After almost three years, St. Thomas University received approval for the master’s of social work program, STU’s first master’s program in its 111 years of existence. Jeffrey Carleton, associate vice-president of communications at STU, said when a university launches a degree, proposals have to be made first.
“It’s exciting for us to offer something that we know students are interested in,” said Carleton.
The master’s of social work is the first graduate program that STU has had, with the university only offering bachelor degrees up until now.
Carleton said there was more demand for people entering the social work field to have a higher credential.
This process took between two to three years to complete, said Carleton. The department of social work developed the proposal for the master’s of social work and had it reviewed and approved by the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission.
STU received the approval between December 2020 and January 2021. This allowed them to officially launch the program in February, with their first class starting in the fall semester of 2021 with a goal to have 16 students registered. These students must have a bachelor of social work and at least 1500 hours of professional social work experience in order to apply.
“It is going to focus on elements of professional leadership, social work supervision and skills development,” said Carleton.
Over the course of the year, students will be required to do coursework and then choose between a thesis or faculty-supervised 450-hour practicum, he said.
Carleton said the New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island Associations of Social Workers are sharing information about the program with their members for a bigger reach.
Being the only English-language social work program in N.B. and P.E.I., Carleton said students have already started showing interest since applications started coming in around the same time the program was announced.
“We hope that’s a good sign for [the] new master’s of social work,” said Carleton.
Marilyn Dupre, professor and director of the school of social work, is excited that the program is finally approved.
“It is a great credit to the faculty here at the school, including part-time faculty, and to the university administration,” said Dupre. “We have a lot of community partners that were really hoping to get a graduate program for English-speaking students in the province of N.B.”
Dupre said the program will be evaluated for the next three years where accessibility and the format of delivery will be the main things to watch for.
There were also some changes made to the bachelor of social work program, Dupre said. Before, students had to complete their bachelor of arts before applying to the bachelor of social work. With the changes to the program announced on March 16, students can now apply to the bachelor of social work program after two years in their bachelor of arts.
After completing the remaining two years of the bachelor of social work, students can choose to gain more experience in the field and apply to the new master’s program.
Dupre said there’s been positive reception so far and she expects the program to be successful.
“This will be an ongoing process in looking at what the needs of social workers in the community would be and also how we would encourage people, in terms of recruitment,” said Dupre.
“I think it fits very well with the modified [bachelor of social work] program … and that I think is really beneficial to students.”