Online Master of Social Work Program Overview

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Check out this webinar for an overview of the online Master of Social Work program, curriculum and admission requirements.

The information in this video may be time sensitive. Please contact an enrollment advisor for current deadlines and requirements.


Tracy: Good afternoon everyone, welcome to the University of Nevada Reno Online Master of Social Work webinar. We are happy that you are able to join us, and know that you are excited to hear from our presenters. My name is Tracy, and I will be facilitating today’s presentation. Before we get started, I wanted to cover a few housekeeping items. First, if you have any questions throughout the presentation, you can use the Q & A box along the left side of your console. We will wait until the end to answer questions so everyone can hear the response. We will answer as many as time allows, and the other thing I wanted to mention is this presentation is being recorded, and we will send out the link to everyone that is registered in the next few days. So without further ado, I will turn this over to our presenter Dr. Dorothy Farrel, MSW Program Coordinator. Welcome Dr. Farrel.

Dr. Farrel: Thank you, Tracy. Hello everybody, thank you for taking some time out of your day to come and talk to us about the UNR School of Social Work. We are excited that you are considering attending our new online program. I am going to kind of walk you through the basics of our program, for a little bit, and then we are going to be talking about some things you need to know for admission. So, let’s get started.

Basically what we are going to be doing is talking about the admission of the UNR program. We are going to be talking about Advanced Generalist Programming, which is the modality of learning for our program. We will talk about accreditation, curriculum, field placements, expectations for our online learners, and then we will go into admission requirements, some important dates and then like Tracy said, we will have questions at the end.

So the University of Nevada in Reno, the mission is really to prepare effective, ethical social work leaders and practitioners with a deep and abiding respect for cultural diversity and human strengths. We really stand by our mission here at the school. One of the unique things about our program, for our online program, is all the faculty that teach on campus have spent a year and a half developing the online program. So, the program that you receive online is very similar to the content and the individuals that are teaching it here at the university. Which means that you are getting the people who are experts in the area, content information as well as people that are doing research in the field. So, we are a little unique in that we have our faculty that teach in the on-campus program also teach in our online program. So, we really work hard to make sure that we are fulfilling that mission within that program.

So, the program that we have is what’s called an Advanced Generalist Program. Some universities provide specializations such as clinical social work or mental health. For the Advanced Generalist Program, that is a specialization. It is a very common type of programming throughout social work and basically what this means is that it prepares you to address any kind of issues in any field. So, the concept is that you will learn skills in the trade and techniques that you can really apply in any setting. So you can work with the elderly, hospitals and schools. You can do clinical social work, you can do programming, policy work…really it provides you with the foundation that you need to take those skills into any setting. You get your specialization within the field placements and then of course after you are hired within the field, the concept again is that you will be strong in all the areas that you would be apply to your social work skills…and in any really general setting within the social work arena.

We are an accredited program, and because of that there are competencies that we follow that come to us from the Council of Social Work Education. There are listed here, I am not going to read them to you but basically our program really emphasizes these competencies. And so, what that means to us is when you get ready to graduate at the end of your program, that as a social worker this is what we are looking for you to be able to demonstrate. We measure these competencies in lots of ways. You’ll find in all your classes that there are several competencies that we are trying to track. We look at core competencies within your field placements and then if you choose to do your thesis or within the capstone course. So those are just some examples of the programming and we are a very competency focused program.

Ok, our curriculum is accredited under the same requirements as our on-campus program, so the curriculum mirrors the on-campus program. The courses you that you would receive online are the same as the courses that you would receive if you came to the campus here at UNR. And that way we maintain our accreditation. The same requirements as far as admission, and as far as core assignments. So, the faculty that are teaching classes here also teach them online. And so, the expectations are the same. Obviously, how we deliver the content and materials is different than the face to face program, but it really mirrors the curriculum competency based expectation. The faculty has developed all the courses. There is a field requirement that’s part of our program, and so any social work program that you would apply for throughout the country – if they are accredited – you will have that requirement. It is the same for all universities. It’s one of the capstones and kind of one of the key tenets of social work that really distinguishes us from other programs is that you will be required to do a field placement and we will talk more about that in a minute.

