Greetings from the midst of frozen tundra that we call the Quad Cities! I hope that this newsletter finds you safe and warm during this particularly snowy winter. Although the newsletter has become an annual newsletter instead of twice yearly, we continue to value this means of communication with our students, alumni, field instructors, advisory board members, and friends. Thanks to all of you that have facilitated our mission: to prepare competent and ethical social work professionals who enrich lives and advocate a just society.
As that mission states, education of MSW students is our primary goal. In order to continue this strong educational commitment, we must be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. This is a reaffirmation year for the St. Ambrose MSW Program. We have diligently pulled together a 3 Volume, 1500 page self-study that is a snapshot of the excellent work we do and are quite pleased with the results. Students and alumni rate the program as excellent across multiple competencies. Check out the section on reaffirmation in this newsletter. The self-study was due in December and our site visit is at the end of March. Final decisions on reaffirmation of accreditation are made in October 2011.
During Academic Year 10-11, we have enjoyed a solid enrollment of students, with 80 full time and part time students in the program. Almost half of the students this year received an Empowerment scholarship, graduate fellowship, or graduate assistantship. Most notably, the School of Social Work received a grant for the amount of $105,000 from Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for scholarships. Dean Sandy Cassady, College of Education and Health Sciences, secured this grant for MSW, OT, PT, Speech-Language Pathology, and Nursing scholarships. The MSW scholarships were within a total of $1 million in scholarships for the Health Sciences programs. Eight MSW students were funded at 75% of their tuition costs.
Our continuing education offerings continue to attract hundreds of social workers to campus each year, our faculty are involved with interesting scholarly activities and are offering new courses this year in Spirituality and Trauma-Informed Child Welfare. During this challenging time for our country and for the social service community, we continue to seek feedback from constituents on the best way to prepare students for that service environment though advisory committees and our participation in community boards.
Enjoy the newsletter where you can get a more in-depth look on all of these issues.
When Catholic Charities USA embarked upon its centennial year in 2010, the social services agency decided it would celebrate the occasion by recognizing the valuable contributions of individuals and organizations to the reduction of poverty in the United States- including the St. Ambrose University MSW Program as one of the 13 schools of social work at Catholic Universities.
The MSW program at St. Ambrose has developed and implemented a comprehensive and multi-method assessment plan for the measurement of student competency outcomes. The assessment plan is designed to provide evaluative data used to monitor and enhance program quality, foster student competency outcome achievement, and assess the curriculum's effectiveness. The assessment plan is internally consistent with the stated mission of the MSW program and is grounded in the goals derived from that mission.
Micah Johnson is in his final year as an SAU MSW student. He currently lives in Davenport, Iowa, but hails from smaller, rural, Thompson, Iowa. Prior to starting in the MSW program, he was employed as a substance abuse counselor in the Quad Cities Area. In his free time, he likes running, skydiving, and the theatre. He lives with his dog, Gracie, and two roommates.
Micah attended Luther College where he received his Bachelor's degree in Psychology. His reason for deciding to pursue his Masters degree in Social Work was because "all the cool people with the cool jobs have degrees in Social Work." Micah states that his reason for choosing SAU was because "I was drawn in by their empowerment concentration. The more I discovered about the program the more I saw how this transcended practice areas. Ambrose is really a leader in empowerment social work and the program seemed to be congruent with what I wanted in a master's."
Micah's first placement was at Scott County Kids. The field placement coordinator recommended this position to expand on the experiences he already had prior to grad school. At Scott County Kids, with an "amazing" SAU grad as a supervisor, he had an opportunity to practice at a broader level managing an interdisciplinary team looking at disproportionality in the child welfare system. Micah says that it was great to able to apply the skills he was learning in class to the group process of this team and the conceptualization of racism and oppression. His second placement has been with Vera French School Based Mental Health Program doing school-based play therapy with elementary students. He says he has benefited from the experience and practice wisdom of his field supervisor, also an SAU grad,. This placement is quite the change from his previous placement due to its being more clinically focused. He also notes that "Ambrose's integration of ethical decision making throughout the curriculum has helped in examining challenging issues that arise in practice."
