The 2012-2013 academic year was a very active one for the Graduate School of Social Service (GSS). A national search for a new dean was successfully concluded last spring, and Debra M. McPhee, Ph.D., was named to lead GSS beginning in 2013-2014.
The new dean will build on the hard work of the GSS faculty, advancing relationships and forging new possibilities in research, teaching, and service. GSS has done an outstanding job maintaining the school’s very strong student enrollment while at the same time building new opportunities for research. The faculty and administration see both components as essential to the success of the school. To this end GSS has identified three priority goals.
Preparation of Highly Skilled Social Work Professionals Through Implementation of a Comprehensive Competency-Based Curriculum
This year saw the completion of the self-study report for reaffirmation of the accreditation of GSS by the Council of Social Work on Education. The self-study is the culmination of an intensive curriculum development process engaged by the faculty over the past four years. With human rights and social justice as a foundation, the curricular development process examined every aspect of the school’s curriculum, both implicit (creation of a learning environment that supports the value and ethical stance of the profession) and explicit (curriculum as defined by courses and assignments). GSS has engaged the entire community—faculty, administration, and staff—in its commitment to assess learning outcomes and to educate students in an environment that is safe, open, and humane.
Implement a Regional Online Master of Social Work Program
In September 2012, the online Master of Social Work (MSW) Program entered its second year. GSS has devoted significant attention to several strategies for maintaining an appropriate cohort size in the online program. Of particular attention is the balance between making the program available to the full range of master’s students, both foundational and advanced, while also ensuring that each course is adequately enrolled. The fieldwork component of the online MSW program was launched and an assistant director of field work for the online program joined the administrative team. The fieldwork experiences of online students will continue to be closely monitored to ensure that their learning in the field is equivalent to that of students in the on-campus programs.
Challenges to be addressed in 2013-2014 include maintaining enrollments, making a decision about whether to allow applicants inside the 50-mile radius to enroll in the online program (currently enrollment is restricted to students 50 miles or more from a Fordham campus), and meeting the requirements necessary to market the program beyond New York State. The GSS business manager will continue to monitor costs associated with the program.
Increase External Funding and Expand Interdisciplinary Collaborations
GSS experienced an increase in multiyear grant funding over the past year. The faculty development committee sponsored two grant-writing seminars, and the faculty members holding the Langenfeld and Quaranta chairs conducted monthly sessions to help the faculty develop fundable grants. The faculty has received both efforts enthusiastically.
GSS has enjoyed great success in its interdisciplinary programs and initiatives. The New York State Education Department (NYSED) registered several GSS programs, including the Mt. St. Mary College and Mt. St. Vincent College 3/2 programs, as well as the MSW/MPH (Master of Public Health) degree program with Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. The master’s in nonprofit leadership, developed in conjunction with the Graduate School of Business Administration (GBA), was submitted and approved by NYSED. Finally, the Fordham/China Youth University (CYU) agreement to educate bachelor’s-level social workers is poised to help to address workforce challenges in China, and has opened an opportunity for GSS to work closely with Fordham’s School of Professional and Continuing Studies (PCS). The collaboration among GSS, GBA, and PCS has been very productive. Marketing and recruitment activities are underway for all of these programs.
In summer 2013, 30 GSS students and three faculty members participated in the study abroad experience at Fordham University London Centre, Heythrop College in London. GSS faculty members attended two meetings of the consortium of schools of social work chosen to work with universities in China to build social work programs. In the future this collaboration holds great promise with respect to enrollment possibilities for Fordham.
GSS research centers continue to provide leadership to the professional community in developing new services and research and learning opportunities, which enhances the visibility of Fordham University. Moving forward, GSS plans to expand the international reach of the Bachelor of Arts in Social Work program in 2013-2014.