Quigley Hall

In the beginning – The School of Social Work is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Launched during the 1970-71 school year, the program's home was Quigley Hall until moving to Pulliam Hall in 2014. (University Communications and Marketing photo)

October 01, 2021

SIU’s Social Work Program celebrates 50th anniversary

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Social Work Program is marking its 50th birthday by celebrating past and recent accomplishments and moving forward with plans for great things to come.

In 2020, both the undergraduate and graduate social work programs earned full accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), which extends for eight years. Just this year, SIU adapted again to the ever-changing needs of its students by creating a new online Master of Social Work program, allowing Salukis to enhance their educations and career opportunities wherever they are, while still maintaining their current positions. The program is already fully accredited.

A special 50th anniversary workshop and celebration is set for Friday, Oct. 15, and everyone is welcome to attend – either in person or virtually. The event will be during SIU’s 2021 Homecoming festivities.

The free commemoration will be in the Old Main Room at the Student Center. It begins with a workshop as Sharon Dornberg-Lee, a clinical social worker from Chicago with about 25 years of experience, presents “The Pandemic within a Pandemic: Social Isolation Post-COVID-19” from 1 to 3 p.m.

To participate in person (attendance is limited), RSVP online or send an email to SHus-NewPrograms@siu.edu with your name, email address indicating if you plan to attend the workshop, the celebration or both. Sign up online to participate in the workshop via Zoom. Continuing education units are available for the workshop; provide your license number to receive credit.

Following a half-hour break, a celebratory hourlong special presentation will feature a variety of special guests and speakers beginning at 3:30 p.m. Meera Komarraju, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs; Robert Morgan, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences; and Juliane Poock Wallace, director of the School of Human Sciences, will offer remarks. Alumni will highlight some of the program’s history, accomplishments and plans for the future and students and alumni will share their memories as well. The celebration wraps up with food, music and a time for participants to socialize and chat until 6 p.m.

SIU is committed to protecting the community, so all those attending must follow current campus and state pandemic safety protocols and wear masks.

Anyone affiliated with SIU’s Social Work Program is also invited to join the Facebook group.

Future looking bright

The program continues to flourish, with a total of 2,762 bachelor’s and master’s social work degrees awarded thus far since the program’s inception.

There’s no resting on past laurels for SIU’s Social Work Program though. Work is already underway to develop and launch a clinically driven Doctorate of Social Work degree program, which will be offered through an online format. Jurkowski said while many doctoral programs are research focused, there is a strong interest in this degree among people who are already working in the field but desire more advanced clinical skills for private practice or for work with third parties such as insurance agencies. Other online opportunities will also be expanded, including offering an advanced standing Master of Social Work.

Plans also include partnering with other College of Health and Human Sciences programs to develop a concurrent Master of Social Work/Master of Arts in Criminal Justice degree and working with other CHHS units to develop joint social work doctoral programs with occupational and physical therapy and with nursing.

Jurkowski said extensive survey and needs assessments work is underway as well to see what types of social work-related training practitioners in state and private practice want and need. That input will be incorporated into class and course planning.

“We want to help identify what courses and content to build into our curriculum to prepare our students to be successful in their chosen careers,” Jurkowski said. “We did a similar assessment in developing our newly implemented online MSW program.”

Rich history

SIU social work has a rich history, from awards for faculty and students to national rankings, from providing vital services to people in the community locally and globally to countless publications and more.

The program launched during the 1970-1971 school year offering a bachelor’s degree in social work and by 1978, the program had earned accreditation from the CSWE. Ever since, SIU has boasted the only social work program for the region including the southern part of Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Kentucky.

By 1984, the need for social workers in rural communities had grown, so SIU added a master’s degree program and four years later, the Illinois State Board of Education granted the university approval to prepare students for school social work certification. The MSW earned accreditation in 1989 and both programs earned reaccreditation repeatedly.

Social Work moved from its longtime location in Quigley Hall to Pulliam Hall in 2014.

For five decades, faculty and the program have earned national and international recognition for their research and other work. Hussein H. Soliman, professor, in 2011 was appointed the Umm-Al-Qura University Professor Chair of the Albert Humanitarian Endowment by the Institute of Consulting Research and Studies. He was honored for his work with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, where he set up a program enhancing the skills of social workers who assist Palestinian refugees, as well as his work with the United Nations Development Program and with various universities in the Middle East.

The School of Social Work, as it was then known, received the Partners in Advancing Education for International Social Work Award in 2008 from the CSWE Commission on Global Social Work Education.

For about 25 years, social work students have travelled to Munich, Germany, with Elisabeth Reichert, social work professor, Fulbright award recipient and author of several books and articles focusing on human rights. Salukis visited a former concentration camp, which vividly illustrates why human rights are essential in the world. There are also field visits focusing on HIV/AIDS, homelessness, community mental health, refugees and elder care. More than 1,000 students from across the country and other nations, including China and Vietnam, have participated.