Micah's advice to students regarding field placement selection is "I encourage students to challenge themselves and seek placements in areas that they might not have prior experience in, regardless of where their professional interests rest. These experiences will only enhance the foundation for future practice."
Micah's immediate post graduation plans are to take his social work skills into the classroom for the next two years with Teach for America. He is currently working on getting his teaching license to teach elementary education in the Mississippi Delta. Eventually he would like to do policy work for children and families as they interact with multiple systems, particularly looking at how resources are leveraged and how services are integrated for the benefit of vulnerable populations. Ultimately he would like to get his PhD in Human Development and Social Policy.
His advice for his fellow students is "Get involved in your community, outside of your classes, outside of your practicum. Join committees, attend community meetings, volunteer your time and recognize the role social workers play in the broader context."
How long have you taught at St. Ambrose? Where did you teach and/or practice prior to coming to SAU?
I came to SAU in the earliest years of development of the MSW program. I have been here 14 years; through CSWE candidacy, initial accreditation, and two additional reaccreditation cycles. I previously taught for 20 years in the BSW program at Marycrest College (now defunct). My prior work experience has been as a public welfare caseworker and in private practice as an organizational consultant (grant writing, strategic planning, program evaluation).
What made you want to go into Social Work?
I earned my BA in Sociology/Anthropology and Secondary Education in 1971, but my first professional job was with the Illinois Department of Public Aid for six years. Working full-time, attended the University of Iowa MSW program part-time, with interest in social policy. Graduating in 1977, I began teaching social work shortly after with interest in preparing students for the ethics and values of social work - especially the social justice mandate.
What specific area of social work do you really have a passion for (i.e. gerontology, school age children, teaching etc.)
Clearly policy-practice and advocacy! "The clinical without the political is not empowerment social work!!"
Where did you grow up?
I'm a Quad Cities native - went to East Moline public schools.
Any other social workers in your family or close circle of friends?
Generations of family members worked in the human services area. Although not social workers, my mother and grandmother worked in mental health. My great-grandmother, Sarah Babcock was president of a local chapter of the Women's Relief Society - the chapter named after her father, Charles Babcock. Occasionally, I wear her presidential organizational lapel pin.
What changes, if any, have you seen in the field of social work that influence you, or have influenced the way you see services provided over the years?
The major changes have been the ebb and flow of bureaucratic disentitlement, in tandem with the rights movement of social services consumers. Over the course of my career, I have experienced the welfare rights movement, the women's rights movement, the disability rights movement, and the gay rights movement.
What advice do you have for people graduating in May and newly entering the field as MSWs?
Add your legislators phone number as a speed dial on your cell phones -- don't hesitate to let them know your opinions on pending bills, your approval or disapproval on their votes, and what policies would benefit your clients.
School of Social Work Alum, Norma Rosales MSW, BIAC, graduated from the SAU MSW Program in 2004. She obtained her BSW from Loras College in Dubuque and states that she chose the St. Ambrose MSW Program because of its professionalism and the convenience of it being local.
Currently, Ms. Rosales is the Executive Director of the Southeast Iowa Immigration Program in Ottumwa, Iowa. She is bilingual (in English/Spanish) and is certified by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIAC) to practice immigration law. The SE Iowa Immigration program is a non-profit agency that offers affordable legal immigration services. This includes helping people to obtain their Certificate of Citizenship, Permanent Resident cards, Travel Documents, Temporary Protective Status and more. In addition, Norma is the regional multicultural center coordinator for Indian Hills Community College.
Rosales states that with the economy affecting so many, she hopes she is able to continue working to help build up new professionals in our country and in other countries. She enjoys working with and learning from international students and feels she has the vision to ultimately help others obtain justice. Her advice for new MSW graduates and current students? "Once you start, you must do your best to reach the finish line! When you dream and have a vision, you can help others and have your dreams come true."