Northwestern's social work program receives accreditation

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Northwestern's social work program receives accreditation

March 9, 2009

Social work group
In honor of social work month, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) hosted a legislative day at the state capitol for social workers on Wednesday, March 4. More than 100 social workers were in attendance, and all six CSWE accredited social work programs in the state of Oklahoma were represented. Legislative day provides an opportunity for social work students to participate in macro-level practice and learn effective ways to lobby for a bill and advocate on the behalf of others. Speakers included Sen. Andrew Rice, Rep. Wallace Collins, and Linda Gray Murphy, lobbyist for NASW-OK. Northwestern was represented by 11 social work students as well as Kylene Rehder, social work program director, and Rae Wilson, social work field education director.
Students in attendance from the Woodward campus were Patti Jo Vazquez, Woodward senior; Michaela Green, Gage sophomore; Shanna Alger, Woodward junior; Sherie Byrd, Woodward junior; and Anthony Byrd, Woodward freshman. Students in attendance from the Enid campus were Anne Higby, Enid senior; Pamela Bookout, Enid senior; Jessica Simunek, Enid senior; and Natalie Taylor, Enid senior. Students in attendance from the Alva campus were Christina Walker, Helena junior; and Tiffany Garcia, Alva junior.

During the Commission on Accreditation’s (COA) February meeting, the COA voted to grant initial accreditation to the social work program at Northwestern Oklahoma State University until February 2013, a feat that took four years to achieve.

To become accredited, Kylene Rehder, social work program director, worked four years diligently preparing documentation and a written self-study that covered eight specific standards. Rae Wilson, director of field education, has helped Rehder for the past two years. Throughout this time, the program also had site visits where members of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) interviewed faculty, administration, advisory board and students.

“It’s a rare thing for a program to be accredited without having to produce an interim report,” Wilson said. “This report is typically due within nine months if there are issues that need to be clarified to the CSWE. Our hard work paid off, and we did not have to produce a report.”

CSWE is a national association preserving and enhancing the quality of social work education for practice and promoting the goals of individual and community well-being and social justice. The profession of social work in the United States looks to CSWE-accredited programs to produce social workers with the knowledge and skills to be professional social workers.

“Receiving accreditation for the social work program is a testament to how wonderful and academically sound the program is at Northwestern,” Rehder said.

Having the social work department accredited means students will now become social workers post graduation; become license eligible; and are able to apply for advanced standing placement to an entity that offers the master’s of social work degree, typically a two-year program but reduced to one-year since the student will have received a bachelors of social work from an accredited institution.

Five strengths that the CSWE listed in its report are as follows:

  1. Application of technological advances is evident by students that enhance their own research and professional capabilities.
  2. The Field Experience Manual provides suggested methods for field instructors to use and meets the educational needs of the students
  3. Program administrator Rehder is an accomplished social worker with educational credentials that are impressive.
  4. Field coordinator Wilson is experienced and knowledgeable about agency practice and is a well-respected social worker.
  5. The University administration’s commitment to provide necessary resources for the program to achieve its goals and objectives is a program strength.

Kylene Rehder and Dr. Janet Cunningham“The senior administration has been so supportive throughout this four-year process,” Rehder said. “We are grateful.”

Currently, Northwestern’s social work program has 100 percent ratings for students who have been admitted to advanced standing in graduate school, 100 percent pass rates for licensure exam and 95 percent of the students have been hired immediately following graduation.

“Social work students will leave Northwestern having been professionally trained,” Rehder said. “Social workers enter the workforce to meet community needs, which is important for Northwestern and the entire region.”

To learn more about Northwestern’s social work program, contact Rehder at or (580) 327-8135.