One of the things that students have said is that our program is rigorous. And, that’s intentional. We want to make sure that our students are getting lots of opportunity and information that they need. The curriculum has high expectations and so there’s higher workload online, I think, than the traditional online program. There are high expectations from the faculty that you are present. With that said, you know there are some students that spend a tremendous number of hours on their online program, and others that really learn how to manage time management well and are very able to manage in general family, and work, and the online program very successfully.

For the hours required, we will look at the schedule and what we call carousels here in a minute. So, in general most semesters you will have two seven week classes and one fifteen week class. And depending on what the class is you could be expecting to spend anywhere between fifteen and twenty hours, on average, per week for your classwork. So, it’s important to kind of recognize that. With that said, it doesn’t mean you couldn’t do it at two o’clock in the afternoon or two o’clock in the morning. We just want you to recognize that just because it’s online doesn’t mean there are not high expectations. We would see this as being the same as on-campus. For our on-campus students there are in classes for two full days. And, so it’s similar to that it’s just more on your own timing- when you choose to do those hours…that’s just on average.

So, there are two paths to our program. The first is what we call an Advanced Standing Program. This is a 32-credit hour program that is for students with a BSW degree. We look for students with a BSW degree also within the past seven years. And you can really work with your admission counselors to kind of talk about if this will be an appropriate program for you. The reason we look for people that have graduated within the last seven years is because we are accredited, we go through an accreditation cycle every seven years. So we just want to ensure that the students that are skipping over the first couple years of programming are really prepared to do the advanced standing.

The second program is what is called our Traditional Program. This is a 62-credit hour program and these are traditionally for students who do not have their bachelor’s degree in social work. This program has a three day residency that will be on-campus. It will occur during your second semester with us. Basically you will come to campus on a Friday afternoon, spend the afternoon and evening with us, and all day Saturday with us, and then Sunday morning. During this residency we will do what is called simulation labs and we will also have time to start your field placements process. It’s the first actual meeting you will have with your field instructor to start you there, and it’s also going to be the opportunity to meet your peers. The Advanced Standing students will not have residency so there is no requirements to come to campus unless you plan on attending graduation.

Let’s look at and walk through some of these classes. For the Foundation Level Program, for students that do not have a bachelor’s degree, this is what your programming for the first couple years would look like. It’s a variety again because it is Advanced Generalist, there’s a spectrum of courses. We have Structural Oppression, which talks about diversity as in theory within human development. Then we move into some more therapeutic classes such as Social Work Methods with Individuals and Groups. There is a macro level class which is working with organizations, communities and legislators – then also working with couples and families and policy. Evidence of Informed Practice would be your first research class and then you will have two semesters of our Foundation Practicum.

This is what it would look like and what you would call a carousel. Depending on what semester you start, you would take either SW610, SW611 or SW620. SW610 and SW611 are two seven week classes, so you would take SW610 for the first seven weeks, SW611 for the second seven weeks, and SW620 is a fifteen week course. That will be overlapping for both of these courses. The second semester would be the circle below it, so SW630, SW623, SW640. At that point you would some to residency. Then you would move on to SW680 and SW681 which are our field placements and you would have one course while you are in-field.

This would be your second year, so this would be for Advanced Standing students. It would also be Foundation students moving onward. This is what would be considered your second year in the program. These are the classes you would be taking. The Advanced Multi-dimensional Assessment class is really looking at DSM and diagnosis. Then we have Intervention Approaches with Individuals. We have two administrative classes that look at non-profit development. Things such as strategic planning, non-profit effectiveness, leadership, management, budgeting, fundraising and other programming parts of social work. There is a family class. There is a program evaluation course which is part two of research. You really look at how to evaluate programs… and then we move on to your second… So Advanced Standing would just have the two semesters of your practicum. If you are a Foundation student you move on to your second practicum and again, there’s two semesters of that.

Students at this level will have a choice. The first choice is that you would take your thesis, and that’s something that we would have to talk about early on and is an option for students. The second option would be you would take an elective course and your Culminating Project. What that means is, it’s basically a course that is kind of a case study Capstone course. So those are the only choice that you would have in the program. Otherwise, it’s a very rote program moving from one semester to the next.

Here’s the carousel for the concentration students. Similar to what I just showed you, you would start with either the top circle or the bottom circle and move to the next. The last two semesters would include field, as in your thesis or an elective and the Capstone course.

