Alumni Spotlight: Kelly Harrington

Kelly Harrington, MSW 2016

Senior Research Manager, Boston Indicators

Kelly Harrington graduated with a Master of Social Work (MSW) with a macro specialization in 2016. Since then, Harrington has worked in program management and evaluation in areas including economic development and health.

Kelly HarringtonHarrington discovered her interest in community-level work and the possibilities of community-level change during her time at KU. 

“Social workers know that every individual, every community is different, and appreciate communities for that,” Harrington said.

From 2019 to 2022, Harrington manged community operations for the HEALing Communities Study at Boston Medical Center, working with community coalitions across the state of Massachusetts to understand gaps in continuums of care for serving people with opioid use disorder.

Today, Harrington is senior research manager for Boston Indicators, the research center for the Boston Foundation.

Harrington shared her experience with KU’s MSW macro specialization program for a Q&A. 

Q&A with Kelly Harrington

What drew you to macro social work? 

As a case manager in Kansas City, I saw that while I could do everything that I could for the folks that I was working with, there was only so much that I could do. And so, I started thinking about what at the systems level, like policy, could I influence to do even more for those folks. 

What’s the most rewarding part of macro social work? 

Working with community coalitions, because it requires the type of value systems that were taught in social work school and a person-centered approach. All these things are really core to both clinical and macro social work. … This is the type of job that I was hoping for when I graduated. 

How has your KU MSW degree played a role in equipping you for your work today? 

I was given an opportunity to do organizational policy analysis of school bullying policies, and it was a new type of opportunity that I'd never had before and could see the possibilities for changing the experience of students in schools. 

… I use skills from my program development classes and community-level course that I took. The policy course that I took gave me the skills to think or analyze policy in a certain way, and that allows me to be able to work with the community coalitions. 

What should aspiring social workers know about macro practice? 

There is so much potential in macro social work, and I know when I was deciding whether to do macro or to go down the macro path, a lot of my fellow students were worried about job opportunities, which is totally understandable. But having gone down that path, and now working as a macro social worker, I can say that there are a lot of macro social work jobs out there. 

This article is part of a Q&A series featuring KU Master of Social Work graduates who completed a specialization in social work macro practice. Learn more about the master's degree program on the Master of Social Work program overview page.

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