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 25-Year social work program at SRU grows, changes with society 



February 20, 2007
Contact: K.E. Schwab

25-Year social work program at SRU grows, changes with society

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. -  Just as those involved in delivering social services often work for change, Slippery Rock University's social work program has undergone constant change and growth its in first 25 years, said Michael Stowe, associate professor of sociology, anthropology and social work.

The University program celebrates its 25th anniversary with an all-day Internship Supervisor Certificate Program and Workshop April 20 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Regional Learning Alliance in Cranberry. Stephen Marson, University of North Carolina, Pembroke, professor of social work and editor of Social Work Values and Ethics Online Journal, will deliver the keynote address. (See related release.)

Stowe, who joined the SRU social work program in 1982 to help steer it through its initial accreditation review by the Council on Social Work Accreditation, recalls, "The process required more than two years and allowed us and outside experts to evaluate and improve our existing program - and set the plan for constant change." SRU has maintained CSWA accreditation by constantly updating and evaluating its programs and by incorporating new ideas that better prepare students to enter the field, Stowe said.

"In the early days, the emphasis was on social welfare and child welfare. Today, probably because of the aging baby boom generation, we are seeing more work in gerontology," Stowe said.

Campus interest in the program continues to grown. "We started our program with approximately 65 majors, then boomed to 170 in the 1990s. Enrollment in the major has leveled off, holding steady near the 125 mark. Across the board, the emphasis in now on the bachelor of social work degree. The B.S. is the basis of employment in a number of social service agencies, and we are seeing increased demand for graduates with work and study in child welfare," Stowe said.

In fact, SRU partners with the Pennsylvania Department of Children and Youth Services allowing social work majors to complete internships at regional agencies and receive hands-on experience. Those participating in the program receive financial assistance in their senior year. After graduation, they are guaranteed a social work position in one of the state's 67 county child welfare agencies.

An additional change over the first 25 years includes a new emphasis on what Stowe calls "empirically-based social work. "Today, social workers have to be prepared to show their interventions are successful. They have to do research, and they have to be technologically savvy in handling case management computer programs, now part of social service agency work." He said by updating client cases on computers, information can be instantly shared with physicians, courts and others involved in delivering client services.

A major area of growth and change for the SRU program, Stowe said, includes diversity. "Our program has embraced racial, ethnic, sexual orientation diversity and opportunities for women across the board. Our classes routinely deal with these issues, and our students participate in professional cultural conferences so they can better understand these important factors."

"Our program has grown in many ways, but among the most important is our extensive internship program. SRU social work students undertake 540 hours of onsite observation and participation before graduation. This gives them a solid foundation when they are ready for employment," Stowe said.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.

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