Graduate Programs


Program mission

The Virginia State University MSW program is committed to the development of culturally competent, ethical, empathetic and skilled professionals who identifies with the social work profession, recognize, support, and build on the strengths and resiliency of all human beings, and dedicated to advanced social work practice and leadership roles within social service agencies, educational, health and behavioral health agencies, organizations and institutions. The program has a major focus of preparing its graduates to address, systematically and strategically, the well-being of traumatized individuals and the promotion of human rights, social and economic justice through community engagement, advocacy, and collaborative scientific inquiry and the impact on professional practice locally, nationally and globally.”

The Virginia State University MSW Program mission is linked to the liberal arts perspective, the person-in-environment framework, and the professional core competencies curriculum areas and themes that comprise the social work advanced degree program.  Our mission recognizes the complex nature of societal problems and require all MSW students to understand how individuals, families and communities are affected, within the political and economic contexts they face. As stated in our mission statement:

  • The program's mission is committed to the development of cultural competent, ethical, empathetic and skilled professionals who identifies with the social work profession, recognize, support, and build on the strengths and resiliency of all human beings, and dedicated to clinical social work practice and leadership roles within social service agencies, educational, health and behavioral health agencies, organizations and communities. This focal point is consistent with the generalist practice definition concept that generalist practitioners engages in diversity in their practice and they recognize, support, and build on the strengths of all human beings.
  • The MSW program mission is committed to the development of skilled professionals dedicated to advanced social work practice and leadership roles within social service agencies, educational, health and behavioral health agencies, organizations and institutions. This focal point is consistent with the generalist practice definition which states that generalist practitioners use a range of prevention and intervention methods in their practice with diverse individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities based on scientific inquiry and best practices.

The major focus of the MSW program mission is to prepare its graduates to apply critical thinking skills systematically and strategically to address the well-being of traumatized individuals and the promotion of social and economic justice through community engagement, advocacy and scientific inquiry is consistent with the generalist practice definition for generalist practitioners to engage diversity in their practice and advocate for human rights, social and economic justice.

The VSU MSW Program is in Pre-Candidacy Status for CSWE Accreditation

Pre-Candidacy for a baccalaureate or master’s social work program by the Council on Social Work Education’s Commission on Accreditation indicates that it has submitted an application to be reviewed for Candidacy and had its Benchmark I approved in draft form to move forward with Candidacy review within one year.  A program that has attained Pre-Candidacy has not yet been reviewed by the Commission on Accreditation or been verified to be in compliance with the Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards.

Students who enter programs in Pre-Candidacy that attain Candidacy in the academic year in which they begin their program of study will be retroactively recognized as having graduated from a CSWE-accredited program once the program attains Initial Accreditation.  The Candidacy Process is typically a three-year process and there is no guarantee that a program in Pre-Candidacy will eventually attain Candidacy or Initial Accreditation.

Candidacy by the Council on Social Work Education’s Commission on Accreditation applies to all locations and delivery methods of an accredited program.  Accreditation provides reasonable assurance about the quality of the program and the competence of students graduating from the program.

For more information about social work accreditation, please visit the CSWE Accreditation page.

The VSU Social Work Department of Social Work MSW Program has adopted the following goals to implement our mission:

1. Prepare students to practice autonomously as advanced level trauma-informed professionals within a wide range of client systems and practice settings that support and build on the strengths and resiliency of all human beings.

2. Prepare students to embrace the strength of diversity, practice cultural humility and be able to conduct culturally effective practice interventions at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels.

3. Prepare students to pursue ongoing professional development to acquire the essential leadership skills that cultivate ethical and competent social work practice across all social work systems, locally, nationally and globally.

4. Prepare students to apply critical thinking skills to become proactive change agents and advocates in response to the impact of social, economic and environmental factors on professional social work practice locally, internationally and globally.

5. Prepare students to competently utilize evidence-based and best-practices to inform and evaluate the effectiveness of their practice and use program evaluation results to improve trauma-informed service outcomes for clients and the impact on professional practice.

