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Graduate Social Work Program Heading for Southern Utah

Hot air balloon over St. George Utah.

March 22, 2011 – The University of Utah College of Social Work announced Tuesday that they anticipate offering a Master of Social Work (MSW) program in St. George. Prospective MSW graduate students in Washington County are invited to attend one of two information sessions on Tuesday, March 29, beginning at 9 a.m. or 4:30 p.m. Additionally, representatives from area social service agencies are invited to attend a discussion session the same day from noon to 2 p.m. All sessions will be held at the St. George University of Utah Graduate Center, located at 1071 East 100 South, Suite A100, St. George. Interested parties should RSVP by calling the University of Utah’s MSW program at (801) 581-4908.

Budget cuts at the University of Nevada Las Vegas threaten the existence of St. George’s closest MSW program. Currently, the only two Utah institutions that offer accredited master’s-level social work degrees are the University of Utah and Brigham Young University. “When you look at the education and training options available to St. George residents, you begin to understand why there are so few licensed clinical social workers providing services in Southern Utah,” said Brad Lundahl, director of the University of Utah’s MSW program.

Utah requires clinicians to have a minimum of a master’s-level education to be licensed by the state to provide treatment services. “MSW graduates are equipped to address our problems in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, youth services, child welfare, and veterans services,” said Paul Thorpe, retired executive director of Southwest Behavioral Health Center in St. George. “But there is continuing need for more of them in Washington County to meet the needs of our ever growing population. The prospect of having a quality program provided in Washington County by the University of Utah College of Social Work is exciting and most welcomed by our communities,” said Thorpe.

The proposed MSW program would utilize a combination of online and classroom technology-enhanced education, as well as supervised field training. In the fall of 2010, the University of Utah began a similarly delivered Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program in St. George. The program has been well-received by students and area agencies, and is expected to accept more BSW students in coming years. “By also offering an MSW program in St. George, we make the degree far more accessible, enabling our students and graduates to provide their valuable services to a number of the area’s diverse populations,” said Lundahl.

Chuck Wight, dean of the University of Utah Graduate School, explained that in 2007, the Utah Legislature allocated funds to increase the availability of professional and graduate education options in St. George and surrounding communities. Thanks to this support and a partnership with Dixie State College of Utah, the University of Utah currently offers a number of graduate degree programs and online undergraduate courses to students in St. George. “The University of Utah is pleased to be working in collaboration with area institutions and agencies to ensure that students in Southern Utah have access to both bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in social work, fulfilling unmet needs in this region of the state,” said Wight.