New rural social work program created

Beginning January 2000, the University of Calgary will offer the Bachelor of Social Work program to students in rural communities.

The BSW Access Division program is designed to meet the needs of aboriginal, remote and rural communities. Currently, no social work degree program emphasizes the situations remote communities face.

"These communities wanted a program that would be relevant to their issues," said Access Division program head Kim Zapf. "The U of C has a mandate to provide university-level social work programs for the entire province. There was always a demand, but we didn’t have the resources until the government provided the financing."

The course design differs from the traditional U of C social work program. Students must have two years of university or college level transfer courses, be an after-degree student or possess a social work diploma from an Alberta college to be eligible. Students are also required to live outside Calgary, Edmonton or Lethbridge to enter the program.

"This program is primarily for people in rural communities," said Zapf. "We developed a new model for these communities instead of incorporating one from the U of C."

The new model was a collaborative effort between the access team and the community, including community colleges and interested workers.

The program incorporates a Learning Circle which consists of four theme areas: Generalist Practice in context; Communications and Information; Social Work methods; and Diversity and Oppression.

"The learning is unique in that a student can enter the circle atany point–it’s not sequential," said Zapf.

Besides the Access Division team, four instructors were hired, two part-time and two full-time, each of whom monitor an area of the province. These instructors, along with input from local leaders, will oversee the development of the program in the various communities in Alberta.

"Our information to date tells us that there is a high interest and a serious need for social work education in rural communities," said Administration Officer Lori Kallsen.

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