Labor Pays Off for New Social Work Degree

February 26, 2008

In spring 2007, 148 students signed a petition for an accredited Social Work program and many presented it to college leadership. By fall 2008, their request will be answered with the enrollment of the first students in what will be a nationally accredited bachelor of social work (BSW) program.

Mary Baldwin University’s initiative to create a Social work major and earn accreditation for the program is one of dozens of creative programs submitted in response to a call from Mary Baldwin President Pamela Fox to “invest and innovate.” Her opening address mere months ago asked the Mary Baldwin community to “initiate a new cycle of innovation to seize the urgency of opportunities before us.”

Sociology and social work have long been strong components of the Mary Baldwin curriculum — in fall 2007, 151 current students had declared one of the two fields as a major or minor. A recent gift from a generous alumna and Board of Trustees member who wishes to remain anonymous gave the department funding needed to begin a bona fide major in Social Work and to become a nationally accredited program. Social work and sociology faculty members drafted the proposal that was approved by faculty February 1.

To become accredited, like programs at 11 other institutions in Virginia, the Mary Baldwin program must have at least two full-time faculty and develop a major course of study. The Trustee’s gift will help provide for a second faculty member to join Associate Professor of Social Work Gauri Rai. Additional funds will be used for academic development and research. Accreditation will allow students to enjoy full membership in the National Association of Social Workers and mean that graduates will need only one year of additional study instead of two to earn a master’s degree in the field, Rai said. Mary Baldwin will be eligible to apply for accreditation in fall 2009, and Rai and his colleagues designed the program to meet all requirements prior to that so accreditation will cover students who begin the BSW program in fall 2008.

Sophomore Tempest Jones, one of several students who joined faculty in a presentation to the Board of Trustees in February, can already imagine how accreditation will bolster her degree and career. “Being able to earn a master’s faster will allow me to start on a career path sooner. I dream of opening an empowerment center for women that will promote teen programs, offer financial training, and help clients learn job and parenting skills,” she said.

The social work program compliments the civic engagement mission of the college and the field exposes students from across the disciplines to increased civic involvement and issues of social justice and human rights.