Social Work program lands accreditation candidacy
By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
Candidacy status means that GCU has met the initial criteria set by CSWE to move forward in the accreditation process. The first students joined the program in February, though Dr. Kathleen Downey and others have been working on the accreditation process for more than a year.
“It allows the students who started the program in February and after to be recognized as graduating from an accredited program, if and when we achieve full accreditation,” said Downey, Director of Social Work. “Students, upon graduation from an accredited program, are then eligible to sit for the Arizona state licensing exam. This opens doors.”
Students graduating from the program’s advanced generalist specialization are prepared to work in a wide variety of settings, such as school social work, integrated health care, community mental health, policy and program development, child welfare, medical social work and community development.
“It’s a big deal,” Downey said. “When I talk to other program managers around the country and tell them we just achieved candidacy status, their eyes get bright and they start clapping. They know how much work it is, even that first step of candidacy.”
Downey said the work toward accreditation is typically a three-year process, and it involves teamwork across many departments, including the Office of Field Experience, Curriculum Design and Development, Compliance and Data Analytics.
“But the biggest deal is for students,” she said of their ability to sit for licensing exams in their state following accreditation. “Of course, licensing elevates the profession.”
The candidacy status is reached after several steps, including submitting a draft of standards for the program, a site visit by the Commissioner on Accreditation, incorporating the commissioner’s feedback and a COA Committee vote.
The new status for the program in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences is a major achievement for learners, faculty and the institution, said CHSS Dean Dr. Sherman Elliott.
“This acknowledgment by the accrediting body is due to the leadership and determination of Dr. Kathleen Downey, our Social Work faculty and the GCU Compliance team,” he said. “We are all very eager to see the great work that our social workers will offer those in need throughout the country.”
It’s a vital time of need in the country, and social workers are being recognized for their skills in a crisis, said Warren Terry, Field Education Coordinator, who is part of a growing team of full-time faculty added to Social Work in the past year.
“It really shows how important social workers are in providing help and guidance every day but especially when we are going through situations like this — the pandemic, people out of work and the mental and emotional exhaustion of being isolated,” he said.
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.