Contact Information

Britt Rhodes
Professor of Social Work
Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work Department Head

Koren 318
700 College Drive
Decorah, Iowa  52101

Phone: 563-387-1623

Social Work

A social work major at Luther helps you prepare for beginning level generalist social work practice and for graduate (MSW) study.

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
  • 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.

The core values of the social work profession that shape the Luther Social Work Program are:

  • Service
  • Social justice
  • Dignity and worth of the person
  • Importance of human relationships, integrity, competence, human rights, and scientific inquiry

Graduates are prepared to be competent social workers who practice with integrity through critical thinking, use of research based interventions, scientific inquiry, sound ethical decision making, and a respect for human diversity.

The program prepares students to serve as leaders in strengthening the social service delivery system, as they strive to empower people in their environments and work to eliminate poverty, racism and other conditions that limit human rights. The program also contributes to knowledge in the field, provides leadership and expertise to strengthen the social service system, and works for the common good in an ever changing society.

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
  • Other areas of social services

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

Luther Social Work Grads Join Lutheran Volunteer Corps

Each year some of our Luther Social Work graduates choose to volunteer for a year or two before going on to graduate school or a paying job. Some of the more popular programs are AmeriCorps, Lutheran Volunteer Corps, and the Peace Corps. Three alums from last spring’s graduating class joined the Lutheran Volunteer Corps including Abby Martin—Omaha, Sally Ea—Seattle, and Courtney Guntly—Wilmington.

Three Luther Social Work alumni, Madi Brauer ’19, Shelby Henkelman ’16, Colinne McCann ’15, are now employed at Helping Services, with two having the credentials AND work experience to provide supervision for practicum students.

The Social Work Program gathers data on student outcomes annually for the purpose of evaluating and improving the program. A report is prepared in August of each year using data gathered during the previous academic year.

View 2023 assessment data

Luther’s Social Work 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.

Luther’s academic program stresses education beyond the classroom walls. We encourage students to engage in real-world learning in order to test their career goals and gain valuable professional experience.

For more information about internship opportunities at Luther, visit the Career Center.

Khwanhatai (Ploy) KongkapetchKhwanhatai (Ploy) Kongkapetch

When: January 2018
Where: Monterey County Office of Education & Rancho Cielo Youth Campus, Salinas, CA
Major: Social Work

Ploy went to Salinas, California to intern with the Monterey County Office of Education and Rancho Cielo Youth Campus. Ploy worked with many young people who were on probation and expelled from the school system. She monitored each student’s progress on an expulsion plan, and worked on a transition plan for seniors. While in Rancho Cielo, she also lived in a Transitional Housing Program. Here, she worked with residents transitioning into independent living. The experience furthered Ploy’s confidence and passion for working with at-risk youth. She also gained invaluable knowledge about the challenges social workers face. She looks forward to more professional experience with this population.

Madeleine RossMadeleine Ross

When: January 2018
Where: Light of Hope School and Home for Girls, Naivasha, Kenya
Major: Social Work

Madeleine interned at a Children’s Charitable Institution in Naivasha, Kenya. She assisted with child intake at the Light of Hope School and Home for Girls (LOH). During January, she went into the community to assess homes with girls in need of schooling or a safe place to stay. The government, as well as individuals seeking help, referred these cases to LOH. Many of these girls had backgrounds of poverty, abuse, neglect, abandonment, hunger, or sexual assault. Madeleine collaborated with the social work staff at LOH to bring in three new girls. Her duties also included taking care of the girls while in the LOH dorms. She also created the first home assessment form for their social workers to use. Luther’s education helped provide her with the wide range of tools she needed to complete these tasks. Madeleine felt fortunate to have had this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Daniel DejapinDaniel Dejapin

When: January 2018
Where: Helping Services for Youth and Families
Major: Social Work and Psychology

Daniel is a sophomore majoring in Social Work and Psychology. During January, Daniel interned with Helping Services for Youth and Families. The experience was rewarding and helped him to personally grow while in the field. Working with professionals made him realize how important social workers are in our community and in our society. All the staff encouraged him, but at the same time challenged him to push himself to the limits. This experience enlightened him about how our society challenges people that are struggling within their own environment.

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.

Learn more about the social welfare minor

Don Kemp Memorial Scholarship

Don Kemp came to Decorah, Iowa in 1978 after working as the Chief of Field Operations for the Alaska Division of Public Assistance. Don was a leader in the social work program at Luther College from 1978-2003. Don’s contributions to the social work program, campus community, social work profession and broader community are too many to name, but a few key highlights include:

  • Founder of the Can Mountain Day event which took place at Luther College from 1993-2003 and raised thousands of dollars for Winneshiek County Habitat for Humanity.
  • Helped establish the Luther College Habitat for Humanity “Home for Christmas” project
  • Volunteer Executive Director for Winneshiek County Habitat for Humanity
  • Served on the Winneshiek County Resource and Conservation and Development Board
  • Established the Environmental College for Young Leaders at Luther College
  • Chairperson for the Iowa Confederation for Social Work Educators
  • 1997 Social Worker of the Year
  • Advocated for social work licensing in the state of Iowa

The Don Kemp Memorial Social Work Scholarship was established by his family on the 4th day of March 2004, to honor Don’s memory as husband and father, teacher and social justice activist. It is awarded to a junior social work major who best embodies the mission and objectives of the Social Work Program with personal qualities of commitment, initiative and service.

Past Recipients:
  • 2004 Rachel Mandsager
  • 2005 Kara Kulzer
  • 2006 Bethel Erickson
  • 2007 Nora Haupt
  • 2008 Anne Karlin
  • 2009 Makara Fairman
  • 2010 Adriana Diaz
  • 2011 Siri Lokensgard
  • 2012 Alicia Findley
  • 2013 Shaina Landhuis
  • 2014 Joshua Davis
  • 2015 Katherine Kovacovich
  • 2016 Elizabeth Hardy
  • 2017 Savannah Hartman
  • 2018 Jana Mueller
  • 2019 Sanna Berdahl
  • 2020 Kristen Erickson
  • 2021 Anna Tahnk
  • 2022 Adria Ebersole
  • 2023 Kaylee Martin
  • 2024 Elizabeth Heim

The Social Work Association is student-led, chartered by the college, and serves as an informal vehicle for getting acquainted with other social work students, faculty, and social workers in the local community. Over the years, the association has provided a forum for a variety of social, professional-development, and community-service activities. Opportunities to develop both leadership skills and important networks in a professional field make the association an active club.

The program’s Lambda Theta chapter of the Phi Alpha National Social Work Honor Society serves to promote excellence in scholarship, leadership, and service.

The Social Work Advisory Board assists in the planning and development of the Social Work Program. The Advisory Board typically meets twice a year and provides students and faculty with an additional community resource, reports trends in the field, helps in the location of field placements, advises on curriculum review and evaluation, and information on social work job possibilities for graduates. The Board also assists the program in recruiting new students for the program.

Contact Information

Britt Rhodes
Professor of Social Work
Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work Department Head

Koren 318
700 College Drive
Decorah, Iowa  52101

Phone: 563-387-1623