“Listen…with the ear of your heart,” reads the Rule of St. Benedict. This message is woven into the fabric of the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program. The BSW program’s recent accreditation affirms its greatest strength: developing top-notch professionals who seek to listen, understand and empower others.
The accreditation process spanned four years, but was really eight years in the making. Drawing from the Community Services curriculum, Katya Shkurkin, Ph.D, professor of social work, and Tam Dinh, Ph.D, assistant professor of social work, drafted a proposal for the BSW program, which they submitted to the Board of Trustees and the Council on Social Work Education, the national accrediting agency. The next three years involved writing major reports on the program and visits from commissioners each spring to assess the faculty’s credentials, syllabuses for each class, budget proposals, internship sites and other factors. “They evaluated everything,” recalls Shkurkin. “No stone was left unturned.”
Earning accreditation in December 2015, the BSW program joined the ranks of over 250 BSW programs in the nation. Accreditation ensures that Saint Martin’s can collaborate on an equal level with other social work programs nationally and internationally. In addition, it makes Saint Martin’s BSW students eligible for Advanced Standing/Advanced Placement at accredited Master of Social Work (MSW) programs, which puts them on track to complete the MSW in 10 months rather than the traditional two years.
The BSW seeks to develop professionals in the field who are competent and compassionate. The program not only provides students with hands-on experience through a 600-hour internship but also gives them the opportunity to reflect on their lives, their personal struggles and their journey, and how these experiences can connect to their careers in social work.
Love of self and others is one of the key lessons taught in Shkurkin’s classroom. “A positive impact on the world begins with personal insight and maturing,” she comments. “It grows from there to our student’s families, the communities that they work in and the people whose lives they touch. We spend a lot of time on helping students understand themselves.”
BSW students are challenged not only academically, as they learn to write critically and understand statistical data, but also emotionally, as they engage on a personal level with the compassion and self-awareness that are integral to the profession.
“We want to give students the tools for transformation,” says Shkurkin. “One person can make a difference. Many working for the same goal can make a world of difference.”