WESTVILLE — Purdue University Northwest’s Social Work program has earned its initial four-year accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education, the sole accrediting body for social work education in the nation.

“Social workers serve vulnerable populations, and they work in hospitals, courts and social service organizations,” said Elaine Carey, dean of PNW’s College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences.

“Purdue Northwest’s CSWE accreditation is a testament to the achievements of the faculty and field education partners who have worked tirelessly to provide an excellent education to PNW students while enhancing the lives of the citizens of Northwest Indiana. We look forward to continuing to promote student success in the field and to improve the well-being of the community.”

Pamela Saylor, clinical assistant professor and social work program director, said recognition resulted from a three-year process that included a self-study, site visits and review by CSWE’s Commission on Accreditation.

“I’m thankful for the collaborative effort of faculty, staff and administration in developing a strong program to prepare students as future social workers in our communities,” said Saylor.

The accreditation allows PNW graduates to enter a master's degree program with advanced standing; qualifies them to sit for the exam for the bachelor’s degree (BSW) level licensure in Indiana; and puts them in an excellent position to work toward the master’s degree (MSW) licensure in a shorter period of time.

“Beyond exposure to clinical and community organizing skill sets, BSW graduates from Purdue Northwest also possess skills in research design and policy analysis, setting them apart from their peers in other social science disciplines,” said Hayley Stokar, assistant professor of Social Work.

Robin Miller, the program's director of field education, said the number of organizational sites has grown to more than 40 in La Porte, Lake and Porter counties, giving students a greater range of opportunities to acquire field experience – the cornerstone of the program’s curriculum.

“The field education component of Purdue Northwest’s Social Work program provides students with the opportunity to experience working with vulnerable populations in a variety of community settings,” said Miller. “It is also where students are required to demonstrate the nine competencies outlined by CSWE.”

Students spend eight hours per week in an agency for one semester of their junior year. They then move to another agency, spending 15 hours per week throughout their graduating year.

“We have worked diligently to build relationships with a wide variety of agencies in order to match students with areas of interest and needed growth. We are thankful to our community partners for their willingness to provide future social workers with the opportunity to develop their knowledge, values and skills in real world situations,” Miller said.

Saylor said CSWE also was impressed with the program’s community outreach efforts.

PNW’s Social Work program coordinated conferences addressing the opioid crisis in 2018 and recently on human trafficking. Saylor said these events bring community and statewide leaders together to understand a crisis from all dimensions and perspectives.

“Employers in the social service arena recognize accredited BSW graduates from PNW as having a strong skill set and training for a wide array of professional roles,” Stokar said.

“When a resume says the degree was earned at a CSWE-accredited program, it provides instant verification that our graduate is well-versed in professional ethics, research methods, and competencies with individuals, groups, and communities. It is a gold standard in the world of social services.”

The CSWE is the national association representing social work education in the United States. Its members include over 750 accredited baccalaureate and master’s degree in social work programs. For more information visit www.cswe.org.

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Whether it's providing social services to vulnerable populations, helping the homeless, providing medical services to the underinsured or working to better their communities, many people and organizations in Michigan CIty and around La Porte County are truly making a difference in their communities, many doing so out of the public eye. On Saturday, Aug. 31, The News-Dispatch will present a special section spotlighting some of these efforts. We will also run stories before and after that date to highlight some of the good work being done in the community. If you know of a person or organization going above and beyond to help others, contact Jeff Mayes at jmayes@thenewsdispatch.com.

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