A few years ago, Newman University staff discovered a gap in the higher education available in Colorado Springs.
“They were amazed to learn that a city of this size didn’t have a master of social work program,” says John Moragues, assistant professor of social work and coordinator of distance education for the master of social work program at the Colorado Springs satellite office of Newman University.
So they created one, using the same curriculum as Newman University’s main campus in Wichita, Kan. And so far, it’s been a great success.
“I arrived May 15 (of 2005), and by Aug. 26 we had signed up 22 graduate students and we’ve grown successively each year since then,” Moragues says. “This last fall, we had a total enrollment of 85.”
The master of social work degree is the only degree offered at the Colorado Springs campus, so the entire staff is dedicated to those students. The school employs three full-time professors, each with more than 20 years of clinical experience, and five adjunct professors. They are in the process of hiring a fourth full-time professor, Moragues says.
Newman Univeristy’s social work program has a family-centered social work practice clinical specialty, which is ideal for any student who is interested in doing clinical social work. It’s similar to family therapy training, Moragues says, but incorporates the values of social work.
“The critical thing about social work education is that it never looks at the individual in isolation,” Moragues says. “We don’t give an individual diagnosis. It’s a consideration of the individual in their particular environment. What is it about getting along in their particular environment that just isn’t working for that person?”
The master of social work program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. Master of social work graduates are prepared for work in gerontology, child welfare, mental health, addiction, school social work, medical social work and public welfare.
Students may spend between one and four years in the program, depending on whether they already have a bachelor’s degree in social work and whether they attend full- or part-time. A full-time student with a bachelor’s degree in another area will spend two years in the program.
“Our students in the first year and the second year of the program spend time in a social service agency delivering services directly under close supervision,” Moragues says.
Moragues often advises students to spend the first year doing a field placement with the Department of Human Services.
“It’s a big, complicated, sometimes ugly system, but it’s the system,” Moragues says. “To learn the system is always in your best interest, going forward as a social worker.”
In their second year, students should pursue a field placement in an agency they’re passionate about. Newman University has access a wide variety of agencies for field placement.
“It’s not uncommon for our sharpest students to be offered a job by that agency once they graduate,” Moragues says.
After graduation, students must complete 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience and take a licensure exam in order to receive the Licensed Clinical Social Worker certification. Students can take the exam first to become Licensed Social Workers, and then upgrade to the LCSW after the supervised clinical hours are complete.
To help students with the exam, Newman University often invites an instructor to help students prepare for the exam after graduation. The instructor is in charge of clinical standards for Colorado, and offers her seminar at a discount to the students.
Students at the local campus of Newman University range from 20-somethings to adults in their 60s, Moragues says. Many are working adults who take advantage of the evening class schedule along with “intensive weekends” to work around their jobs. Intensive weekend classes meet once a month for three hours on Friday night and all day Saturday, for four months.
Newman University is also a military-friendly school, Moragues says. About 20 percent of local students use VA loans to pay for their education with Newman, including military spouses. The school has worked to make its program accessible to those who are stationed here temporarily.
“We knew that keeping the program short and finding ways to contact those populations as soon as they hit town was important, because military assignments tend to be on average three to four years in length,” Moragues says.
Although Newman University is a Catholic school, Moragues says the social work curriculum is taught from a social work tradition and the code of ethics of the National Association of Social Workers, rather than from the Catholic tradition. But that doesn’t mean the Church is never mentioned at all.
“A lot of what social workers do and stand for is the notion of social justice and helping to advocate for those who are not in a position to advocate for themselves,” Moragues says. “The church has certainly done that for many centuries, so I provide some of that historical background.”
While other schools now offer master of social work coursework in the area, Newman University is still going strong.
“We’re just delighted to be here,” Moragues says. “We’re very pleasantly surprised by our success in the first six years, and we hope to be in the city for many years to come.”
For more information on Newman University or the master of social work program, call 719-520-1214 or visit www.newmanu.edu.