The MSW program mission and goals provide a solid generalist practice educational pathway that is grounded in a liberal arts foundation and person-in-environment framework, which will enable students to demonstrate their advanced social work practice skills in promoting social, economic and environmental justice in Central and Southern Virginia, as well as nationally and globally.

Generalist core competencies

Competency–based education is an outcome performance approach to curriculum design.  Each competency describes the knowledge, values, skills, and cognitive and affective processes that comprise the competency at the generalist level of practice.  The goal of the outcome approach is to demonstrate the integration and application of the competencies in practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities. VSU competencies are consistent with the BSW Program mission and goals.

The MSW program generalist nine core competencies are as follows [Competencies 1-9, CSWE 2015]:

  1. Demonstrate Ethical and Professional Behavior
  2. Engage Diversity and Difference in Practice
  3. Advance Human Rights and Social, Economic, and Environmental Justice
  4. Engage In Practice-informed Research and Research-informed Practice
  5. Engage in Policy Practice
  6. Engage with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities
  7. Assess Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities
  8. Intervene with individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities
  9. Practice with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities

The MSW program generalist practice curriculum is designed to provide all incoming master’s students a common core of values, knowledge, and skills that undergird social work competencies for social work practice with individuals, families, groups, communities and -systems. The goal is to provide all students with a sound, broad base for further student in the specialized area of practice.

The two-semester generalist foundation curriculum is organized around four objectives:

  1. Demonstrate practice guided by values and ethics of the social work profession, built on social work history, and grounded in theoretical and empirical knowledge
  2. Demonstrate understanding and respect for diversity and the ability to work with and across diverse populations and systems;
  3. Utilize critical thinking and an informed scientific approach in all aspects and phases of social work practice and evaluation while beginning a course of lifelong learning; and
  4. Analyze and apply strategies of policy advocacy and social change that advance social, economic and environmental justice.

The MSW degree program in Social Work will require a minimum of 45-credit hours. The degree program has two entry pathways based on degree type: 1) a bachelor’s degree in field other than social work and 2) a bachelor’s degree in social work (advanced-standing pathway). Students with a bachelor’s degree in a field other than social work will be required to complete a minimum of 60 credits. Students with a bachelor’s degree in Social Work from an accredited program will be required to complete a minimum of 45 credits.

The advanced standing entry pathway into the program is available to students who have an earned CSWE accredited bachelor of social work (BSW) degree. Students entering the MSW degree program with a BSW degree will not be required to take generalist foundation coursework. All students regardless of the entry pathway will be required to complete a research project and the clinical field practicum. 

The curriculum for the Master of Social Work degree for both entry pathways has been designed to meet the professional standards of the Council on Social Work Education and the Virginia Board of Social Work licensure educational requirements, standards and regulations. The generalist and core specialized courses meet the accreditation standards of CWSE.

Generalist Courses for Full-Time Students by Semester
(30 credit hours)

1st Year

Fall Semester

SOWK 601: Principles & Practices of the Social Work Profession

3

SOWK 602: Human Behavior & the Social Environment I

3

SOWK 603: Generalist Practice w/Individuals & Groups

3

SOWK 604: Generalist Practice w/Families

3

SOWK 605: Field Practicum I & Integrative Seminar

3

 

 

Spring Semester

 

SOWK 615: Human Behavior in the Social Environment: Poverty, Oppression & Trauma II

3

SOWK 616: Social Science Research Methods

3

SOWK 617: Diversity, Cultural Competency and Social Welfare Policy & Practice

3

SOWK 618: Generalist Practice II (Communities & Organizations)

3

SOWK 619: Field Practicum II & Integrative Seminar

3

Total Credit Hours: 30


Generalist Courses for Part-Time Students by Semester
(15 credit hours)

1st Year

Fall Semester

SOWK 601: Principles & Practices of the Social Work Profession

3

SOWK 602: Human Behavior & the Social Environment

3

 

 

Spring Semester

 

