Student surveys initiate search for new head of Social Work program

The results of a survey of social work students prompted Northern Kentucky University to consider starting a Master of Social Work program.

At the start of the fall semester, 247 social work students at NKU took a survey to determine if there was a need for NKU to have a MSW program. The results of the preliminary data reflected that 88 percent of the juniors and 94 percent of the seniors would enroll in the MSW program offered by NKU.

Ninty-one percent of all students surveyed who are now in the social work program, believed there was a need for NKU to have a MSW program, and it would in some way appeal to them.

Currently the University of Kentucky offers a MSW program on the NKU campus. Students must apply through UK and its faculty and staff teach the courses.

If NKU’s program develops, it may replace UK’s program on campus, but currently, the MSW curriculum will be complimentary to UK’s, said Dr. Jim Decker, chair of the NKU social work program.

Two concepts prevail in the planning of the new program: a community based model in partnership with the MSW program and the need to hire MSW graduates. The partnership would include the university being in alliance with agencies in the community in order to employ students upon graduation.

“This would strengthen both the students and the agencies,” Decker said.

More than 100 social service agencies in Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati were solicited to discuss NKU plans to erect the program. Ninety percent of the agencies claimed that there was a strong need to hire MSW graduates and that they would hire NKU program graduates.

NKU students that had become alumni within the past 10 years were also solicited. The social work program sent out 189 letters encouraging responses pertaining to the possible addition of a new MSW program. Fifty of the letters were undeliverable.

A total of 13 alumni responded, all of which held MSW degrees. The majority favored NKU pushing for the program and 84 percent said they would have enrolled.

According to Decker, the preliminary data from the surveys shows a need.

“Dean Atwater (former dean of Professional Studies and Education) wants an MSW and a Masters of counseling and human services program here. And, the establishment of an MSW program meets every one of President Votruba’s core values,” said Decker.

Distance learning and interactive web classes are also inclusive of future plans.

“I like the idea of a MSW program through NKU because of the one weekend a month schedule. It’s easier for people who work while attending school,” said Rhonda Griffin, senior social work student at NKU.

By the end of the month the social work program will have a report that staff and faculty will present to the university to see if need and support are present.

Then the proposal will be posted on the Internet for public viewing. After that, the proposal for the MSW program will go through the faculty center to be approved.

The next stop is the vice-president of the university and finally to the Board of Higher Education.

If all goes smoothly through all of these bodies, NKU will be approved to construct its own MSW program.

“The goal is to have the first entering class into the program by fall 2003,” said Decker.