The Program Mission
The mission of the social work program, in concert with the University mission and the Council on Social Work Education Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (2008), is to prepare competent, beginning-level professional practitioners who possess the knowledge and skills, values, and ethics necessary to intervene effectively on behalf of diverse clients on all practice levels. Through continuing education and training, the program enhances the practice community’s ability to facilitate the social functioning of clients and advance social change. The social work program envisions graduates as regional leaders whose efforts improve the social service delivery system and who work toward social and economic justice.
At the completion of the program, students are prepared to:
- Practice beginning-level, evidence-based generalist social work with individuals, families, other groups, organizations, and communities through the use of professional knowledge, skills, principles, values, and ethics (EP 2.1.2, 2.1.6, 2.1.10).
- Practice utilizing policy to inform and transform interventions targeting human rights and social and economic justice, particularly with oppressed and vulnerable populations
(EP 2.1.5, 2.1.8).
- Integrate knowledge of human behavior and the social environment to view diversity and difference as strengths and resources and effectively use these to respond to the changing context of practice setting (EP 2.1.4, 2.1.7, 2.1.9).
- Identify as a social worker whose professional judgment is based on critical thinking and communicated through professional use of self (EP 2.1.1, 2.1.3).
(EP (Educational Policy) refers to the standards of the Council on Social Work Education.)
Accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, Shepherd University offers a four-year liberal arts-based curriculum leading to a bachelor in social work degree. The curriculum has been designed to provide for a broad educational base in the humanities, the biological sciences, the social and behavioral sciences, creative arts, and communication, together with a sequence of core social work courses. The primary purpose of the social work program is to prepare generalist beginning-level social work professionals. The course content also is appropriate to the preparation of students for admission to graduate schools of social work offering advanced professional education.
Preparation for practice includes classroom instruction, audiovisual laboratory experience, field observation, field work experience, community and on-campus workshops, and an intensive program of academic and professional advisement. Social work students are also encouraged to take advantage of opportunities to further their development as individuals as well as to fulfill their obligations as responsible citizens in a democratic society.
The social work program curriculum is based on a philosophy of social welfare through social change. The curriculum therefore emphasizes generic content areas, principles, and methodologies that will allow for generalist practice with various client and target systems. Students are exposed to a variety of intervention theories and methodologies and are encouraged to select for their practice those interventions which are compatible with the philosophy of social work and which are most useful to the tasks at hand.
Admission to Social Work Program and Field Experience
Students may declare a major in social work as early as the freshman year. In order to become formally accepted into the program, students must complete SOWK 201-Introduction to Social Work with a grade of C or above and at least 24 hours of general academic requirements with an overall grade point average of 2.0 or above. At that time, a student may complete an application and interview for acceptance into the program. A minimum GPA requirement of 2.5 is required for entering the Program’s professional sequence (the junior/senior level courses). Students may request a waiver to enter the Program given certain considerations. Extenuating circumstances will be considered such as a lower GPA due to undiagnosed learning differences, withdrawal from school due to life circumstances, or perhaps, a poor record from an earlier attempt at higher education. The Program faculty will evaluate a student for admission on their performance in the most recent semester or their last five courses. Additionally, a student with a GPA below 2.5 will be eligible for consideration under the waiver process if they can earn a minimum of a B in SOWK 201 and SOWK 300 . Students who do not comply with these requirements will not be admitted to the field instruction program.
Upon completion of all general education requirements and the requisite courses for the comprehensive major, a student must apply for an agency-based field experience of 600 hours which is to be completed over two semesters in the senior year.
Progression Through the Program
In order to maintain good standing in the program, a student must maintain the following criteria:
- Have a C or better in all Methods (SOWK 311, 312, 313), Field Experience (SOWK 407, 408, 411, 412), Social Work Capstone (SOWK 404), and Field Seminar courses (SOWK 409, 410). These courses may not be repeated more than once.
- As per University policy, maintain a minimum 2.0 cumulative grade point average.
- In order to fulfill community-based filed education requirements, students must comply with agency screening criteria and arrange for reliable transportation.
