The Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program at St. Ambrose University recently was awarded full accreditation by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
Since the inception of the BSW in 2019, CSWE carried out three visits (May 2019, March 2020, virtual, and March 2021, virtual) to ensure the St. Ambrose University BSW program met accreditation expectations, which successfully informed the accreditation process. Accreditation includes educational standards and expectations around ethics, diversity and human rights, research, social policy, understanding human behavior, multiple levels and stages of intervention, and application through field education.
The Council on Accreditation voted to grant full accreditation to the St. Ambrose University BSW program.
Program Director and Associate Professor Kristi Law, PhD, said the program's full accreditation through 2029 came with no assigned benchmarks or concerns. She said this confirms the program's successful launch and serves as affirmation of the seriousness the St. Ambrose School of Social Work brought to the accreditation process.
"We really approach the process with a lot of respect," she said, noting the BSW faculty followed the lead of a regionally recognized Master of Social Work (MSW) program that has been in existence since 1997. "We don't see it as a box to check. We really see it as an opportunity to demonstrate the intentional way we put our programs together, teach our students and bring our community partners into the process.
"We really view the accreditation process as an opportunity to showcase those pieces. To have the response come back so positive and benchmark-free was satisfying in that it further acknowledged our approach."
The BSW program graduated its first class in May of 2021, and 12 of the 25 graduates have enrolled with advanced standing in the MSW program, with an opportunity to earn their master's in half the standard time.
The undergraduate program complements the MSW in many other ways as well, said Katie Van Blair, PhD, an MSW professor and Director of the SAU School of Social Work.
"First, the faculty are top notch," Van Blair said of Law, Assistant Professor Kyle Bennett, PhD, and Clinical Instructor Kate Lally. "We have benefited greatly from their perspectives, scholarly focus, and energy.
"Also, initiatives like our voter registration campaign and School of Social Work Racial Justice committee would have been difficult to pull off in the context of all the other initiatives we have going on. More energy, more people, more social action."
Most importantly, Law said, students in both programs energize one another.
"We have BSW students being active on campus not only through the BSW student organization, but a lot of other student organizations as well, so there is a lot of threading a fabric that I think is starting to excite MSW students," she said. "We've seen that with the civic engagement and voter registration work, where we have both BSW and MSW students involved. And both groups lead the Racial Justice Committee meetings, which has allowed for informal mentoring."