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Graduate social work program earns major accreditation

Northeastern State University graduate social work program earns major accreditation

NSU-Tahlequah-Campus-Fountain(Tahlequah, Oklahoma) — Northeastern State University recently received accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education for its master’s in social work program.

Dr. Eun-Jun Bang, department chair and program director at NSU, said the council’s decision to award accreditation to the master’s in social work program officially makes it one of only two accredited graduate programs for social work in Oklahoma.

Founded in 1952, the Council on Social Work Education is the main accreditation body for social work schools. NSU added the master’s in social work degree to its catalog of graduate programs in 2018. The university also offers a bachelor’s in social work degree—which was also accredited by the Council on Social Work Education when the program was established in 1991 and renewed ever since. Bang said initial accreditation for a master’s program is a three-year process.

“Graduates and prospective students now have the assurance that our program’s creation and development has been reviewed and approved by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), and as such their degree will be recognized by any state’s licensing board should they elect to seek licensure outside of Oklahoma,” Bang said.

Bang said the master’s program was created to develop and train future social workers not only in the core competencies connected to clinical social work practice but to also serve the educational, cultural and workforce needs of local and professional communities. Bang said Northeastern Oklahoma is a rural area and home to the Cherokee Nation and 30 other tribes. As such, he added the program has built in a specific emphasis on working with Indigenous and rural communities. Bang said current research, trends and community stakeholder discussions show a need to develop a curriculum to effectively train future social workers to address these various needs of Indigenous and rural populations.

“We purposefully developed our MSW curriculum so that graduates of our program will be able to effectively serve others to address the needs experienced by those in our communities,” Bang said.

The results of developing the program this way is so enrolled students and graduates can conduct research and work with Indigenous and rural populations through local partnerships with nearby communities and tribal nations. As part of the program current students and graduates are able to perform in a variety of social work practice including conducting research regarding suicide interventions with Indigenous peoples, working in rural community mental health as therapists, and working with Cherokee citizens in conjunction with state and tribal court in helping individuals coming out of incarceration reintegrate back into their communities.

For 30 years the bachelor’s in social work degree program at NSU has also taken advantage of the institution’s proximity and cultural ties to educate enrollees about working with Indigenous and rural populations even if it is not a primary focus as part of the program’s description.

Bang said the bachelor’s program focuses on training students for generalist social work practice which prepares them to work with client systems of all sizes from individuals to communities. Bang said some areas within Oklahoma experience issues such as high poverty rates, high rates of alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence. Other areas in Oklahoma are also considered to be in a service desert, especially in rural communities where someone may not have access to critical services and therefore are required to travel more than 45 minutes for an appointment with a professional. He added both the bachelor's and master's social work programs help train the next generation of a much-needed workforce nationwide and in Oklahoma to address those challenges.

Graduates of a CSWE accredited bachelor’s social work degree programs such as the one at NSU can finish their master’s degree with the institution within one year instead of two for those without such social work background.

“There are many opportunities to be able to find your calling in the field of social work,” Bang said. “Not a week goes by that one of our faculty doesn’t have an update from one of our graduates sharing the good work they are finding themselves doing for their communities.”

For more information about the master’s of social work degree program at NSU, interested persons can visit https://academics.nsuok.edu/socialwork/Academic/MSWProgram/default.aspx or contact Dr. Eun-Jun Bang at 918-449-6564 or email bang@nsuok.edu.

For information about the bachelor of social work program visit https://academics.nsuok.edu/socialwork/Academic/BSWProgram.aspx.