SOWK 603: Generalist Practice w/Individuals & Groups

3

SOWK 604: Generalist Practice w/Families

3

 

 

Summer Semester

 

SOWK 605: Field Practicum I & Integrative Seminar

3

 

 

Total Credit Hours

15

 

Generalist Courses for Advanced Standing Students by Semester (15 credit hours)

1st Year

1st Semester - Summer

SOWK 607: ADVSTD - Social Work Practice II

3

SOWK 608: ADVSTD - Social Work Research Methods

3

SOWK 609: ADVSTD – Cultural Diversity and Social Welfare Policy & Practice

3

SOWK 610: ADVSTD - Field Practicum

3

SOWK 615: Human Behavior in the Social Environment:  Poverty, Oppression & Trauma

3

Total Credit Hours 15

Course Descriptions 

SOWK 601: Principles & Practices of the Social Work Profession
This course is designed to introduce students to the basic concepts, values, and assumptions of the social work profession and to provide a general overview of theories and models of social work practice. Students will focus on the initial phase of the social work intervention process that includes the development of effective helping relationships characterized by the ability to demonstrate genuineness, empathic caring and respect that leads to trustworthiness in social work practice. Students will apply social work concepts in collaborative experiential learning course activities and exercises.
Prerequisite(s): N/A
Co-requisites: SOWK 602, SOWK 603, SOWK 604, SOWK 616

SOWK 602: Human Behavior & the Social Environment
This course is designed to provide a broad and essential human behavior framework that introduces evidence-based multi-theoretical and multidimensional behavioral perspectives for understanding the biological, psychological, spiritual, aspects of human behavior. Included will be content on the economic, political and complex sociocultural interactive factors that also impact and help shape the lives of individuals, families and groups in multicultural environments.
Prerequisite(s): N/A
Co-requisites: SOWK 601, SOWK 603, SOWK 604, SOWK 616

SOWK 603: Generalist Practice w/Individuals & Groups
This course builds on the introductory content in SOWK 601 and continues with presentation of the basic knowledge, assumptions, skills and values necessary to provide a range of social work intervention skill sets that help to maintain, enhance, restore, rehabilitate human services needs among client populations. This course introduces selected theories and practice models to guide intervention in social work practice with individuals and groups while emphasizing the multidimensional and diverse contexts in which problems and needs are assessed and in which interventions occur.
Prerequisite(s): N/A
Co-requisites: SOWK 601, SOWK 602, SOWK 604, SOWK 616

SOWK 604: Generalist Practice w/Families
This course is designed to provide graduate level MSW students with the family theory/therapy practice models utilized for family therapy assessment and intervention in social work practice with families. The course will focus on the family as a natural social system in context and on strengths-based perspectives in family functioning while attending to cultural diversity as well as the differences in family structure and developmental tasks among various populations groups.
Prerequisite(s): N/A
Co-requisites: SOWK 601, SOWK 602, SOWK 603, SOWK 604

SOWK 605: Foundation Field Practicum I & Integrative Seminar
3 Field Instruction Course hours, 3 credits. Fall
Students are assigned for two days (15 field hours) per week for 15 weeks (200+ field hours), in program-assigned social work field practice settings. This field practicum provides the required program curriculum practice opportunities for students to apply and master essential social work generalist practice knowledge, values and skills under the direction of an agency-based field instructor, and monitored by an assigned program faculty field liaison. The field practicum emphasizes integration of content from all areas of the foundation curriculum and includes an on-campus weekly 60 minute required integrative field seminar group session for all registered students in SOWK 605.
Prerequisite(s): N/A
Co-Requisite(s): SOWK 601, 602, 603 & 604

SOWK 615 – Human Behavior in the Social Environment: Poverty, Oppression and Trauma II
This course that covers content on critical life course human development theories beginning with conception and following development through adolescence, middle and late adulthood. In addition, students will examine the significant influence, roles, and functions and identified traumatic effects of oppressive environmental factors on individual biological, psychological, social and spiritual coping and adaptation.

