UNCP wins approval to begin Master of Social Work program


The new Master of Social Work (MSW) program at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke is expected to be popular, University officials said.

sherry_edwards.jpgThe MSW, UNCP’s 17th graduate program, was approved in January by the UNC Board of Governors. In February, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) found UNCP’s new program eligible to begin the candidacy process for accreditation.

The first 30 students will enroll in January 2008 if all goes as planned. The master’s program will build on the strength of UNCP’s undergraduate program, said Dr. Sherry Edwards, chair of the Social Work Department.

“Our program is a hidden treasure for many reasons,” Dr. Edwards said. “The first accredited Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) students graduated in 1987, and we currently produce more BSW social workers than any other college or university in North Carolina.

“An MSW program will mean we can train even more social work professionals,” she said. “Our needs assessment survey indicates that it will be a very successful program.”

The survey of 200 BSWs showed that 98 percent said the MSW program is needed and 72 percent of the respondents said they would enroll. Further, 38 percent of the graduates of UNCP’s BSW program said they would prefer to attend graduate school at UNCP.

“Most respondents said they preferred a part-time program, so we are planning a three-year evening program with 60 required hours,” Dr. Edwards said. “We will offer advanced generalist training that is best suited to our rural setting. I believe it is a nice niche for us.”

Approximately three years in the planning, UNCP’s MSW begins a three-year accreditation cycle with the CSWE. Planning has been exhaustive.

“I have no idea how many hours our faculty and staff have put into the planning of this program,” Dr. Edwards said. “Our department is dedicated to the mission of providing our students with the tools to practice ethically and responsibly in the profession.”

The MSW degree is the “terminal” degree in the social work profession, Dr. Edwards explained.

“It is the nationally recognized terminal practice degree,” she said. “With an MSW you can hang out your shingle and bill for insurance in all 50 states.”

There is demand for more social workers, Dr. Edwards noted. The U.S. Department of Labor reported that the demand for social workers is high and that trend will continue through the decade.

Dr. Edwards believes the MSW program will bolster the BSW program at UNCP. Full-time department faculty will almost double from six to 11 members.

“One of the critical accreditation issues is that we must show that our BSW program won’t suffer,” Dr. Edwards said. “The undergraduate program will actually benefit from additional faculty and new grant opportunities.”

Social work is one of the largest undergraduate majors in the College of Arts and Sciences with approximately 200 students.

“The demand for the MSW program will be driven by our BSW program, and we believe that offering the MSW program will, in turn, help grow our BSW program,” Dr. Edwards said.

Dr. Charles Harrington, UNCP’s provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, commended the department.

“I want to commend Dr. Edwards and her department for their hard work,” Dr. Harrington said.

The Social Work Department became a stand-alone department during the 2005-06 academic year, and it will move to its newly renovated headquarters in the D. F. Lowery Building in fall 2007.

“The University has given us everything I asked for to make our case for this program,” Dr. Edwards said. “I would like to publicly thank all our faculty and especially Tonya Locklear, our administrative support person.

For more information about social work programs at UNCP, please call 910.521.6778, email socialwork@uncp.edu or visit www.uncp.edu/sw/.