ISU Online Bachelors and Masters in Social Work Will Help with Idaho Mental Health Care Crisis
April 27, 2023
The College of Arts and Letters and the Department of Sociology, Social Work, and Criminology at Idaho State University are happy to announce the launch of online program options for both their Bachelor of Arts in Social Work (BASW) and the Master of Social Work (MSW) degrees. Th
There is a critical need in Idaho for social workers. According to Jenny Easley, a court-appointed special advocate for Region 3 of Idaho’s health and welfare system, the entire state is a federally designated mental health care shortage area. The outcome is long waits for mental health resources, and high levels of burnout for social workers themselves. Compounding all of this is the lack of access to quality social work education.
The College of Arts and Letters and the Department of Sociology, Social Work, and Criminology at Idaho State University are happy to announce the launch of online program options for both their Bachelor of Arts in Social Work (BASW) and the Master of Social Work (MSW) degrees. These online programs are fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and are currently enrolling students who wish to begin their studies in the Summer and Fall semesters of 2023..
The Social Work programs at ISU are focused on providing increased access to education throughout the state of Idaho, with an emphasis on meeting the needs of residents in our rural communities.
Darci Graves, PhD and Master of Social Work Director, oversees the program operations for the Master’s of Social Work program. “Our preference is to enroll students in Idaho and geographically adjacent areas,” Graves says. “Our primary interest is serving Idaho students and addressing the social work shortage in Idaho.”
Graves says that one of the things the department learned during the pandemic, when their program and others around the country went online, is that they can teach effectively via Zoom. “We learned we could teach online without diminishing the quality of education,” Graves says.
They also learned that there was a high demand for remote learning. Many students had been commuting to Pocatello from Rexburg and Idaho Falls and found that attending classes via Zoom was a better option and reduced their commute time. Some students who were already attending classes on campus lost their jobs during Covid and relocated as a result. When the campus opened back up for in-person classes, people realized there were benefits to accessing higher education remotely and not all students wanted to come back to campus
The department worked hard to obtain the online accreditation needed to continue to offer online options to students.
“There was a demand from existing students,” Graves says. “Simultaneously there’s been an increased demand statewide for social workers. The crisis has reached such a fever pitch that the state legislature is trying to address the issue.”
Graves says that in Pocatello they hear from their practicum placement students that some of the local clinics have waiting lists of 200-300 people.
“We want to meet the needs for high quality, well-trained social workers across the state. We also want to provide access to quality education that is available and convenient for people,” Graves says.
Graves says that students want to stay in their communities to work.
“We know that the best way to create social workers in rural Idaho is to find people in rural Idaho and give them an education,” she says. “If we can educate them in their communities they’re more likely to stay in their communities, and that’s how we build effective social workers in rural Idaho.”
Graves says that area schools that offer associates degrees and pre-social work options are having a hard time finding bachelor’s programs for their students.
“They’d like to be able to guide their students straight into the online ISU program,” she says. “The bachelor’s in social work is an important part of the pipeline for social work in the area.”
Ines Jindra, PhD, is the Bachelor of Arts in Social Work Program Director. Jindra also emphasizes that the key to their online program will be the interactive element.
“Interacting with other humans is a foundational skill for social workers,” she says. “We want to maintain the integrity of the courses, the program, and the profession.”
Jindra and Graves both say that many people will benefit from the flexibility of the online options.
“Many of our students work full time,” Jindra says. “Many are nontraditional students who have families, children, and aging parents. It's really important that our programs are flexible. Having an online program will allow increased access for students who don't live in or near Pocatello, but live in other areas, especially rural regions of the state. Having an online program will help alleviate the shortage of social workers in Idaho, and thus has immense benefits for our state.”
“We got official approval on January 10,” Graves says. “We’ve had overwhelming responses already. The faculty at Lewis Clark State College are thrilled. They’re excited to share our program information with their students and are encouraging them to apply for graduate school at ISU.”
Graves says she’s been meeting with 2-5 students every day and all of them want to go online.
“The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive,” she says. “It’s going to create a lot of opportunities.”
For more information about the BASW program, please contact program director Dr. Ines Jindra at firstname.lastname@example.org, and for more information about the MSW program, please contact program director Dr. Darci Graves at email@example.com. Detailed program descriptions can be found at www.isu.edu/sswc.