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Social work program celebrating 40 years

ISSUED: 2 September 2014
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — The social work program at Shepherd University is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. A social work degree was first offered at Shepherd in 1972 and the first class to graduate was in 1974.

Two of the faculty who teach social work students today have been a part of the program almost since its inception. Program Director Doug Horner and Professor Geri Crawley-Woods both joined the faculty in 1976. Over those years they have seen many changes in how social work is taught and practiced. They say those changes began in the early 1970s with the introduction of the bachelor’s degree in social work.

“I do think that layer of the B.S.W. (bachelor’s social work) has changed the focus of the profession,” Crawley-Woods said. “Our students are prepared for what we call generalist practice. They are beginning-level practitioners and they are able to function in a wide range of settings with populations across the lifespan, literally from the cradle to the grave.”

Horner said Shepherd graduates are prepared to work with individuals and groups, as well as with communities and organizations.

“The diversity of fields in social work is really hard to define,” he said. “Now many of our graduates work in administrative positions, so they’ll be running organizations. They will also be focusing on some nontraditional fields like working with physicians who are serving elderly patients.”

Horner cites statistics to prospective students and their parents that show majoring in social work is a good career choice. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook online projects a 19 percent growth in social work between 2012 and 2022, which is above average for all occupations. According to Horner among the reasons for this growth are the aging of society and a greater need for help in health care and substance abuse.

Shepherd’s social work program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and graduates must pass a licensing exam. Horner said 100 percent of the students passed the exam in 2013, and over the years the percentage of students passing is above 90 percent. That’s compared to about a 76 percent national average.

The accrediting body requires students to complete 400 hours of field placement in order for the program to maintain its accreditation. Shepherd requires more than that, so students have to put in 600 hours in order to graduate. They work at a variety of agencies across the tristate area, including in public welfare, adult and child protective services, area hospitals, and the correctional system.

Crawley-Woods said this extra real-life experience is a huge benefit to graduates.

“Our interns do 200 hours above the national standard which is one of the reasons I think we’re recognized as a program of distinction,” Crawley-Woods said.

The social work program’s many accomplishments during its 40-year history include:

Both Crawley-Woods and Horner think it’s particularly important for students and professors from the social work program to be involved in community projects.

“It gives legitimacy to our education program in the community,” Horner said. “Our students have the opportunity to engage in these projects so they see that learning is classroom and field, classroom and field, back and forth.”

“Our motto is Social Welfare Through Social Change, and I think it’s really evident on the B.S.W level,” Crawley-Woods said. “We are trying to create agents of change who are going to transform lives not just on the individual level but for communities and nations and internationally, too. We have a global perspective that we offer our students.”

“It’s a great source of generative joy for us that we have been able to create a program that has nurtured hundreds of young professionals and maturing professionals. We’re doing the 40th to honor them,” Crawley-Woods added.

To celebrate its anniversary and recognize those who have graduated over four decades, the social work program is sponsoring a reception on October 3 from 7-9 p.m. at White Hall. Those wishing to attend should RSVP by September 12 by calling 304-876-5157 or sending an email to

Audio is available HERE.

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