DC social work program addresses needs of students, community

By wayne.steffen on July 11, 2014 @ 1:35am

The focus of all FPU degree completion programs is to make it possible for adults with some college credit to finish their diploma and upgrade their career or qualify for further study. The social work/social welfare program also taps into the university's tradition of public service. "It's a good way for us to foster people into the profession and meet the need here in the Valley," said Donna Callahan, M.S.W., assistant professor of social work.

Depending on the option they choose, graduates will qualify for a variety of careers in probation departments, county human service systems, hospitals, schools and non-profit agencies. They can work with children, youth, the elderly, families and the disabled. Students pursuing the social work option will do field work in local agencies helping people while they learn.

One program, two options

Classes begin in July at the FPU North Fresno Regional Center. The program offers two options: a 24-month degree in social work and an 18-month degree in social welfare.

Both options include the same principles from the five pillars of social work: psychology, sociology, political science, economics and human biology. "With that foundation of information graduates can build their skills in social work practice," Callahan said. The difference is the social work option includes one semester of field work under the supervision of a professional with a master's in social work as well as a research project.

Material in the degree completion courses comes directly from the traditional undergraduate program that has been part of the FPU curriculum for many years. Instead of being taught for two or three days a week in 15-semesters, however, classes will meet one evening a week for four hours and students will participate in online instruction. "So people who are working can go back to school to complete their degree," Callahan said.

"It's very innovative. There are very few degree completion social work programs," said Jon Clark, M.S.W., who directs the degree completion social work/social welfare program. The demand for a degree completion program such as this has been growing for 10 years. Jane Middleton, D.S.W., former head of the social work program at California State University, Fresno, spent the 2013-2014 school year helping design the new FPU program.

New faculty, new opportunities

Clark is Fresno native who got his M.S.W. at CSUF. After working locally for Care Fresno and Evangelicals for Social Action/Love, Inc., he spent 15 years at the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services as an adoption social worker. Clark also taught as an adjunct faculty at Asuza Pacific University, where his wife, Laura, is an academic counselor. Like Callahan, he is a doctoral candidate at Capella University.

Adding Clark as a second full-time faculty allows FPU to apply for accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), benefiting both the degree completion and traditional programs. Graduates of accredited programs have increased opportunities for employment and promotion in jobs and advanced placement in graduate schools. Master's students may be able to skip two or three semesters.

Many potential students already work in similar fields. Others may be in ministry, looking for a new career or re-entering the workplace after raising a family. Candidates must be at least 22 years old, have been out of high school for at least four years and have 60 college or university units. Plans are to extend the social work/social welfare program to Visalia in 2015-2015 and Bakersfield in 2016-2017. "As the demand grows we'll go where we need to go," Callahan said.