Public Affairs

Learning the Ropes in Social Work

August 18, 2011
By Stephanie Thara

Chico State student lobbying in Sacramento for the welfare of the elderly. The CSU graduates professionals in social work who have ample experience in the field and are well versed on the theoretical side of the profession. In addition to teaching students about social policy, methods to analyzing behavior and how to deal with different groups of people, the social work schools and programs give students hands-on experience in the field.

Field education is the portion of the social work curriculum that most directly prepares students for professional practice. Field education allows students to practice intervention skills in a community agency setting under the supervision of a qualified field instructor.

CSU campuses have created partnerships with a variety of organizations in their surrounding areas to serve as field placement agencies. The field work varies in agencies dealing with child welfare, mental health, aging/gerontology, homelessness, domestic violence, criminal justice, medical/health and other fields of practice.

Through the university’s field placement coordinator, each student is referred to a placement agency that offers learning opportunities in accord with the student's needs. To assure a diverse educational experience, each student is assigned to a different field placement agency each year of field education.

On March 31, an Americorps TCCC work crew and 20 members of a Master's Program at HSU joined together to plant 90 Monterey pine trees around the edges of what will be Hoopa's new soccer field.  Photo by Kay Heitkamp, Two Rivers Tribune.Additionally, service learning gives students the chance to bridge what they learn in the classroom with going out and making a difference in the community. For example, in March 2011, 20 students from Humboldt State University’s Social Work Master’s Program joined forces with Americorp's Hoopa Valley Tribal Community Conservation Corps in a massive effort to transform a grassy area along Highway 96 into a beautiful soccer field.

Similarly, over the past eight years, CSU San Bernardino’s School of Social Work has worked with the San Bernardino Department of Aging and Adult Services to bring research to life for students, stimulate their interest in the welfare of older people and provide the county with useful information to enhance the well-being of older citizens. Projects completed over the eight years include assisting with a county-wide needs assessment, assessing senior’s nutrition needs and preferences, researching the needs and concerns of older gay and lesbian citizens, and conducting surveys on services the baby boomer generation is likely to want and need in the future.

The result of field education and service learning provides learning opportunities in training students to acquire the professional ethics, attitudes, knowledge and skill set which defines the profession of social work.