on-one mentoring sessions with your assigned social work mentor.
• Develop, deliver, and conduct a presentation on a one-year leadership project
• Complete 15 hours of social work continuing education training
• Attend a national or regional conference such as the NASW clinical conference, the Annual Program Meeting of the Council on Social Work Education, or the Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning Conference.

  • A portion of the expenses related to travel, food, and lodging will be covered by CUSP
  • Scholars will also apply for a travel grant through the College of Health and Human Services if needed and if available.
  • If conference attendance is not feasible, the CUSP scholar may apply funds to a professional development opportunity relevant to social work with the approval of the CUSP Coordinator.

• $6,000.00 per year
• Specialized training and professional development support
• Duration of the award is a maximum of two years, awarded one year at a time. The award is contingent on funding availability and whether the scholar meets program requirements and maintains satisfactory progress toward a social work degree.

The date of 1st consideration is March 22, 2024, by 5:00 pm. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis thereafter with the final date of consideration being May 3, 2024. Completed applications must include all required material, including recommendations.

Questions, please contact Dr. Owens-King at

Area of Interest
Graduate Studies, Social Work
Supplemental Questions
  1. Are you fluent in a language other than English?
    • Are you fluent in a language other than English?
    • If Yes to the question, please list those other languages.
  2. Will you be enrolled full time, at least 9 credits or more, for the upcoming fall and spring semesters?
  3. Resume submission CUSP application
  4. Please provide your unofficial undergraduate transcript for all institutions attended. If you have taken graduate courses, you will need to submit an unofficial transcript of graduate work
  5. If you need to provide an additional academic transcript please do so here.
  6. Two Letters of Recommendation for CUSP: At least one letter must be from a faculty member, instructor, or lecturer.
    • Name and Email Address for Letter of Recommendation #1.
    • Name and Email Address for Letter of Recommendation #2 .
  7. Personal Statement CUSP: The personal statement, which includes the two prompts below, should engage the reviewer in getting to know who you are and why you stand out from other applicants as the best fit for the program's mission. The statement should be a personal and professional narrative free from grammatical errors.
    • 1.How has your personal and professional development over time demonstrated your strong commitment to providing culturally responsive services to underserved racial/ethnic minority individuals and communities?
    • 2.Describe a community-based project that you would be interested in developing to address a social issue impacting a historically marginalized community of color (i.e., raising awareness about human trafficking, creating a community resources guide for Spanish speakers, hosting a mental health psychoeducation event.)
  8. By signing this application, I verify that if awarded the scholarship, I am required to maintain a 3.0 GPA, serve in a field placement, attend the leadership training seminars (summer), attend bi-weekly virtual meetings (fall & spring), participate in mentoring sessions, complete a community-based leadership project, complete 15 hours of social work continuing education training, and attend a national or regional conference during the award period
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