Shepherd University Social Work Program
Transfer Students and the Curriculum Sequence
Beginning with the Fall, 2012 semester, the Social Work Program will enforce policy already in place requiring that existing prerequisites be completed prior to entry into Social Work Methods I (SOWK 311). These courses are Introduction to Social Work (SOWK 201) and Community Service Learning (SOWK 300). Exceptions will be limited and require a student have a 3.25 GPA, at least two years of paid human service work experience, and an interview with the faculty. For these exceptions to be considered, one must contact the Social Work Program Director at least one month prior to the first day of class for the fall semester. Therefore, all transfers interested in social work should attend no later than the July transfer session. Those potential students who choose to register the Friday prior to the beginning of classes will not be eligible to be considered for the exception noted above.
The implication of this is that many students who transfer to Shepherd for the fall of what would be their junior year will not be able to complete the BSW within two years. Holding an associate degree is not relevant to meeting the requirements for entry into the professional sequence of courses. They will need at least three years to complete the degree. Ideally, these students should transfer to Shepherd University after three semesters at a two year school as the prerequisites are available in the Spring semester. Those who transfer in the spring of the sophomore year will most likely be able to complete the BSW within two years.
The rationale for this decision is that these transfers have been scheduling the two prerequisites and three junior level social work courses in the fall semester to “catch up” and therefore are underprepared for their junior level courses. The faculty does not have adequate time to determine a student’s academic and professional readiness to enter the senior field placement. This limited opportunity to vet these students prior to field placement has resulted in a number of students entering field work who are unable to maintain professional boundaries, handle issues of diversity, and are unprepared to meet the challenges of a demanding placement. This is particularly important when background screening is increasingly required by field agencies and concerns about liability have grown. As these students are practicing under the licenses of the faculty, it is critical that we have adequate opportunities over a minimum of three semesters (rather than the current situation of one semester for these transfer students) to determine their readiness, assure field agencies that the faculty have confidence in these candidates, and meet our obligations under our Code of Ethics, the licensing law, and the accreditation standards of the Council on Social Work Education.
Although this protocol may extend the amount of time in school, it will provide transfer students the opportunity to hold employment and reduce their loan obligations after graduation and attain a higher GPA given they will not be so overburdened with credit hours to complete the degree requirements. Overall, the faculty’s responsibilities to the public, the profession, and the accreditation requirements are the overriding concerns for this decision. Advisement of community college students to transfer after three rather that four semesters could ameliorate concerns over these timelines.