The University of Indianapolis’ Masters of Social Work program has received its first accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education. The graduate program is a part of the Phylis Lan Lin Department of Social Work. This accreditation marked the end of a process that began in 2016, Assistant Professor of Social Work and MSW Program Director Wanda Watts said.
The MSW program is designed to prepare students to become social workers. The university also has a Bachelor’s of Social Work program, which is designed to prepare students for more generalized practice and does not include counseling, Watts said. In order to be a counselor, students have to at least have a master’s degree.
According to Watts, in Indiana, those who have social worker in their title or have social work-related responsibilities have to be licensed to practice on both the bachelor’s and master’s levels, which is what UIndy’s programs do.
“It’s a licensed profession,” Watts said. “So, we are preparing students to be able to work with some of the most vulnerable populations and advocate on their behalf”….“Usually we meet our clients at places where they are the most vulnerable, where they might be having trouble trying to access systems or they’re having mental health kinds of issues, so we provide counseling to them as well.”
The MSW program had to go through several procedural steps as part of the CSWE accreditation process, Watts said. First, the department had to petition CSWE to tell them that UIndy wanted to start a program. Then, they had to make sure UIndy was in a position that would be able to handle the program and finally be able to support both the program and the students applying to it.
“They [CSWE] look at what the university, how the university itself is accredited [and] by what entities,” Watts said. “As well [as], being able to have those entities in the community that would even be able to support students. Being able to come out, for instance, for a field practicum and practice in the field that would lend field supervisors to oversee the activity of those students in the field as well. So there are several different areas that the accrediting body looks at or, we had to report on to prove that we were ready to be able to support a master’s level program.”
While the program was accredited at the start of this academic year, the accreditation is retroactive to 2016, according to Watts. UIndy was in contact with CSWE before the program began. The students who were in the program before it was accredited will be able to say they were apart of an accredited program.
“In order for students to even be eligible for licensing upon graduation, they have to have matriculated through a Council on Social Work Education accredited program,” Watts said. “We are very much now recognized by our accrediting body and we’ve joined others as well that are accredited now, which helps our students to have the assurance that they are now very much able to go to the licensing board.”
Watts said that the department is very proud of the fact that the graduate program was accredited by CSWE.
“It is really like a seal of approval to the way that we are educating our students and also that we are getting good feedback from the service providers in the community about the caliber of students that we’re producing,” Watts said. “That is a very good thing for us.”
Dean of the College of Applied Behavioral Sciences Torrey Wilson said accreditation is one of the main things a university would want as a foundation for their programs. Wilson said the BSW program was already accredited by CSWE, so the additional accreditation of the MSW program reaffirms the quality of the programs.
“If there’s a program and there’s either certification or accreditation, accreditation typically being a higher level of discipline [and] approval of how and what you’re doing in terms of training and preparing folks,” Wilson said. “Students know certain accreditations, others they don’t….They want to know if programs are accredited, so it [the accreditation] basically is that additional stamp of approval that we are achieving the quality that is defined by those respective fields.”