We are going to talk a couple minutes about the Field Program. I know this is the section where students have the most concern, or questions about their program. Yes, you can do field placements wherever you live. We have a field team here at UNR that will work closely with you to identify potential agencies of placements…whether it be in a rural area or an urban area in a different state. We will work closely with you, individualized, to make sure that you can find that field placement. The requirements are that there is a social worker available for you to supervise you. That is something important to consider. There are always exceptions to that. There are agencies that there are no social workers in, our field team we can work with you in finding some alternatives to that. The Field Program requires on average fifteen hours a week. While you are doing that, please plan on at least a couple of days per week. I know sometimes that is one of the challenges for students, particularly online students, to find that time. We find that students are able to be really creative. This is an important part of time management, and in making sure that this program is going to be good for you. Again, as I said earlier this is not an option for any social work program and is a requirement for accreditation standards.

Expectations for our students – before you start we want to make sure you are ready to go. We provide what is called a student resource center. That’s a classroom that provides you with guidelines on how to post a discussion, how to disseminate your assignments online, talking about Field, talking about the thesis options, gives you some resources to make sure that when you start classes you are going to be ready and prepared to do that successfully. We want to make sure that our students are engaged. We find that the students that are able to check-in frequently, three or four times a week, within the online classroom, have a much better experience than those that save everything up for one day a week. We encourage students to ensure that they have the time and ability to really commit to your program. We want to make sure that you get the most out of your experience. Because we have these carousels, we want to make sure that the students complete all their courses every semester. It’s nine courses a semester. Financial aid wise it’s considered full time but load wise it’s really more of a part time program. You want to make sure that every semester there are certain courses that you have to complete and there is really no option in changing classes, or dropping them.

We already mentioned the residency for the Traditional Track students. We want to make sure that you are ready and willing to have open and frequent communication. Our faculty will often hold open online office hours. They are going to hold available sessions for you to meet with them live so that if you have any questions you can do that. We want to make sure that you are able to communicate with your team. Our program has a really supportive team…starting now with the admissions individuals which you will meet now here in a second. There’s Program Coordinator and there’s also Student Support Services which is really unique in that a couple individuals will be reaching out to you on a regular basis, to see how your experience is going and to see if you have any needs or concerns. You will find that you will have a lot of support throughout the program. I am going to turn it over to our enrollment advisors, Greg and Ryan.

Greg: Hi everybody this is Greg, an EA for the program. I’ll be speaking to advanced standing program for the admissions requirements here for BSW graduates. This is something Ryan and I will assist you with when you inquire and we help you through the application process as well. First of all, your BSW does need to come from a regionally accredited school. The program does contain a course in statistics and research methods. You can look for other documents on the list here. You need to be from a CSWE accredited program. If your bachelor’s is CSWE accredited that should speak to that you did have a class or classes in Statistics or Research Methods. There is an application fee for $60 but just one application that you’ll be doing here and we do ask you to write a personal essay as part of your application process. We do ask for three letters of recommendation from professional individuals – either current or past managers, supervisors or professors are fine, but they have to be professional and leadership level. You need a GPA of 3.0 or better overall. We call it a cumulative score – that means you need a 3.0 or better in all of your undergraduate coursework, added together. Community college courses, bachelors’ and post bachelors classes that are undergrad level as long as they are from a regionally accredited school. The other requirement you can use for GPA is if you don’t have a 3.0 cumulative, if you did a lot better in your last 60 credits or have a 3.25 or better in your last 60 credits of undergraduate coursework that could meet our requirement as well. We also want to see a B- or better in all of your social work classes. And also documentation of your performance in your field experience. We call this a field evaluation assessment here – it’s something that you and your field supervisor would have signed off on at the completion of your last practicum. And to discuss the Traditional track I will hand it off to my colleague Ryan.

Ryan: Hi good afternoon everyone, this is Ryan. I get the opportunity to talk about the Traditional BSW path. This is for individuals who do not have a BSW or who have a BSW outside of seven years. So this program requires a degree from a regionally accredited University for your undergraduate degree. Also a course in statistics and research methods is required. The same application and fee apply to this program. There is a 5 page, single spaced essay that you write addressing 5 questions. There are three letters of recommendation and what’s key about the letters of recommendation is this comes as a packet that Greg or I will send out to you and you can forward to the people you have requested these recommendations from. Of course, the same GPA requirements apply here which is a 3.0 cumulative GPA or a 3.25 in the last 60 hours. GRE exams or any sort of graduate exam is not needed to apply to this program.

