‘Nuts and Bolts’ of BSW Explored at Conference

In February, NASW leaders attended the 28th annual Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors, or BPD, conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. The conference theme was “The Nuts and Bolts of BSW Education: From Basics to Competency Assessment.”

“The annual conference is a meeting of social work educators, students and leaders with an interest in undergraduate social work education,” explained Michael Daley, president of BPD. “Although the conference is targeted at undergraduate educators, representatives from other social work organizations made presentations and engaged in dialogue with attendees.”

Daley, who is a professor of social work and director of the social work program at the University of South Alabama, noted in his president’s address the social work imperatives that were reached during the 2010 Social Work Congress. BPD representatives were among the 400 social workers who debated the top imperatives for the profession during a two-day conference.

These essential goals represent a plan for the continued vitality and growth of the profession, Daley said. “The good news is that social work organizations are already talking and working together more to build a stronger profession and to address issues that weaken us,” Daley told attendees.

Besides discussions by social work education and organization leaders, the BPD conference included input from social work students themselves.

Elizabeth Hoffler, special assistant to NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark, said, “This year’s offerings included a session on the BPD emerging scholars’ experience at the 2010 Social Work Congress, which was important as the conveners intentionally sought a diverse representation at the congress, including social workers of all ages and levels of experience.”

Hoffler and Clark both attended the BPD conference.

Hoffler said NASW co-sponsored a student conference focused exclusively on the needs and interests of that particular population. “This fit well with the goals of the online Student Social Work Congress held in 2010,” Hoffler explained.

Joan Levy Zlotnik, director of the NASW Foundation’s Social Work Policy Institute, or SWPI, was among the panelists presenting “Understanding Trends in Social Work Education and Practice: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.” Joining her were Heather Kanenberg, assistant professor of social work at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pa., and James “Ike” Adams, dean and professor at the University of Kentucky College of Social Work.

“The presentations generated a lot of discussion, both about the opportunities for BSW education and support for BSW education in the academy as well as on the increased use of technology,” Zlotnik said. “We received a lot of positive feedback. Much of my presentation was drawn from data from a survey of licensed social workers conducted by the NASW Center for Workforce Studies and Social Work Practice.”

Zlotnik said today’s workforce is facing ever-increasing challenges, such as increased caseload sizes and severity of client problems. Adding to the equation are decreasing levels of reimbursement and availability of social work staff and social work supervisors. Zlotnik said the educational pipeline may not be prepared to address these issues.

It important that young people, the public and policymakers understand the challenges the workforce is facing whenever the topic of social work recruitment is discussed, she said.

Susan Kosche VallemZlotnik also joined Susan Kosche Vallem, chair and professor of social work at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, in a presentation called “Social Work Advocacy: Federal and State Strategies.”

In that presentation, Zlotnik said, she discussed the provisions of the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act, which was reintroduced in Congress in March. SWRA seeks to create a Social Work Reinvestment Commission that would address the future of the profession by developing recommendations and strategies to maximize the ability of America’s social workers to serve clients.

Vallem, who is chair of the coalition called Action Network for Social Work Education and Research, or ANSWER, discussed her experience with advocacy efforts at the state level.

After the conference, Vallem told NASW News she is passionate about BSW education.

“As a clinical person, I hope that we social workers can continue to focus on practice and policy,” she said. “Person in environment is a unique social work characteristic and we are effective change agents because we work with people in multiple systems.”

Zlotnik said social workers have been instrumental in creating and supporting many benefits that U.S. citizens enjoy today, including civil rights protections, unemployment insurance, disability pay and Social Security and workers’ compensation.

Zlotnik discussed how SWPI works to strengthen social work’s voice in public policy and create a forum to examine current and future issues in health care and social services delivery.