FORT SMITH, Ark. (KFSM) — The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith has earned initial accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) on its social work program.
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation recognizes the CSWE Commission on Accreditation as the only accrediting agency for social work education in the U.S.
The CSWE recognizes UAFS’ social work program as exceptional in educating future social workers. It provides students with the necessary credential to secure careers as licensed social workers. CSWE accredited degree program graduates are the only ones who can fill positions as social workers in health care, mental health, non-profit and community agencies.
“With this accreditation, the Bachelor of Social Work degree moves beyond an academic degree and opens the door for our students to gain meaningful employment, apply for state licensure and pursue accelerated graduate programs,” said program director Vaughn DeCoster, Ph.D., LCSW, ACSW.
Once students are accepted into the two-year professional program, they are guaranteed a seat in all advanced courses which are designed with their learning and personal needs in mind. For those who cannot attend class on campus daily, hybrid courses are available. The program utilizes the Cengage Unlimited digital textbook program in order to reduce the costs of hardcover books significantly. Courses are offered in small classes to promote individualized learning and social work candidates progress through the degree plan as a cohort to create a community for learning and support.
If students wish to complete a Master’s degree after completing their Bachelor of Social Work with CSWE, this accreditation allows them to complete it in one year instead of two.
“Achieving initial accreditation is a formidable task, and the dedication, hard work and academic excellence of our faculty are evident in their success,” said Dr. Terisa Riley, UAFS chancellor. “Our students can be confident that they are receiving the very best instruction from the finest faculty and know that they will graduate immediately ready to enter the professional sector or the highest caliber graduate programs.”
The social work field is expected to increase by nearly 110,000 jobs from 2016 to 2026 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This more than doubles the projected employment growth overall.
“In addition to the growing employment opportunity nationwide, the Arkansas River Valley has a critical need for social workers. The Arkansas Social Work Licensing Board reports that only 3 percent of the state’s licensed social workers reside in the River Valley. That’s only 57 BSW and MSW providers to serve the second-largest community in Arkansas and a community that has tremendous needs, at that,” said program director Vaughn DeCoster, Ph.D., LCSW, ACSW.
Social workers have an important role in our community. They assist children in crisis, immigrant populations, aging adults, underemployed, impoverished communities and communities affected by substance abuse, by enlightening them and helping them build on their strengths towards a positive future.
“Social workers are trained to advocate for others, to empower, to build on their strengths, to embrace diversity and differences of all kind and to promote resilience,” DeCoster said.
The UAFS social work faculty has more than 50 years of combined direct practice experience in health, mental health, social service, and military settings. This year, 29 social work students have provided 5800 hours of volunteer services throughout the region by interning in local agencies. All maintain Arkansas licensure as certified social work practitioners (LCSW).
To learn more about the program, go to academics.uafs.edu/majors-minors/social-work.