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History of the College of Social Work

hamiltonFrom its inception in 1969, the College of Social Work has operated as an institution of highest quality. The Commission on Accreditation of the Council on Social Work Education has awarded unconditional accreditation to the College’s programs after every review. As the College continues to grow and develop to meet new needs and emerging challenges, it will maintain this historic commitment to quality in every endeavor.

The Early Days
The College of Social Work at the University of South Carolina was established in 1969 as the result of the efforts of many social workers throughout the state. In the early 1940s, USC had offered a graduate program in social work, but it was discontinued after only a brief period because of the war effort. The establishment of this new graduate school of social work in 1969 represented a major milestone in the state.

After the first class of graduate students received their degrees in 1971, the faculty and student body expanded rapidly in order to address the growing need for social workers in South Carolina. The College began offering part-time coursework in Charleston, Greenville, and Spartanburg to provide a more flexible program that catered to the other areas of the state.

Change in the 80s
In the early 1980s, changes in the structure and funding of social programs caused enrollment in social work programs to decline throughout the United States. At USC, however, enrollment held steady. This was, in part, because of creative developments in the College that strengthened academic standards, ensured the relevancy of the curriculum to the needs of the state, and increased accessibility to students. For example, the College raised its GPA admissions requirement to 3.0, initiated an Advanced Standing program, and offered courses throughout the state via interactive satellite television.

Reaching New Heights
In 1987, the PhD program began. It was the first doctoral program in social work in Georgia, North Carolina, or South Carolina. This program maintains a unique focus, given its mission to prepare social work educators and researchers. Its graduates have received academic appointments throughout the country.
In the early 1990s, applications to the MSW program increased five-fold. The College capped enrollment at approximately 400 MSW students (full-time and part-time) for a period of time. Currently, more than 225 MSW students graduate each year.

Throughout the College’s history, diversity has been a top priority. The faculty has always included significant numbers of minorities. The percentage of African Americans in the student body has consistently been among the highest of all graduate programs at the University of South Carolina. In 1994, the College manifested its commitment to diversity by developing the I. DeQuincey Newman Chair, the first fully endowed chair at USC named after an African American.

An International Scope
In the 1990s, the College expanded its activities in the international arena. For several years the College offered international study tours for students and practicing social workers to such countries as Mexico, Israel, and Greece. The College currently offers study abroad programs each summer and has an international field placement option within the MSW program.

In 1993, the College launched its MSW program in Seoul, Korea. This was in response to an invitation from Korean social workers who were aware of the College’s reputation for part-time social work education. With the Korea-based program, the College became the first school of social work to offer an MSW program in its entirety on foreign soil. The seventh cohort in the Korea-based program will graduate in December of 2013.

Recent Collaborations and Expansions
The College has offered dual degrees in public administration since 1984, in public health since 1990, and in law since 1999. Furthermore, a certificate in gerontology was added in 1987, and the certificate in graduate study in drug and addictions studies was moved to the College of Social Work in 2004. In 2013 the certificate Social and Behavioral Health Services for military members, veterans and military families was established.

In 2007 the College began the process of developing a BSW program. It was approved by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Commission on Higher Education and was granted candidacy status by the Council on Social Work Education. In the fall of 2009, the first seven BSW students were admitted. The program received full accreditation from CSWE in October 2012. In 2014 there were approximately 170 BSW majors.
As the College gains new programs, it also gains new faculty and staff members. Currently, there are over 35 full-time faculty and over 20 staff at the College.

Community Engagement
The College as a whole has always had strong community ties through its MSW field education program. Currently there are over 500 MSW students placed in human service agencies across South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia. That commitment to the community has grown with the continuing development of the BSW program, the College’s field education and service-learning components, and the increasing numbers of faculty and PhD students engaged in community-based research.

After a year of extended program review and strategic planning by the COSW faculty, the focus of the doctoral program became community-engaged, transdisciplinary research. The program focus builds on the community-engaged research strengths of the COSW faculty and the transdisciplinary resources of the University of South Carolina. The program retains its historic emphasis on preparing scholars to teach social work and enhances their capacity for applying advanced quantitative and qualitative methods to the study of social justice concerns.

Cutting-Edge Technology
Over 30 years ago, the College began using satellite television to deliver distance education classes to students all over the state. In the beginning, students gathered at sites in hospitals, libraries, and at other colleges. While state-of-the-art for the time, satellite delivery was often at the mercy of storms and other weather-related events that interfered with the signal. 

In the fall of 2008, the College—along with the rest of the university—changed from using satellite television for its distance education (now called “distributed learning”) classes and adopted Adobe Connect and Adobe Presenter to deliver courses to students living across the state. Students can view a class from any place where reliable Internet is available. Blackboard, a course management system, helps faculty and students organize, communicate, and improve their distributed learning experience. 

The College of Social Work has grown and changed dramatically over its 50-plus years. But one thing has not changed: Our commitment to excellent education, meaningful research, and service to the community has been, and will continue to be, at the core of all that we do.

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