SOWK 616: Social Science Research Methods
This course introduces the methods of social work research, including problem formulation, research designs, measurement, data collection and sampling. The course focuses on the application of critical thinking skills, diversity and effective research methods for clinical social work practice. This course also covers evaluation of social work programs and services.
Co-requisites: SOWK 615, SOWK 617, SOWK 618, SOWK 619

SOWK 617: Diversity, Cultural Competency and Social Welfare Policy
This course covers content designed to enhance student self-awareness, recognition, understanding and appreciation of diversity among societal population groups as well as recognize and appreciate the many forms of multicultural differences in society as a whole. The course also helps students identify and analyze oppression resulting from persisting social, educational, political, economic, religious and legal inequalities. The course provides a focus on the experiences of oppressed groups in the United States to help increase student competency in both recognition and understanding of the strengths, needs and responses to oppressive societal conditions and experiences.
Co-requisites: SOWK 615, SOWK 616, SOWK 618, SOWK 619

SOWK 618: Generalist Practice II (Communities & Organizations)
This course presents social work theory and practice that focuses on social policy, communities, agencies and organizations and the related social and economic justice principles in macro practice. Course content introduces and analyzes the specific skill sets in social work policy practice and provides skill building in advocacy, planned change and policy and organizational analysis.
Prerequisite(s): N/A
Co-requisites: SOWK 615, SOWK 616, SOWK 617, SOWK 619

SOWK 607: ADVSTD - Social Work Practice II
This course focuses on the phases of the social work intervention process and reviews the basic concepts, values, assumptions, and skill sets of the social work practice that help to maintain, restore, rehabilitate human services needs among diverse client populations. The course reviews selected social work theories and practice models to guide intervention in social work practice with individuals, families and groups while also emphasizing the multidimensional and diverse contexts in which problems and needs are assessed and in which interventions occur.
Pre-requisites: Bachelor of Social Work degree
Prerequisite(s): N/A
Co-requisites: SOWK 608, SOWK 609, SOWK 610, SOWK 615

SOWK 608: ADVSTD - Social Work Research Methods
This course reviews the methods of social work research including problem formulation, research designs, measurement, data collection and sampling. Students will work with the research instructor to complete a trauma-focused research proposal, the first phase of a required research project that will be finalized and presented in SOWK 638, the program specialization research capstone course. The completed research project paper is the benchmark trauma-focused assignment. The date of submission and presentation is to be determine by the Program. Students must earn a grade of “B” or better for this competency-based capstone assignment.
Prerequisite(s): N/A
Co-requisites: SOWK 607, SOWK 609, SOWK 610, SOWK 615

SOWK 609: ADVSTD – Cultural Diversity and Social Welfare Policy & Practice
This course provides generalist practice students with the historical evolutionary background of social policy, and current policy practice approaches in social welfare services, organizations and communities. The course introduces the value-based role of social workers as advocates and change agents in policy formulation, in social and economic justice methods, and in legislative, community and organizational arenas. The course introduces and emphasizes the application of socio-behavioral intervention models and analytical frameworks for assessing program organizational and policy efficacy.
Prerequisite(s): N/A
Co-requisites: SOWK 607, SOWK 608, SOWK 610, SOWK 615

SOWK 610: ADVSTD - Field Practicum
3 lecture hours, 3 credits. Summer
Students are assigned for two days (15 field hours) per week for 15 weeks (200 field hours) in program-assigned social work field practice settings. This field practicum provides the required program curriculum practice opportunities for students to apply and master essential social work generalist practice knowledge, values and skills under the direction of an agency-based field instructor, and monitored by an assigned program faculty field liaison. The field practicum emphasizes integration of content from all areas of the foundation curriculum and includes an on-campus weekly 60 minute required integrative field seminar group session for all registered students in SOWK 610.
Prerequisite(s): N/A
Co-Requisite(s): SOWK 607, 608 & 609

 

Descriptions of all courses for the Social Work program can be found in the VSU Undergraduate Catalog