Greg: For the advanced standing students for BSW graduates we will need a 4th letter of recommendation form completed by the actual field supervisor from your last practicum. This is all for admissions requirements.

Right now the dates for our summer term – Summer start is May 8. The deadline for your application packet is officially April 7th. To be really helpful to us and ensure we get all of your documentation in time to add to your file, it would be truly beneficial if you could actually complete the application itself by no later than March 31st That gives us a file to work with so we can add these to the file and that completes your packet which we can then get over for review.

Tracy: And that is it for our official presentation. Take some time to think through the information for any questions:

I see you had a question about the number of essays. It is one essay that you write that addresses 5 questions. This is somewhat different than our counterparts at the campus. The students applying to that program will actually write 5 distinct essays as part of the application.

We had a couple of questions about Fall deadline for those who may not be ready for Summer. Greg can fill us in on the dates for Fall. Fall Semester will start August 28. The deadline for completed application will be July 28 and along with that we’d like to see the app itself into us no later than July 21st.

Dr. Farrel if you’re able to answer one of the questions – Is there a set number of students we accept in the program each semester? As of right now we are not setting any caps. It is a rigorous standard as far as the ability for students to meet the qualifications that we have. So if you meet those qualifications and we encourage you to apply but as of right now we don’t have any cap on how many students we allow in. So if we have 100 students that are excellent applications, we would accept 100 applicants.

How are competencies measured and what type of assignments will we be doing besides field requirements? With our accreditation we’re required to submit how we measure competencies, so one of the ways that we do that is through field. The other way that we do that is through self-efficacy so its student measured competencies. We also have embedded measures within the classroom so for example if you taking 610, you would have a common assignment that we measure and we’d use that as a competency. We also measure competencies in the capstone course. So that final course you’re taking we have all ten competencies within that course that we would be measuring. The instructors and the students would do an evaluation to see where the student lies in all those competency measures.

Are online students required to come on campus and why? The residency you’re referring to is for traditional track students and it occurs over a three day weekend where students will come to Reno at the end of the second semester cohort. And the purpose of that residency is to get everyone in that cohort in the same place at the same time to take advantage of seminars and workshops and labs to better prepare you to go back out in your this semester and begin your field practicum.

Once the application is submitted how long does it take for the applicant to receive notification? Once we get the app packet in, that basically means the app with all the supporting documents. We can typically get your answer back in 1-2 weeks. You’ll know relatively soon after we get all of your documentation if you’re accepted into the program.

Can I have more information on the generalist program? Do I have to choose a specialization? Because we are generalist you will not choose a specialization but you will be able to choose an elective. Right now b/c we are a new program we are developing those electives. Next year we will have one for health in a group class. We have other programs on campus people can take electives for. So for example if you’re interested in geriatrics we would encourage you to do your field placement on a setting that includes geriatrics and that’s where you would obtain your specialization based on your field placement.

How to field placements work with out of state students? Out of state residents and students who live in Nevada but not in the Reno area has a field team who work with you to identify what areas of interest you have. And being that you are an expert in your own community we would want you to identify some potential places. So for instance we’ll go back to geriatrics, if you’re interested in working in the medical field, what are the names of some hospitals or nursing facilities that are in your community and you would provide that to our team of places you might be interested in and we would work with those agencies to contract with them. We need to make sure they are willing to support you and supervise you and provide educational opportunity. We would work with you hand in hand to find that placement for you.

Can we do hours and be paid at the same time? Yes, you can. We recommend if you are employed and want to do your field placement hours at that place of work or you find an internship that is paid you just have to be doing something different than your job. IF you’re working for the VA and you’re doing assessments and that’s what you’re paid for, your internship would have to be something different. Maybe you’d be doing groups or you’d be working on a different unit. It just needs to demonstrate that you’re doing something new in order for you to do your internship at your employment. There are ways to do that. It’s a little more complicated but certainly a possibility.

If any additional questions about the program, reach out to Greg or Ryan.