Arts & Sciences

National accreditation for social work program gives Brandman students a head start

July 28, 2016 by Cindy O'Dell
Brandman University faculty members Karen Woodcoc

Brandman University faculty members Karen Woodcock and Sibyl Beaulieu worked together on gaining professional accreditation for the B.A. in social work.

Social work faculty members have so many good reasons to recommend the newly professionally accredited program it can be hard to keep up.

“Nontraditional students would find this program fits with their lifestyle more than a traditional curriculum or university. It’s a good fit for a returning student, a parent, someone who is working in social services but doesn’t have a degree but wants to maintain their job,” said Sibyl Beaulieu, one of the first professors hired by program director Karen Woodcock. “This is the future of social work.”

“It’s an accelerated program. It’s one of the few in the country that is fully online. Add in accreditation and it’s an even smaller group (to choose among),” said Woodcock. Students can also enroll and begin classes throughout the year and in Southern California classes meet in person at six campuses.

Catherine Pearlman also helped devise the social work program at Brandman.

Catherine Pearlman also helped devise the social work program at Brandman.

“In the last three years, we’ve grown significantly. Our students know what they want,” said Catherine Pearlman, the third faculty member in the core of full-time faculty who created the program.

The program received the good news about Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accreditation on July 14, 2016. It’s retroactive so the many students in the program now and recent graduates can include that on their resumes.

“It means we’ve met a very rigorous standard of social work education,” said Woodcock.

“It lets students know their knowledge base is aligned with all the curriculums across the country. The competencies are exactly the same,” said Beaulieu. It also means Brandman students will qualify for advanced standing should they opt for a graduate degree. In some cases, that could reduce their time to obtain a master’s degree by a full year.

The three-year process of earning professional accreditation – the program had to meet three benchmarks and then an overall assessment – was labor-intensive, requiring input from students, advisory boards and faculty members.

To be professionally accredited, the program has to adhere to the mission, goals and ethics of the social work profession, as defined nationally. Woodcock started the process (there was no social work program when she started five years ago) and then brought in Beaulieu and Pearlman to reorganize courses and align competencies and standards.

Each brought a different component of social work to the process. Woodcock holds a Ph.D. in social work from the University of Pittsburgh. Her career includes working in community mental health as well as teaching at several universities.

Beaulieu has a master’s in social work (MSW) with an emphasis on child welfare and counseling. In addition to working at other universities, she worked for two different states as the director for child welfare training programs.

Pearlman started college thinking she would be a doctor. A job working at a camp for underprivileged children made her realize what she liked about medicine was helping people. “So I switched to social work and never looked back.” Her career includes nonprofits working with homeless children and after-school organizations. She started her own private practice nine years ago and focuses on parenting issues. She writes a blog, “The Family Coach.”

The bachelor’s degree is a more general degree; specializations comes at the master’s level. While all three expect many students to eventually pursue advanced degrees in social work, they also say there are plenty of opportunities without the advanced degree, including at social service agencies serving children, the elderly, people with developmental disabilities and community mental health programs.

One of Beaulieu’s tasks is pairing students with practicums. “We do the same thing as traditional schools, just different methods. I spend a lot of time checking agencies, learning about them, the scope of work, whether they have bachelor-level students and workers to make sure it is appropriate for our students.”

The feedback she’s gotten from agencies with Brandman placements has been excellent. “They tell us our students know what they’re doing. That’s a validation of what we’re doing.”

Where are classes offered?
Classes meet in person at the Irvine, Ontario, Palm Desert, Riverside, Santa Clarita and Victorville campuses. There is also a fully online option for students almost anywhere in the country. Find specifics about courses, admission requirements and more at here.

What is the purpose of social work?
Social work enhances the well-being of individuals, families and communities.

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