Social work is a growing profession, with social workers holding about 562,000 jobs in 2004. Employment of social workers is expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations through 2014, according to the U.S. Labor Department. U.S. News & World Report, Money Magazine, and Working Woman have listed social work as one of the 25 best jobs for the future.
Social Work Program Mission
The Social Work Program prepares liberally educated professional social workers to ethically serve diverse populations and promote a just global community.
Social Work prepares students:
for generalist practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities of diverse backgrounds;
who understand and appreciate a scientific approach to knowledge building and practice;
who reflect on and are responsible for their own ethical conduct;
for lives of service and leadership in the global community.
The Program objectives mirror those for baccalaureate social work education published by the Council on Social Work Education in the Education and Policy Statement (EPAS).
After completion of their social work education at St. Olaf students will be able to:
Apply critical thinking skills within the context of professional social work practice.
Understand the value base of the profession and its ethical standards and principles, and practice accordingly.
Practice without discrimination and with repsect, knowledge, and skills related to clients’ age, class, color, culture, disability, ethnicity, family structure, gender, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation.
Understand the forms and mechanisms of oppression and discrimination and apply strategies of advocacy and social change that advance social and economic justice, locally and globally.
Understand and interpret the history of the social work profession and its contemporary structures and issues in the world.
Apply the knowledge and skills of generalist social work to practice with systems of all sizes in the global community.
Use theoretical frameworks supported by empirical evidence to understand individual development and behavior across the life span and the interactions among individuals and between individuals and families, groups, organizations, and communities and relationships between our nation and the world.
Analyze, formulate, and influence social policies at all governmental levels–local, state, regional, national, and international.
Evaluate research studies, apply research findings to practice, and evaluate their own practice interventions.
Use communication skills differentially across client populations, colleagues, communities and cultures.
Use supervision and consultation appropriate to social work practice at home and abroad.
Function within the structure of organizations and service delivery systems and, under supervision, seek necessary organizational change.
Generalist practice is multilevel intervention with clients (individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities) of diverse backgrounds. It uses the social systems framework, planned change process, empowerment perspective and strengths-based approach to practice. It is grounded in the liberal arts, scientifically informed and ethical.
High quality, individualized advising is a strength of the program. Any student interested in working with people in relation to their social environment is welcome to talk with faculty about course and career options. Liberal education is at the heart of the Social Work major, and all courses available at St. Olaf can contribute to the preparation of excellent social workers and other professionals.
Admission to the Program
To prepare for social work, students take courses in psychology, sociology, and biology; study of social and cultural diversity, especially relative to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, class, and geographic location, is required. Students in good standing who have completed prerequisite courses make application to the program and are formally notified of admission during the junior year (see the St. Olaf College Academic Catalog and Social Work Program Manual). The program welcomes transfer students who come into the program prior to the beginning of the junior year and is pleased to include non-traditional students returning to college. Students must maintain a G.P.A. of 2.0 and receive grades of “C” or higher in major courses to remain in the program.
A required field practicum (400 hours minimum) is completed in one full-time block placement in the fall semester of the senior year. This valuable preparatory experience with clients may be in the Twin Cities, other communities close to campus, or at a greater distance by individual arrangement.
Celebration of Diversity
Social workers are diverse themselves and serve diverse clients, so the program actively seeks and encourages students from diverse backgrounds to consider a Social Work major. Social Work faculty and staff encourage diversity at St. Olaf and in the program by working with Admissions, Student Support Services, Upward Bound, Multicultural Affairs and Community Outreach (MACO), Gay, Lesbian, or Whatever (GLOW!), and the International, Domestic, and Off-Campus Studies department. The program does not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, culture, class, religion, national origin, age, physical or mental ability, political orientation, sexual orientation, public assistance status or geographic location.
International Study Opportunities
Diverse global traditions, histories, and methods of helping are increasingly crucial for social workers to understand and apply. Graduates from the St. Olaf Social Work Program work both domestically and internationally with people from diverse cultural backgrounds. Content on international social welfare and social work is integrated throughout the social work courses. Social Work majors can conveniently schedule Interim courses abroad in any department; the program offers “Family Social Services in Central Mexico” every other January. In order to study abroad for a semester, students need to plan early and carefully. Of particular interest to majors with Spanish language is the spring semester program “Social Work in a Latin American Context” which meets junior level requirements for the social work major. Students can arrange for independent study or academic internships abroad with sufficient planning.
Special Student Scholarships, Awards, and Activities
Social Work students are eligible to apply for two scholarships. The Amy Jahren Scholarship is provided to a candidate who “demonstrates through course selection, internship choices, participation in off-campus study, independent study, research or tutorial topics, and/or volunteer work an interest in and dedication to a career of serving others.” The Amanda Kimer Memorial Scholarship is awarded to students who demonstrate particular interest in working with oppressed communities, especially communities of color. These awards are part of the financial aid package for the students selected.
The Amanda Kimer Award for Excellence in Social Work is given yearly to a senior major who best exemplifies the hard work, passion to serve others, and sense of humor possessed by Amanda Kimer, a Social Work major who died during her junior year in 1996.
Oles Helping (OH) is the student organization for majors and others interested in social work. The club sponsors volunteer activities and programs of general interest during the school year. During Social Work Month in March, they co-sponsor Social Work Career Night with the program and the Center for Expperiential Learning. Alumni/ae living nearby return to campus to describe where their majors in social work have led them.
Each year, students have the opportunity to attend the Day at the Capitol; an advocacy and education day sponsored by NASW.
Social Work Seniors participate in a Retreat on Vocation each Spring, planned by social work faculty and CEL staff, with funding from the Kimer Endowment.
Closely Related Areas of Interdisiplinary Study
American Racial and Multicultural Studies
Where Graduates are Working and Studying
- hospitals, hospices, nursing homes
- domestic violence programs
- community based agencies
- homeless shelters
- family service and adoption agencies
- senior centers
- public financial and social services
- residential care centers
They are employed as case managers, program directors, supervisors, and child care specialists. They also enter voluntary service programs — the Peace Corps, Lutheran Volunteer Corps, and AmeriCorps are common choices.
Approximately 25% of students attend graduate school within three years of graduation. These include programs in social work, ministry, public policy, special education, and law. Those with a B.A. in social work and a G.P.A. of 3.0 are generally eligible to apply for advanced standing in graduate schools of social work.