NMU’s social work program has been conducting both formal and informal surveys with the hope of possibly acquiring a graduate program to educate future social workers in the U.P.
After years of information being shuffled around to different professors and offices in the social work department and the idea never gaining traction, interest in the program is at an all-time high, Abigail Wyche, department head said.
“In the job market, [a Master’s degree] has become the more preferred or minimum qualifications for a social work job in a more populated area rather than in the U.P, more rural and remote areas.” Wyche said.
If the internal and external results of bringing the program to NMU are successful in the next year, the university can start admitting students fall 2018, calling it an advanced generalist graduate program. Since the program has been in such high demand in recent years, students can now consider both an undergraduate and graduate degree in social work.
“They can go straight from acquiring [a baccalaureate] to having a masters in social work in as little as five years. This way, students won’t have to leave NMU to attend another school who does provide a Masters in Social Work Program (MSW),” Wyche said.
President Erickson talked about growing more graduate programs within the university earlier in the school year at fall convocation. Amongst many other programs discussed, Erickson stated that the social work program may be a great opportunity for NMU.
Adding new programs helps set our university apart from the rest, Erickson said.
“Our level of change has been transformational,” Erickson at the fall convocation earlier in the academic year. “It’s been changed to lift the university upward and bring Northern distinction,” he stated, while highlighting the progress of other programs added within the past year.
The social work department is committed to advancing the education and preparing competent and caring professionals. Core concepts are designed bringing direct and indirect learning that brings value, knowledge and skills accredited by the Council of Social Work Education.
“The process of developing such a program takes time, resources and investment both internally and externally that can benefit the university in the near future,” Wyche said.
She emphasized the number of areas that she and faculty are looking into such as substance abuse, mental health, child welfare and other areas, depending on what is the greatest demand and teaching levels [professors] available to them.
Wyche said, “The MSW degree makes a difference in the career as a social worker, not only based on their qualifications but really in their ability and competence to do their job in the field.”
Students like senior social work major Krystle Hanson said they have been interested in the MSW program for a long time.
“I would be ecstatic if NMU was granted a graduate social work program,” Hanson said. “At least 75 percent of the people who are in the program with me have shown interest and it is more convenient. Most MSW programs are offered online, but I like interaction and having access to faculty.”
Hanson is not the only student who is excited about the possibility of having a graduate program for the social work major.
“I live six hours away and resources are available here. I can bring the education learned [at NMU] back down state. Northern is part of a small community, making classes smaller; better connection with professors and creating that bond,” junior general psychology major Shannon Oliver, said.