Tuesday, April 1, 2014

First graduates of OU-C’s bachelor’s program in social work will earn diplomas this spring

Several social work students recently visited Ohio's Statehouse.

The Chillicothe Campus’ bachelor’s degree program in social work, which was first offered during fall semester 2012, is going strong, and the first graduates of the programs will earn their degrees this spring. Approximately 23 social work majors will be part of this initial graduating class.

The campus’ annual Recognition of Graduation event will be held at 7:30 p.m. on May 2 in the Shoemaker Center.

Enrollment is solid, with approximately 26 students enrolled in the 2014-2015 class and more than 150 students in the pre-social work program.

OU-C students are able to pursue either a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work (BASW) or a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree. The BASW degree includes a two-year foreign language requirement, while the BSW degree program does not.

After they earn their college degrees and then pass the state LSW exam to earn professional credential, students are able to pursue careers that allow them to turn their passions into their professions. Some enter the workforce directly out of college while others attend graduate school.

“Most people who want to be social workers want to work with people and advocate for the vulnerable and oppressed,” social work faculty member Ken Larimore said. “Social work offers a career with meaning, action, diversity, satisfaction and an abundance of options. Social workers are found in public agencies, private not for profit community agencies, hospitals, clinics, schools, police departments and countless other workplaces.”

Nina Lewis
Larimore, an assistant professor, and field education liaison/instructor Nina Lewis are the lead faculty members for the campus’ social work offerings.

GRADUATING STUDENTS FIND THEIR CAREER FOCUS

The social work bachelor’s degree program is providing a career compass for the students.  For example, Amanda Pendergraft plans to next complete the advanced standing Master’s of Social Work program on Ohio University’s Athens campus.

Pendergraft has been especially accomplished during her student career. She works as a victims advocate for the county prosecutor’s office in Fayette County and is part of the University Program Partnership (UPP), a prestigious statewide Child Protective Services program. She has also been inducted into Phi Alpha, the national social work honorary.

The experience she gained at OU-C prepared her for this opportunity.
   
“During the first year of the program our professors truly want us to develop self-awareness and find
Amanda Pendergraft
which field is right for us. Then, during our senior year of the program we complete our field placement at an agency that is of interest to us,” Pendergraft said. “The great thing about social work is that we are generalist practitioners and can work wherever we would like. I chose child welfare and got accepted into the UPP program so that is making me a great candidate upon graduation for a job.”

Alexandria Lafreniere, who also graduates this spring, said, “The social work program has not only helped me find my career but it has helped me find my passion. With the dedication and kinship that Nina Lewis and Ken Larimore bring to the class we have all been able to grow to our full potential. The social work graduating class is not a just a class; we are a family that has created a community. Through our internship I believe that we have all learned about our communities we are enrolled in and ourselves. We have discovered what does and does not work in the field through both our internship and assignments. The hands on activities that Nina and Ken have us complete have helped us think outside the box and into the role of a social worker.”

Lafreniere has been accepted into Ohio University’s advanced master’s degree program for social work. She, too, plans to pursue her professional licensure. She is also being inducted into Phi Alpha honorary.

Kimberly Cruz also found her professional calling through the social work program. “Social work is more than just a degree to help me get a job; social work is a state of mind and heart.  I believe it is a passion to help others often during the most difficult and stressful times of their lives.  To know that the knowledge that I have learned during my pursuit of this degree will give me the tools to assist others and allow me to work in many types of jobs and vocations is priceless,” she said.

Cruz, who is president of the campus’ Student Social Work Association, plans to work full-time in the field and then pursue a master’s degree within three years.

BACHELOR’S PROGRAMS SUPPORT CAMPUS’ MISSION

The bachelor’s programs are a natural fit for the Chillicothe Campus. The human services technology associate degree program attracts students who are also drawn to the social work field, and the majors are aligned with career openings in the region.

“In many ways, the social work programs support both OU-C’s mission and strategic direction. In broad terms, they serve our students and serve our region, which is what the Chillicothe Campus is all about,” OU-C Dean Martin Tuck said. “The fact we are able to create such synergy between the human services technology and social work programs is a real plus.”


Larimore recently accompanied a group of OU-C social work students to the Statehouse in Columbus as part of National Association of Social Workers Advocacy Day. March was NASW Social Work Month. The students were able to meet with state legislators to discuss issues related to social work. The focus in 2014 is on professional issues such as salary, educational debt relief and title protection.

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