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UK responds to critical needs with fully-online undergraduate social work degree program


By Lindsey Piercy
University of Kentucky

Helping people in need is more than a career — it’s a calling. Now you can answer that calling by earning a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work (BASW) from the University of Kentucky completely online.

Times are tumultuous, and 2020 has brought challenges like never before. From a public health crisis to movements against social injustice, communities are in critical need of continued support. Social workers aim to provide that support by offering services to improve overall safety and well-being.

The hope is, behind every person or community going through a difficult challenge — abuse, addiction, discrimination, poverty — a social worker is there to help address it.

(Photo by Mark Cornelison, UK)

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

“Now, there is a heightened need for social workers who are trained to explore and implement innovative solutions to society’s most pressing challenges,” Jay Miller, dean of the College of Social Work (CoSW), said. “By extending our undergraduate degree offering into the virtual space, we are creating opportunities for more people to actualize their goals of becoming social work professionals in their communities.”

The growth in child abuse and neglect cases, the devastating opioid epidemic and complex mental health issues are overwhelming social workers with complicated caseloads.

Additionally, COVID-19 has created a storm of factors that will almost certainly lead to an increase in unreported cases of abuse and neglect. As school closures remain in effect, at-risk children are cut off from helping professionals. At the same time, vital parts of the child welfare system are still under immense strain. From mandatory court appearances to home-based parenting programs, the pandemic is making it more difficult to serve children, families and communities.

The BASW program is designed for anyone who is passionate about being a catalyst for change. Students will gain the knowledge and skills needed for careers in social work and social justice, with curriculum spanning advocacy, crisis intervention, social policies and more. The program offers a unique lens through which to view individuals, families, communities and society at large.

“The social work profession has a rich tradition of emphasizing the value of individuals’ experiences and of understanding the complexities of inequality,” Diane Loeffler, director of undergraduate studies, explained. “Our fully online undergraduate program option will prepare students to practice social work in a wide array of settings, with an emphasis on social justice.”

Social Work is a fast-growing profession, and the BASW provides students with the opportunity to truly engage in and learn about how to affect change within and across systems. According to a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field is expected to experience continued nationwide growth. Of particular demand are social work practitioners with advanced training. With the addition of the online undergraduate program, the CoSW has created an online pathway for motivated students to obtain a bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree.

Social workers play a prominent role in improving lives. Ultimately, graduates of the program will be positioned to become innovative leaders and join the greater conversation about creating a stronger society.

Amid unprecedented challenges, Miller hopes the CoSW’s proactive approach will transform communities and the lives of people who call those communities home. “We know the power of social work in addressing the needs of individuals, families and communities,” he said. “This new offering is another way that we seek to actualize our commitment to the well-being of individuals in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and beyond.”

You can find more information on the BASW program here. To help students become well-rounded practitioners, the CoSW offers a wide array of degree paths and certificates. To learn more about other programs, visit the socialwork.uky.edu/.

Lindsey Piercy writes for UK Now


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