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Social Work

Britt Rhodes (program director)

The social work major aims to prepare undergraduate students for beginning level generalist social work practice while a secondary objective is to prepare students for graduate (MSW) study. Skills and knowledge for lifelong learning and active citizenship are included.

Graduates of the social work program find professional employment in: refugee and immigrant services, international social work, public health, public policy, child welfare, family counseling, chemical dependency, mental health, developmental disabilities, community action, eldercare, medical settings, churches, environmental organizations, schools, corrections, and other areas of social services.

The social work major is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education at the baccalaureate level, allowing students to gain advanced standing in M.S.W. programs at many graduate schools of social work.

The program has two internship requirements. The first is SW 102, which involves a three-week experience shadowing a social worker. Then, one semester in the senior year is devoted entirely to off-campus field instruction in a selected social service organization and a concurrent professional seminar. Work experience does not provide exemption from academic coursework.

Within the context of the liberal arts program at Luther College, the social work major includes nine areas of emphasis: social work values and ethics, human diversity, social and economic justice, populations at risk, social welfare policy and services, human behavior and the social environment, social work research, social work practice, and field practicum. These do not necessarily represent specific courses but, rather, clusters of facts, ideas, and skills that are needed to provide effective social services.

Required for a major: SW 101, 102, 201, 204, 301, 303, 304, 305, 401, 402, 403; correlative courses consisting of BIO 113, 115, or another course in human biology approved by the department, and POLS 247. The first social work field experience (SW 102) is recommended before the junior year. Recommended for students considering graduate study in social work: SOC 350 (social statistics), or PSYC 350 (behavioral statistics), or MATH 115 (introduction to statistics). Writing requirement completed with SW 305 or SOC 301.

Policies for admission and progression in the social work major are as follows:

Students may apply for admission to the social work major after completion of SW 101 (Introduction to Social Work and Social Welfare), and SW 102 (Social Work Field Experience). Formal application to the major is made by completing the "Application for Admission to the Social Work Major," writing an essay, and completion of an application interview with members of the social work faculty. Once admitted, students are required to:

  1. Designate a Social Work Faculty member as their advisor in the Registrar's Office and utilize this person in future planning.
  2. Maintain a Luther College cumulative grade point average of 2.0. Students with a GPA below 2.5 are required to develop an academic learning plan with their advisor with follow-up with the advisor each semester until the GPA raises above 2.5.
  3. Earn a C or better in all social work practice courses (SW 201, 301, 401, 402, and SW 403).
  4. Continue to demonstrate suitability to enter the profession of Social Work by maintaining compliance with the Luther Honor Code and the Social Work Code of Ethics.

Admission and other policies relating to the social work major, including a statement of students' rights and responsibilities, are described in the social work program's Student Handbook, copies of which are available from program faculty or on the social work website. All other policies regarding grading, withdrawal, and graduation are in accordance with general college policy and can be found elsewhere in the college catalog.

Social Welfare Minor

The social welfare minor focuses on the development of social welfare and the behavior of individuals, families, organizations, and communities in the context of their social environment. The minor helps provide an understanding of the social welfare system in the United States, the values and theories behind it, and the social issues facing our nation. It does not provide the specific skills needed for actual social work practice. Graduate schools of social work examine the course work taken in CSWE accredited undergraduate programs on a case-by-case basis and may accept some undergraduate course work as meeting some requirements in the first year of the MSW program.

Requirements for a minor in social welfare: Five courses are required. This includes three courses: SW 101, 204, 303; plus two additional courses selected from the following: SW 102, 185, 304, 305; POLS 247. A special topics course in social work approved by the department may be substituted for one of the electives. In the minor, POLS 247 and SW 201 are not prerequisites to SW 304. Students may not both major in social work and minor in social welfare.

View program learning goals for an explanation of learning outcomes in Social Work. 

Social Work Courses

SW 101 Introduction to Social Work and Social Justice

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Behavior

A survey course covering the development of the social welfare institution and the social work profession in the United States. Included is information on how social welfare and social work impact diverse populations, populations at risk, and promotion of social and economic justice in our society. Content on social work values and ethics is interspersed throughout the course.

SW 102 Social Work Field Experience

  • 4 hours

Full time supervised field experience as a participant-observer in a social service agency.

