Joint MSW program receives national accreditation

The Master of Social Work program operated jointly by Millersville and Shippensburg universities has earned accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

Dr. Deborah Jacobs, professor of social work and gerontology, and program co-director at Shippensburg, said the accreditation "tells people that we follow national standards for social work education that are determined by experts in the field. It also tells the social work licensing board of Pennsylvania that our students have met the standards so they can take the exam and be licensed in social work."

Dr. Kathryn Gregoire, professor and chair of Millersville's Department of Social Work and program co-director, said "(The accreditation) is validation that we have met rigorous standards that define competent preparation for advanced social work practice."

Accreditation, they said, is vital for the success of the program. "If you don't have accreditation you're not going to get anyone to attend," Jacobs said. "It's a standard in the industry of sorts."

The approval is also good news for any student who has completed the MSW program, now in its fourth year of operation. The accreditation, good initially for four years, is retroactive. "It's important to note that all of the students who have graduated prior to now are grandfathered into the accreditation program," Jacobs said. "They are now seen as having graduated from an accredited program."

The MSW program allows students to enroll at either campus of their choice. Currently, 48 students are enrolled in Shippensburg's program and 68 are enrolled at Millersville. Before the start of the joint program, which includes a combination of videoconferencing, distance education technology and campus-based classes, students in Southcentral Pennsylvania interested in an MSW program were limited to attending satellite programs of other universities or travelling long distances.

"The program is filling a need in the South Central region and meeting our enrollment targets each year," said Gregoire.

Once a program receives initial accreditation it goes into a cycle of re-affirmation and re-accreditation, according to Jacobs. "That's not as extreme a process as we went through for this accreditation but the program has to be reaffirmed periodically." The initial accreditation site visit was last October.

CSWE is a nonprofit national association representing more than 3,000 individual members along with graduate and undergraduate educational programs. According to its website, "CSWE aims to promote and strengthen the quality of social work education through preparation of competent social work professionals by providing national leadership and a forum for collective action. CSWE pursues this mission through setting and maintaining policy and program standards, accrediting bachelor's and master's degree programs in social work, promoting research and faculty development, and advocating for social work education."

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