Social work program reaffirmed by accrediting agency

Northwestern College’s social work program has received reaffirmation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). The program is reaccredited for eight years ending October 2015.

A two-person site team, chaired by Dr. Rebecca Turner, vice president for academic and student affairs and professor of social work at Alabama’s Jacksonville State University, visited Northwestern’s campus in late April. The evaluators met with college administrators, social work faculty, students and area social workers who serve on the program’s advisory board.

“We’ve been working toward reaccreditation since I started here four years ago,” says Mark De Ruyter, chairperson of Northwestern’s social work department. “The outcome was affirming. We think we have a good program, but to have objective, very knowledgeable folks at the national level come in and review the program and say the same thing, that feels good.”

Reviewers cited as the program’s strengths the active involvement of faculty in ongoing exchanges with external constituencies; the integration of values and principles of ethical decision-making into the curriculum; and good communication of the program’s mission, goals and outcomes. In addition, the site team praised the department and the college as a whole for having a good understanding of and respect for diversity.

Accreditation indicates to students, parents and future employers of graduates that Northwestern’s social work majors have met high standards of education, according to De Ruyter. In addition, graduation from an accredited program is required to gain social work licensure in Iowa, and most graduate schools will grant advanced standing to alumni of accredited programs—allowing them to bypass as much as 30 credit hours.

Thirty-three Northwestern students are majoring in social work. The program received initial accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education in 1986. It was reaffirmed in 1991 and 1999.

Ten undergraduate social work programs in Iowa are accredited by CSWE. In addition to Northwestern, they are Briar Cliff University, Buena Vista University, Dordt College, the joint program of Loras and Clarke colleges, Luther College, Mount Mercy College, the University of Iowa, the University of Northern Iowa and Wartburg College.