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Social Work

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Program Overview

Social work is the helping profession sanctioned by society to ensure the maximum independent social functioning of all people. This purpose of social work practice is achieved in two approaches: first, social workers work toward changing social institutions, organizations, and communities to better meet the needs of people; second, social workers work toward helping people to cope better with life and utilize resources in the social environment. Emphasis on the ethics and values of social work occurs throughout the social work curriculum. Students in the introductory social work course are introduced to the Code of Ethics of National Association of Social Workers (NASW), and adherence to and belief in that Code of Ethics is reinforced in all other social work courses.

The History of the Social Work Program at JSU (pdf)

Program Goals and Education Objectives

The mission of the Bachelor of Social Work degree program is to provide students with the knowledge, skills, values, and interests to promote human and community well-being through public service and entry-level generalist social work practice. The JSU BSW Program will guide students with a personal and environmental construct, a global perspective, respect for human diversity, and knowledge based on scientific inquiry. The JSU BSW Program will instill in students the quest for social and economic justice; the prevention of conditions that limit human rights; the elimination of poverty, and the enhancement of the quality of life for all persons. Through partnerships of service and with a central focus of being a regionally responsive, community-based, and practice-centered program guided by social work ethics and values, the program also seeks to provide leadership to social work practice and education in the community, state, region, and the nation.

The purpose of the social work profession is to promote human and community well-being. Social work educators serve their profession through their teaching, scholarship, and service. Social work education, at the baccalaureate, master's, and doctoral levels, shapes the profession's future through the education of competent specialists, the generation of knowledge, and the exercise of leadership within the business community.


1. Social work graduates will function as competent generalist social work practitioners with diverse client systems and organizations of various sizes and types.

2. Social work graduates will have a professional identity that incorporates the values and ethics of the social work profession.

3. Social work graduates will demonstrate a commitment to continue their own professional growth and development through life-long learning and critical thinking through an educational process which includes a liberal arts perspective and social work education.

4. Social work graduates will practice with knowledge regarding the person and environment construct, a global perspective, respect for human diversity, and knowledge based on scientific inquiry, with a special emphasis on at-risk populations.

5. Social work graduates will pursue a quest for social and economic justice, the prevention of conditions that limit human rights, the elimination of poverty, and the enhancement of the quality of life for all persons.

6. Social work graduates will develop and use research, knowledge, and skills to apply evidence-based practice interventions and to evaluate their own practice outcomes.

7. Social work graduates will use critical thinking and analysis skills to collect and assess data and evidence to inform practice in order to best meet the needs of the target population.

The following educational competencies are the heart of the BSW curriculum and the specific competencies developed in each course flow from them. The BSW explicit curriculum provides courses in social policy and services; human behavior and the social environment; social work practice; cultural diversity; healthcare; aging; mental health; child welfare, and field instruction. The BSW curriculum prepares graduates for generalist practice through mastery of the core competencies.

BSW Educational Comptetences

Competencies are measurable practice behaviors that are comprised of knowledge, values, and skills. The explicit curriculum of the BSW Program seeks to develop core competencies in graduates that will make them effective practitioners with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. The ten core competencies are listed below, followed by a description of characteristic knowledge, values, skills, and the resulting practice behaviors.

Competency 1: Identify as a social worker and conduct self accordingly

  • Practice Behaviors
    • Advocate for client access to the services of social work
    • Practice personal reflection and self-correction to assure continual professional development
    • Attend to professional roles and boundaries
    • Demonstrate professional demeanor in behavior, appearance, and communication
    • Engage in career-long learning
    • Use supervision and consultation

Competency 2: Apply social work ethical principles to guide professional practice.

  • Practice Behaviors
    • Recognize and manage personal values in a way that allows professional values to guide practice
    • Make ethical decisions by applying standards of the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics and, as applicable, of the International Federation of Social Workers/International Association of Schools of Social Work Ethics in Social Work, Statement of Principles
    • Tolerate ambiguity in resolving ethical conflicts
    • Apply strategies of ethical reasoning to arrive at principled decisions

 Competency 3: Apply critical thinking to inform and communicate professional judgments

  • Practical Behaviors
    • Distinguish, appraise, and integrate multiple sources of knowledge, including research-based knowledge, and practice wisdom
    • Analyze models of assessment, prevention, intervention, and evaluation
    • Demonstrate effective oral and written communication in working with individuals, families, groups, organizations, communities and colleagues.

Competency 4: Engage diversity and difference in practice

  • Practical Behaviors:
    • Recognize the extent to which a culture's structures and values may oppress, marginalize, alienate, or create or enhance privilege and power
    • Gain sufficient self-awareness to eliminate the influence of personal biases and values in working with diverse groups
    • Recognize and communicate their understanding of the importance of difference in shaping life experiences
    • View themselves as learners and engage those with whom they work as informants.

 Competency 5: Advance human rights and social and economic justice

  • Practical Behaviors:
    • Understand the forms and mechanisms of oppression and discrimination
    • Advocate for human rights and social and economic justice
    • Engage in practices that advance social and economic justice.

 Competency 6:  Engage in research-informed practice and practice-informed research

  • Practical Behaviors:
    • Use practical experience to inform scientific inquiry
    • Use research evidence to inform practice

 Competency 7: Apply knowledge of human behavior and the social environment

  • Practical Behaviors:
    • Utilize conceptual frameworks to guide the processes of assessment, intervention, and evaluation
    • Critique and apply knowledge to understand person and environment

Competency 8: Engage in policy practice to advance social and economic well-being and to delivery effective social work services

  • Practical Behaviors:
    • Analyze, formulate, and advocate for policies that advance social well-being
    • Collaborate with colleagues and clients for effective policy action

 Competency 9: Respond to contexts that shape practice

  • Informed, resourceful, and proactive in responding to evolving organizational, community, and societal contexts at all levels of practice.
  • Recognize that the context of practice is dynamic and use skill to respond proactively
  • Practical Behaviors:
    • Continuously discover, appraise and attend to changing locales, populations, scientific and technological developments, and emerging societal trends to provide relevant services
    • Provide leadership in promoting sustainable changes in service delivery and practice to improve the quality of social services

Competency 10 (a)-(d): Engage, assess, intervene, and evaluate with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities

  • Practical Behaviors: 10(a) Engagement
    • Substantively and affectively prepare for action with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities
    • Use empathy and other interpersonal skills
    • Develop a mutually agreed-on focus of work and desired outcomes
  • Practice Behaviors 10(b)Assessment
    • Collect, organize, and interpret client data
    • Assess client strengths and limitations
    • Develop mutually agreed-on intervention goals and objectives
    • Select appropriate intervention strategies
  • Practice Behaviors: 10(c) Intervention
    • Initiate actions to achieve organizational goals
    • Implement prevention interventions that enhance client capacities
    • Help clients resolve problems
    • Negotiate, mediate, and advocate for clients
    • Facilitate transitions and endings
  • Practice Behaviors: 10(d) Evaluation
    • Critically analyze, monitor and evaluate interventions
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