The University does grant transfer credit from accredited two and four year institutions. The program director works closely with the registrar to ensure that credit is given appropriately. In regard to social work classes and core courses, it is the exclusive purview of the program director to sign off on these credits. In evaluating transferability of all other credits, it is the policy of the program to give transfer credit only in those cases where it can be demonstrated by review of course syllabi that the course’s objectives, content, and learning experiences are substantially equivalent to those at Shepherd. In considering academic credit for students transferring from other CWSE accredited social work programs, the program recognizes prior educational achievement. Course work from an accredited program in which the student received a grade of “C” or better is accepted as equivalent to similar course work at Shepherd University. In the case of transfers from unaccredited programs, credit is not awarded for either core social work courses or field instruction; proficiency exams have never been utilized. Field instruction credit can only be earned through the Shepherd social work program. The program director works closely with the Admissions Office in providing information to regional two-year institutions of our curriculum requirements so that transfer of credit for non-social work courses can be expeditiously achieved. These policies and procedures are written in the Social Work Student Handbook; the Admissions Office and Office of the Registrar have copies.
No Academic Credit for Previous Experience
Academic credit for life experience and previous work experience is not given, in whole or in part, in lieu of the field practicum or the courses in the professional foundation areas. In addition, only those students who are candidates for the baccalaureate degree in social work are admitted to the field practicum and methods courses. This requirement is consistent with standard 3.2.5 of the EPAS of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). This policy is articulated in the Student Handbook.
Field Practicum Restrictions
The senior field experience practicum is restricted to social work majors who have completed all required courses in the major. The Social Work Program reserves the right to complete background checks on students applying to the field as deemed necessary and/or required by field instruction agencies.
Field Placements and Student Employment
Traditionally, in the field program at Shepherd and in the B.S.W. education generally, students are not placed in agencies in which they are employed. As undergraduates, they do not have a license to practice social work and, therefore, are not by definition employable in this capacity. However, in the unlikely event that this circumstance arises, students would be placed under supervision and given assignments which differ from that of their employment (CSWE Standard 2.1.8).
Students may be employed in a paraprofessional capacity in the agency prior to their internship. In this event, employers would be asked to sign an agreement that 1) weekly supervision will be provided by an M.S.W. or B.S.W. social worker who was not designated as the direct supervisor of the student when an employee; 2) the tasks undertaken by the student in the completion of their internship will be different in nature and scope; and 3) the hours completed as internship may or may not be paid at the discretion of the agency.
Continuation in the social work major is based upon positive ongoing faculty evaluation of the student’s grades, professional attributes, and performance in real or simulated professional situations. A student may be suspended (temporarily barred from taking required social work courses) or terminated from the social work major for deficiencies in the above mentioned areas or failure to maintain a 2.0 grade point average in the major.
Termination Policies and Protocol
A request for early termination of a placement may be initiated for valid reasons by the agency, the program, or the student. Some possible reasons for early termination of the placement include, but are not limited to:
- Lack of fit between the educational needs of the student and the learning opportunities provided by the agency.
- Inability of the student to adapt to the practice context of the agency and/or community.
- Chronic absence and/or lack of punctuality.
- Failure of the student to notify the field instructor of a planned or unplanned absence.
- Unethical behavior related to boundary issues, confidentiality, respect for self-determination of the client, and other serious breaches of the Code of Ethics.
- Lack of compliance with completion of assigned tasks, including paperwork, in a timely manner.
Prior to actual termination for any reason, negotiations involving the student, the program, and the agency will be held. The protocol for early termination is outlined below.
- Desire for early termination is expressed by any one of the three parties.
- The field liaison discusses identified issues and concerns with the initiating party.
- A conference is held among all parties to clarify the reasons for termination and explore alternatives.
- The field coordinator provides mediation if required.
- Termination is accomplished as soon as feasible, allowing time for closure, attention to continuity of service, and administrative arrangements.
- This process does not preclude replacement of the student in another agency after a round of interviews.
- Termination at a particular agency cannot be appealed since the program does not exercise authority over outside agencies.
- Termination from the program will result if the student is not accepted by a second placement agency following a round of interviews.
- In the event that the student is not viewed as a candidate for anther field placement, the student will be assisted in pursuing another major or the R.B.A. degree offered by the University.
- Any appeal of this decision would be handled by a committee composed of representatives from the faculty and the board of advisors.
- An appeal must be submitted in writing within two weeks to the field coordinator who will forward the petition to the program director.
- The program director will convene the committee which makes a response within one month.
Eligibility for Licensure
As social work is a protected title throughout most of the United States (meaning one must have the B.S.W. degree from a Council on Social Work Education-accredited college or university and a state license), graduates must meet the criteria of social work licensing boards, established independently of any college or university. Having a B.S.W. degree entitles one to sit for the licensing exam; it does not guarantee licensure. Additionally, the licensing board of any state has the authority to deny a license to a person who has been convicted of a felony. Any student applying to the program who has a felony conviction is encouraged to discuss these matters with program faculty during the admission process. A felony conviction my severely restrict and prohibit field education opportunities.