SW 110 Mental Health First Aid

  • 1 hour

This course helps students recognize risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems, acquire skills to assess immediate problems, intervene to connect people with professional care, understand the prevalence of disorders and the need to reduce stigma, and understand common treatments. Students who complete the course will receive Mental Health First Aid certification. Grading will be Credit/No credit.

SW 111 Youth Mental Health First Aid

  • 1 hour

This course helps participants recognize risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems, acquire skills to assess immediate problems, intervene to connect adolescents (12-18 years) with professional care, how to interact with an adolescent in crisis and understand the prevalence of disorders. The course will cover signs and symptoms of anxiety, depression, eating disorders, ADHD and substance use during adolescence. Students who complete the course will receive Youth Mental Health First Aid certification. Grading will be Credit/No credit.

SW 201 Fundamentals of Social Work Practice I

  • 4 hours
  • Prerequisites: SW 101 or SW 102 and declared social work major

An introduction to the generalist method of social work practice that includes the study and practice of basic counseling skills. This course provides a foundation model for social work practice which is built and expanded upon in SW 301 and SW 401.

SW 204 Human Behavior in the Social Environment I

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Behavior
  • Prerequisites: SW 101

This course focuses on theories of human behavior and the interaction between behavior and the social environment. The course develops a conceptual framework for social work practice by examining knowledge and theory related to the development of human behavior across the life span in relation to individuals' emotional, spiritual, physical, intellectual, social and cultural contexts. A life cycle approach is used to understand the experience of individuals in their environment and explore theories of human behavior and responses to life cycle challenges. Human diversity, global perspectives, and an ecosystems approach to understanding human behavior are emphasized.

SW 301 Social Work Practice II

  • 4 hours
  • Prerequisites: SW 101, 102, and 201

Applies the generalist model learned in SW 201 to social work practice with families and groups. Skills for family and group work are developed through a laboratory group and an experience leading a group in the community.

SW 303 Human Behavior in the Social Environment II

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Behavior
  • Prerequisites: SW 101

This course describes how organizations, communities, society and the natural environment impact individuals, families, and groups. A social justice lens will be used to understand the dynamic interaction among systems in the macro social environment. A key focus is on the interplay between human behavior and the physical, social and political environment. Special attention is given to global perspectives, issues of human diversity in a macro context, and self-examination in relation to ethical and human diversity issues.

SW 304 Social Welfare Policies, Programs, and Issues

  • 4 hours
  • Prerequisites: SW 101, 102, 201 and 204 and POLS 247

An examination of social welfare policy as a dimension of generalist social work practice. Includes a study of contemporary social welfare issues, programs and legislation. Emphasis is placed on issues relating to how social policy impacts human diversity, populations at risk, and social and economic justice in the United States. Content on social work values and ethics is interspersed throughout the course.

SW 305 Research Methods for Social Work

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Behavior—Social Science Methods
  • Prerequisites: SW 101

An introduction to social work research designed to increase the generalist practitioner's ability to understand, evaluate, and utilize the research literature for practice. A wide variety of social work research methods are examined with an emphasis on doing practice research.

SW 401 Social Work Practice III

  • 4 hours
  • Prerequisites: SW 301

Application of the generalist model to working with task groups in organizations and communities and how this work impacts human diversity, populations at risk, and social and economic justice. Content on social work values and ethics is interspersed throughout the course. A knowledge base and skills for community social work will be developed.

SW 402 Field Instruction in Social Work Practice

  • 8 hours

A one semester block field placement in a human service agency with professional supervision, providing educationally directed practical experience, and supplemented by an on-campus professional seminar. Taken concurrently with SW 403.

SW 403 Professional Seminar

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Behavior—Social Science Methods
  • Prerequisites: SW 101, 102, 201, 204, 301, 303, 304 and 401 and SOC 301 or SW 305

Emphasis on integration of previous course content and the application of social work ethics, values, skills, and knowledge. Work-related issues of field placement are studied in preparation for generalist social work practice. Students give presentations to the class based upon their field learning. Taken concurrently with SW 402.

SW 490 Senior Project

  • 1, 2, or 4 hours
  • Prerequisites: SW 304 and SW 305

A continuation of learning from SW 304 and SW 305. Students write a paper on policy analysis, or the research they have conducted, relevant to social work practice.