By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News
Iowa Wesleyan University is launching a new Bachelor of Social Work degree this fall.
Iowa Wesleyan University (IW) President Steve Titus said the university is responding to the needs of the region in creating the Social Work degree, which has been three years in the making. The proposal was unanimously approved by IW?s board of trustees this past spring.
?I can?t express enough a need for social workers in our community,? said Kristin Helm, program coordinator and former Hillcrest Family Services counselor. ?Through my time working with community mental health, I?ve had the opportunity to do some training and teaching with staff and found it?s an area I?m very passionate about.
?I can certainly see the value in quality education for future social workers and a commitment to meet the workforce needs of our community,? Helm continued during a ceremonial program signing by Titus on Monday, June 18.
The program is largely being pioneered by Vice President for Academic Affairs DeWayne Frazier, who said he and Titus have discussed the need for a social work program at IW since he was hired three years ago.
Frazier said at the time of his hiring, the Mental Health Institute was in the process of closing their doors, making it evident IW needed to respond to the need for mental health resources in the area.
During the signing ceremony, Titus opened up about the mental illness that has ?touched and impacted? his family, even leading to some of his family members to move away for two years to get the resources they needed.
Titus said what really frightens him about that is that his family has ?some resources,? and in a small community like Mt. Pleasant, are a family of stature.
?I can pick up the phone and call just about anyone I want and get a response,? Titus said. ?What about those families who don?t have those resources? ? What happens to them? That is what we are responding to.?
Throughout the conception of the Social Work program, the university has reached out to potential regional partners, many of whom were present at the program signing. Titus said in discussion with these partners, they are creating a program that will meet the needs of the community and create a career track for IW students, so they can stay in southeast Iowa to provide services.
As the Program Coordinator, Helm has a background of experience. ?This is not a program that exists, it?s a program that will be built,? Titus said, adding that Helm is the fundamental leader to do just that.
Although Titus and Helm met only a week ago, Titus said he has seen her appetite for this work and to develop the program. Although the first year will be placing the building blocks, fall semester 2019 will be a very exciting time, Titus said.
Titus thanked the mental health providers in the room and their future collaboration with students for practicums and internships.
?We know it?s a difficult time for the sector of higher education (and) it?s a difficult time for the sector of health care,? Titus said. ?I think if we walk together in some of those challenges, we can be creative and create new possibilities.?
The program will launch with Introduction to Social Work this fall. Other classes offered through the program include Human Behavior and the Social Environment, Social Work Practice and Topics in Social Work. Many classes required for the Bachelor of Social Work include courses from Psychology and Bachelor of Human Services.
?This is just the start,? Frazier said. He plans on launching a Master of Social Work next, soon after unveiling a Bachelor of Social Work that can be pursued through online classes.
While transfer students cannot be accepted into the program the first year as the university works for Social Work accreditation, the degree is open to incoming IW students.