The December news of accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) for North Central University’s (NCU) social work degree came as an early Christmas present. As the result of more than five years of effort, this milestone for the NCU program ushers in new opportunities for students, faculty and graduates associated with the program.
For Allison Roeder (Bachelor of Social Work 2015) the CSWE accreditation means she can move forward confidently with career and education plans. “It’s huge,” Roeder said of the news, noting the accreditation will give her greater options for her choice of schools.
Angela Volpe NCU’s social work program director, affirmed the significance of the CSWE accreditation. “In Minnesota, even if you have a social work degree you must have a license to practice any kind of social work, and that license is only available to students from an accredited program,” Volpe explained. “Because we were in accreditation candidacy for the past five years, our students were able to take the exam, but had to get a temporary license and renew annually.” She noted that the CSWE stamp of approval impacts graduates, as well as current and future students.
In pursuing accreditation, NCU had to demonstrate that the social work program met rigorous criteria established by the CSWE. Volpe said that one of the requirements is a 400-hour internship. The school works closely with students to make internship placements that will be meaningful and lay the groundwork for their career experience.
For Roeder, an internship at Augustana Care Minneapolis Campus proved pivotal for her post-graduation job. She loved the work she did as an intern, so when a full-time position opened up she applied and was offered work as a full-time social worker one month before graduation.
A reluctant social worker
Now very happy with her career choice, Roeder’s initial journey into her field was unexpected and God-directed.
Arriving as a freshman, Roeder planned to attend NCU for one year while she decided on a major and career plan. “At the end of freshman year,” she recalled, “I felt the Lord telling me to stay; and that His work wasn’t done here.” She described herself then as shy and insecure, and still not certain of her academic direction
In the midst of searching, she had three people in the same week suggest she look into social work. “I had all these people talk to me, so I gave it to God, asking, ‘Is this something I should pursue?’”
It was her supervisor for her role as a student employee in Admissions who finally convinced her to take Introduction to Social Work during her sophomore year. Concerned that if it wasn’t a fit she would “waste” credits and money, the supervisor—who she considers a mentor—“encouraged me to take a leap and God would honor that.”
A job that solves puzzles
Roeder entered—and stayed in—the program, and now has a ready answer for the question she once asked herself: “What is social work?”
In social work the primary focus is the psycho-social wellbeing of people. “It involves observing mood and behaviors, and assessing if their needs are being met through resources such as housing, food, and healthcare,” Roeder said.
At Augustana, Roeder works with elderly clients in the transitional care unit, where she assists with coordinating finances, and connecting the patient with services such as nursing and physical therapy. “My job is pulling pieces of the puzzle together to see the big picture,” she noted.
Balancing the administrative side of her work with the relational aspects is a challenging part of Roeder’s job that NCU prepared her for. “I feel like the way [my education] helped and prepared me—especially my internship placement—was really phenomenal,” Roeder said.
Access to her professors was important, too. Combining textbook plus real-world situations—and working with her instructors to decipher her field experience—was a valuable part of Roeder’s education.
Discovering the core of her calling
Entering the field full-time, Roeder had high aspirations. “I wanted to save people and be like family to older adults who don’t have family;” Roeder recalled, “to care for vulnerable people in a vulnerable time.”
But Roeder has realized that as a social worker her role is not to save people, “but just to show God’s love and be God’s love through what I do.”
“I’m learning to give it more up to God,” she said. “I look at the way I react in situations and ask, ‘Am I responding like Christ would? Am I loving?’ And then just look for the best in people. That’s what social workers are called to do; that’s what Christians are called to do.”
Roeder now plans to pursue the next level of education to earn her LICSW credentials and work in a hospital, serving those with mental illness.
With North Central’s CSWE accreditation, Roeder—and all NCU’s social work alumni and future graduates—can move forward to do what they are called to do.