Accreditation makes FPU’s strong social work program even better

More doors will open for FPU social work graduates thanks to accreditation of the university’s program.

“It’s a seal of approval from our profession,” says Jonathan Clark, D.S.W., of accreditation by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). “It’s the first question potential students ask,” when researching colleges, according to Clark, who directs the social work program.

“It communicates to our community that social work students who graduate from FPU are instructed in the highest standards of the profession,” added Sonia Pranger, L.C.S.W., assistant professor of social work.

FPU’s social work program is already going strong. “We’re bursting at the seams,” Clark said.

One reason for the popularity is that FPU is one of only a few universities in the nation to offer both traditional and bachelor’s degree completion formats. While traditional classes happen during the day and are aimed at recent high school graduates, degree completion (DC) students are working adults, usually with jobs and family responsibilities. Their classes meet one night a week in groups, known as “cohorts,” that continue through the program together.

Also setting FPU’s program apart is the focus on faith as part of a Christian university. “Many schools have been reluctant to discuss faith perspectives in their curriculum,” Pranger said. “However, our program asks students to explore ethical ways to integrate faith in practice, enabling our social workers to impact communities with a more holistic approach.”

Currently 235 DC students and 25-30 traditional undergraduates study social work at FPU. Two cohorts of 20 students each start every spring on the North Fresno and Visalia campuses, and traditional classes meet on the main university campus in Southeast Fresno. The university plans to expand the DC track to the Merced Campus in July 2019. “It just goes to show the need in the Central Valley,” Clark said.

Those who complete the degree see professional benefits from accreditation, starting with getting a job. “With the accredited social work program, we are ensuring that students have completed a rigorous field internship that exposes them to the necessary generalist practice level skills,” Pranger said.

In addition, some university master’s programs offer “advanced standing,” where students with a B.A. from an accredited program can earn their M.S.W. in one year instead of two. “They save a year of tuition, fees and everything else,” Clark said. For graduates wishing to work outside California, many states require a B.A. from an accredited school to get a social work license.

Accreditation, good for three years, had long been a goal at FPU. While the program has been strong, a major stumbling block for years was that it had only one full-time faculty member (Donna Callahan, M.S.W.), and CSWE will not accredit single-faculty programs. Clark was hired four years ago to begin the DC program and Jane Middleton, D.S.W., former director of social work at California State University Fresno, was a consultant in 2013-14. Today Clark directly supervises the DC track and Pranger directs the traditional track. Other full-time faculty are Felicity Moreno, L.C.S.W., and Kizzy Lopez, Ed.D. “We couldn’t have done it if we weren’t a team,” Clark said.

More information at fresno.edu/programs-majors/undergraduate/social-work-ba