If you want to make social work your profession, it's probably because you believe in the theme developed by the National Association of Social Workers for this year's National Social Work Month.

The theme is "All People Matter."

Social workers across the globe believe that all people have dignity and deserve respect. They believe dignity and respect are essential to improving relationships within families, making social support systems more effective, and building strong communities.

And if you are already a part of the Saint Leo University community, then you know that dignity and respect are also an important part of the university's core values.

In recognition of National Social Work Month, Cindy Lee, director of Saint Leo's online master's in social work program, shares her thoughts about the 2014 theme and about Saint Leo's program and how it's unique among MSW programs.

Why is "All People Matter" a great theme for National Social Work Month?

Dr. Lee: The "All People Matter" theme goes to the heart of the social work mission which is to serve all people no matter the problem no matter the person.

How is that theme incorporated into Saint Leo's MSW program?

Dr. Lee: The MSW program curriculum is infused with this theme by teaching students to address the micro (individual), mezzo (group) and macro (community/organization) levels of society. Therefore, they learn skills and strategies to address any issues/problems encountered by an individual, group or community/organization.

Why did Saint Leo create an online master's in social work degree program?


Dr. Lee: First, development of the program began in response to student and alumni requests. Many students who earned their bachelor's in social work at Saint Leo wanted to continue with the university for their master's.

Second, few universities offer a full-time, entirely online MSW program that accommodates busy, working adults. Since Saint Leo has long been a leader in online learning, we decided to develop a top-quality, rigorous, online program that would integrate the university's core values and prepare students well for today's evolving social work field.

What makes Saint Leo's MSW program different?

Dr. Lee: A quality MSW curriculum depends on the faculty's ability to observe and assess student skills during role-playing scenarios. This would be challenging to accomplish in a typical online format, where students complete assignments independently.

So as we developed the program, we searched for the most advanced Web conference technology available and found the Blackboard Collaborate™ Web conferencing platform.

The webcam technology this platform provides lets us see students demonstrate their skills. It mimics an on-the-ground classroom. Students can write on the whiteboard, raise their hands, talk to each other, and see each other. They can role-play. We can pretty much replicate the face-to-face environment of a classroom.

What's the difference between Saint Leo's two MSW programs?

Dr. Lee: The advanced standing program is a 32-credit, full-time, one-year program. You must have earned a bachelor of social work (BSW) degree within the last five years from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) to enroll in this option.

The advanced clinical practice concentration requires you to earn 62 credits. The program takes two or three years to complete, depending on whether you enroll part-time or full-time. This program requires a one-weekend seminar at University Campus. Students must be available during the daytime hours to do a required internship.

How does Saint Leo's program prepare students for successful careers?

Dr. Lee: There's often a misconception that online programs don't have as high standards as traditional on-campus programs. That's not the case with any of Saint Leo's online degree programs, including the MSW program.

Not only is our program accredited by the CSWE, but it rapidly earned a reputation for being demanding and rigorous. Alumni who are now working professionals say that the effort and commitment the program required made them better prepared and more confident to enter the field.

How are current trends integrated into the curriculum?

Dr. Lee: As a by-product of the accreditation process, we were able to integrate two emerging areas of focus into required courses and electives: gerontology and social work practice with military members and their families. These are two key areas because the population is getting older and because of the impact the current wars are having on military members and their families.

How successful are Saint Leo MSW graduates in getting jobs?

Dr. Lee: We have already graduated four cohorts, and many students were hired directly from their internships or received job offers by the time they graduated. Much of this success is due to our talented and experienced faculty members who have worked hard to maintain the high standards of the program.

What about the program makes you proud?

Dr. Lee: I'm proud of how quickly the program earned CSWE accreditation. The accreditation process consists of a series of benchmarks wherein the council reviews the program's development to ensure it complies with CSWE standards. We completed and achieved each benchmark with high marks, earning accreditation in just four years after we launched the program.

Also, for me, it's a huge compliment when students say that they never knew they could do this high a level of work. Many graduates have said that completing the program has made them more than they ever thought they could be.

Students say the program changes their lives. What could possibly make you more proud than that?

For more information about National Social Work Month 2014 or the social work profession, visit socialworkers.org.

Other posts you may be interested in reading:

Online M.S.W. Degree Program Receives Professional Accreditation

Pursuing an Online Masters in Social Work So He Can Make a Difference

Online Social Work Degree Leads to a "Profession of Hope"