Distinction in Social Work
The Social Work Program prepares liberally educated professional social workers to ethically serve diverse populations and promote a just global community. Program goals include preparing students:
1. for generalist practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities of diverse backgrounds;
2. who understand and appreciate a scientific approach to knowledge building and practice;
3. who reflect on and are responsible for their own ethical conduct;
4. for lives of service and leadership in the global community.
A student who is awarded distinction in social work must demonstrate the ability to integrate knowledge from prerequisite and other liberal arts courses with the knowledge gained in social work foundation courses. Seniors who are awarded distinction in social work will complete independent, integrative academic work in addition to the regular requirements of the major.
Criteria for Distinction
• An overall St. Olaf GPA of 3.0 or higher
• A GPA in courses required for Social Work of 3.5 or higher (including prerequisite courses).
• Completion of one of the following:
• Independent internship with a written reflection of learning through the experience
• Independent research with written reflection of learning through the experience
• Independent study with written reflection of learning
Procedure/Process for Distinction
• During Junior year, or at least by December of senior year, consider possible options for distinction work and discuss with faculty if needed
• February 14th: Senior Social Work major requests consideration for distinction in writing (email is fine) to the Department Chair.
• April 1: Distinction material (paper, presentation, etc.) is submitted to the Department Chair.
• Early April: A committee of department faculty, along with a fieldwork instructor, and/or a social work alum familiar with the content area of the distinction work, will review the work. The committee will then meet in oral interview with the candidate to discuss the work.
• Mid April: Committee makes a decision about the distinction application and the chair notifies the candidate of the decision in writing. Department Chair then sends name(s) of distinction awardee(s) to the Registrar.
Additional Information for Students about Distinction in Social Work Distinction is awarded to students who show they have gone above and beyond the requirements of the major in social work. Students should demonstrate how the work is informed by social work theory, methods and ethics – the art and science of social work – and how its completion provides evidence of generalist social work preparation in a liberal arts context. In other words, how is the conception for, completion of, and reflection on this work illustrative of social work, as compared to something similar that might be completed by a history or sociology senior at St. Olaf?
The academic work submitted for distinction will be reviewed by all department faculty (including those who are adjunct) and one reviewer from the social work community who has expertise in the subject area of the work. The Department generally awards distinction to fewer than 10% of the graduating class each year. The criteria we use to decide whether the work is deserving of distinction includes, but is not limited to, the following:
1. Connections to academic learning (How was your work informed by your social work curriculum? How did the content you learned in your theory, research and practice courses inform your work? How did your broader liberal arts education inform your work? What sources in the social work literature are related to your work?)
2. Connections to competencies (Which competencies did you demonstrate in your distinction project and how? No need to demonstrate all ten!)
3. Illustration of relationship between this project and the social work program mission statement
4. Possible connections to other experiences in the field (shadowing, practicum, or other internships)…did the experience confirm or challenge other experiences?
5. Implications for your future career and the social work profession.
The presentation and conversation for the distinction work will be scheduled in early-mid April, after the work is submitted, and will last one hour. If the distinction work is done ahead (e.g. a paper), we need to have it for review by the deadline date. If it is to be presented at the meeting to decide distinction, we expect that you will present for about half the time and allow the other half for questions and discussion.
Possible options for distinction work (all of which reference 1-5 above):
a. Independent internships with a written reflection of learning through the experience
b. Independent research with written reflection of learning through the experience
c. Independent study with written reflection of learning
Broad guidelines for the presentation of distinction work:
a. You will provide a brief (10 minute) introduction to the work.
a. What inspired you to do this work?
b. What did you do?
c. How does this work apply to the next stage in your professional development?
b. The committee will have opportunity to ask questions to clarify and better understand your work (the idea here is to give you a chance to strengthen your possibility of being granted distinction, not to trip you up in any way).
c. The committee will ask you to leave after about 45-50 minutes, then will discuss your work and make a determination about distinction
d. The Chair will notify you by email within 24 hours about the committee’s decision; written notification will follow.
e. The Chair will notify the Registrar’s Office of the name(s) of those awarded distinction.
Updated: July 2013