Building Refugee and Immigrant Degrees for Graduate Education (BRIDGE)

While immigrants and refugees make numerous contributions to the larger society, they often face significant challenges ranging from language and educational barriers to trauma and multiple forms of discrimination.

A wide range of human services agencies in both the public and private sectors have attempted to address these and other needs, but their effectiveness frequently has been limited by the absence of professional social work staff who are members of the refugee and immigrant groups being served. When social workers from the same culture are not present, problems may arise due to inability to establish trusting relationships, communication barriers, misunderstandings about needs, failure to recognize or draw on existing community strengths and assets, a tendency to overlook nontraditional service settings and natural helping networks, inflexible approaches, inappropriate service interventions, and a general lack of cultural competence.

The overall aim of the BRIDGE program is to open up access to graduate social work education for refugees and immigrants, thereby addressing critical needs in the human services workforce. Hence, this program will increase the number of professionally trained social workers from underserved culturally and linguistically diverse newcomer populations. The name is indicative, since the unique components and supports of this innovative program will provide a transitional bridge from these ethnic communities to academic communities where social work is taught at the graduate level.


BRIDGE offers an Information Session for possible applicants each fall. The date, time, and place for the fall 2016 Information Session on September 27 from 5:30-7:30PM in the Conant Lounge. 

Applicants can apply to the BRIDGE program electronically or via mail.


Download and complete the electronic application or paper application by TBA 2016.


Download, print, and complete the application. Contact Dawn Belkin Martinez at 617-353-7917 or Claudio Martinez at 617-358-5463 to request an application be mailed to you. Applications will also be available at the September 27 information session from 5:30-7:30PM in the Conant Lounge.

Since the early 1990s, SSW has addressed the need for the recruitment and preparation of more newcomer social workers through its Refugee & Immigrant Training Program (RITP). This initiative has enabled SSW to establish a solid track record recruiting members of newcomer groups to enter the social work field, with more than forty individuals having graduated from the School to date. During this time, SSW has developed strong linkages with refugee and immigrant communities across the state, while also gaining direct experience with newcomers in the areas of recruitment, assistance with the application process, preparation for graduate-level studies, the provision of academic, social, and financial supports during the educational program, and post-graduation career planning.

The BRIDGE program is structured in four phases:

Orientation (Pre-admission)

A free, nine session pre-admission course is scheduled from October to December. This course will introduce participants to the culture and expectations of graduate social work education as well as provide assistance and support for anyone who chooses to apply for admission to an MSW program.

Preparation (Pre-matriculation)

Preparation support will be offered to ease the transition into graduate social work education for those individuals who have been accepted into the SSW MSW program. There will be additional activities such as social events and mini workshops on topics including—but not limited to—speed reading and writing graduate-level papers.

Education Program [Master of Social Work (MSW)]

While there is no guaranteed financial assistance available in the BRIDGE program at the present time, the ultimate goal is to secure ongoing financial support for all BRIDGE participants who enroll as SSW students. Over the past two years, all BRIDGE students enrolled at BUSSW have received some financial assistance. Those enrolled will continue to receive support and mentoring from the BRIDGE coordinator and SSW faculty, and will be linked to ALANA (African American/Black, Latino/a, Asian American/Pacific Islander, Native American) and other student groups.

Career Development (Post-Graduation)

The goal is to assist graduating students with career planning and the employment search process, maintain a social and support network for newcomer alumni, and recruit former BRIDGE participants to provide voluntary assistance with future students in the program.

Applying and getting accepted to the BRIDGE program is different from applying to the School of Social Work. BRIDGE prepares participants for applying to a master of social work (MSW) program. You need to submit a separate application for admission into a MSW program.

Applications to the BRIDGE program will be accepted until TBA, 2016. Download the electronic application or paper application.

You are encouraged to apply if:

  • You are interested in exploring higher education and careers in social work/human services; and
  • You were born in another country or are a second generation immigrant and received your bachelor’s degree either outside of the United States or in the United States within the last five years.

To be eligible, you must hold one of the following statues:

  • U.S. citizen
  • permanent resident (Green Card)
  • refugee status (I-94)
  • asylee status (I-94)

Individuals who are not eligible for BRIDGE include any of the following:

  • international students
  • those with temporary protected status
  • those seeking asylum

For more information about the BRIDGE program, please contact:

Dawn Belkin Martinez

BRIDGE C0-Director


Claudio Martinez
BRIDGE Co-Director