In 2014, SIU received a three-year Workforce and Training (BHWET) program grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA), to train counselors to work with people who have suffered trauma. The grant funds Trauma Based Behavioral Health Fellowships for social work and rehabilitation counseling students in their final year of study. After completion of the intensive program, fellows receive a certificate and $10,000 stipend. The grant was renewed again in 2018 for $1.66 million and an additional five-year grant for more than $1.5 million was awarded in 2021.

Serving others

Faculty and students are active in a variety of service learning projects and volunteer efforts, benefitting the community and giving students valuable hands-on learning experiences.

Students also expand their horizons and help others through diverse internship experiences. For instance, community social work interns have helped patrons of the Carbondale Public Library with information about resources, available assistance for food, clothing, medical services, employment, career counseling, child care, housing and much more. Social work faculty estimate that conservatively, students have contributed more than 1.25 million hours of community service since the program began.

Social work faculty and alumni have played a significant role to the development of numerous community programs and students serve internships or volunteer with these programs and others. The list is too long to include in its entirety, but here are a few of the programs Salukis have helped establish:

  • The Women’s Center, Carbondale.
  • Caring Counseling Ministries, Marion.
  • Supporting People in Need (SP.I.N.), Murphysboro.
  • The Sparrow Coalition, Carbondale.
  • Carbondale Warming Center.
  • Care A Van (in collaboration with the School of Medicine), Benton and West Frankfort.
  • “Dare to Care,” a weekly WGGH radio show running for more than 25 years, Marion.

Partnerships abound

Collaboration, both within the College of Health and Human Sciences, as well as with other units at SIU and around the world, is intrinsic to SIU Social Work, assuring myriad learning opportunities for students.

Social Work helped establish and participates in a multidisciplinary program to address the needs and workforce training to prepare professionals to work with older adults via the undergraduate certificate in gerontology program. The graduate certificate is offered through the School of Education but incorporates social work coursework.

The program also participates with the School of Medicine for two programs:

  • Student Hotspotting, which gives students the chance to work inter-professionally across disciplines by working with people who are super-utilizers of emergency room services to provide social support and community-based connections and referrals.
  • A partnership with Rush University in Chicago and community-based social service agencies to develop age-friendly systems of care. Funding for the multi-year 2018 grant came from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Another 2015 multiyear HRSA grant, via Rush, promoted training in geriatrics with the goal of building a geriatric workforce enhancement program.

The school is also collaborating with the Department of Children and Family Services to develop innovative training for child welfare workers through a simulation lab.

Millions in grants received

Social Work programs and initiatives have received numerous grants, worth millions of dollars, throughout the years. A few of the noteworthy include:

  • A Gero-Enrichment grant in 2002 from the John A. Hartford Foundation, in conjunction with the Council for Social Work Education, to promote geriatric-related content across the curriculum.
  • An Illinois Department of Child Welfare award of two service grants in 2005, totaling $6.5 million annually through 2016 to offer early assessment and intervention services.
  • A 2019 CSWE grant aimed at facilitating policy advocacy and building curricular resources to enable students to better engage in policy practice.
  • A CSWE grant just this spring from CSWE to pursue virtual reality as a venue to teach social work practice skills with an international focus.

More historical collaborations and happenings

Throughout the half-century life of the program, there has been much more to brag about, program officials said.

A few of the highlights from 1971-2021 include:

  • The program inked an educational collaboration agreement with a Russian university in 1993 and by the next year, faculty from the two universities were visiting back and forth to learn and share.
  • A social work program initiative in cooperation with Elderhostel in Mexico was born in 1996.
  • SIU’s program collaborated with several Russian institutes between 1999 and 2003, courtesy of U.S. Agency for International Development funding, to promote leadership in social work education and faculty and professionals in Octoberst, Toliatti and Samara felt the impact.
  • The program participated in an education training program with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency 2004-2008.
  • SIU social work delegates participated in an educational conference in Helwan, Egypt, from 2007 to 2009 and social work students participated in study abroad programs in Egypt from 2010-2012.
  • Students engaged with Muhammad Younis, a Nobel Prize winner for economics, during a study abroad program in Bangladesh in 2013.
  • SIU and Imam University in Saudi Arabia entered into an education agreement in 2015, coordinated by social work.
  • Social Work partnered with the Juvenile Justice Council in 2015 to address youth recidivism in Southern Illinois.
  • The program joined DCFS in the Child Welfare Education Certificate collaboration his year.
  • Faculty have been widely published throughout the years, with numerous books published authored or co-authored by SIU experts, along with many book chapters and journal articles.