A Career That Helps: Social Work at BUonline

Featured - A Career that Helps- Social Work at BUonlineTodd Palmer portrait

Have you always imagined yourself in a career that helps others and serves your community? If so, social work might be the right choice. Jobs in this field are dedicated to empowering the disadvantaged and fostering social justice. The online Social Work Program at Brescia University will prepare you with the knowledge and skills you need to succeed as a social work professional. We spoke with the director of the program, Mr. Todd Palmer, to get his take on how earning your social work degree from Brescia can benefit you as well as those you serve.

What is your educational and professional background?

I earned my Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology from the University of Evansville in 1995 and my Master’s Degree in social work from the University of Southern Indiana in 2003. From 1995 until 2014 I had numerous positions in the field of social work.

While earning my undergraduate degree, I had the privilege of interning at a substance abuse treatment facility in the adult intensive outpatient program. When I graduated, the facility offered me an entry position as a substance abuse technician. Over time, I earned an opportunity to facilitate the aftercare program. I also facilitated the intensive outpatient program for adults and adolescents.

Briefly, I worked for a drug court program as a day reporting officer. While working for the drug court, I was offered a position to be an adult therapist in a psychiatric hospital. I had recently earned my master’s degree and decided to return to providing treatment to clients. I provided individual, group, and family therapy at the psychiatric hospital for five years.

Approximately six years ago, I was offered a position to provide in-home assessment to rural low-income parents who were in danger of losing custody of their children or were attempting to have their children returned to their custody.

What led you to your career at Brescia?

In 2011, I was offered an opportunity to become an online adjunct professor at Brescia University. Over the last three years I have taught human behavior and the social environment, group practice, cultural diversity, and ethical considerations for the social work program. I truly enjoy preparing future generations of social workers in the classroom setting. In June 2014, I was hired as the new program director. I am honored with the opportunity to serve as director of the social work program and hope to add to the quality of the program that already exists. Our faculty is passionate about teaching the next generation of social workers and has vast experience in the field of social work.

What is the mission of the social work program?

Reflecting both the mission of Brescia University and the purpose of the social work profession, the mission of the social work program is to promote the well-being of the citizens of Owensboro/Daviess County, the Commonwealth of Kentucky and beyond— by creating awareness of social problems and injustices, and through educating students in ethical social work practice. Guided by a curriculum in the liberal arts, we transfer knowledge based on scientific inquiry within the person and environment construct. We emphasize the beauty of human diversity while addressing issues that limit human rights locally and around the world. Specific attention is placed on empowering individuals and groups that are denied social and economic justice and enhancing quality of life for all persons.

What makes Brescia’s program unique?

Brescia University’s social work program is unique in that it is one of the first programs to offer distance education in an online format. Our first online class was offered in 2004 and by 2008, we had degree completion available completely online. We are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). We also provide a quality social work education by keeping our class size small and mandating weekly online classroom chat sessions. In addition, we have full and part-time faculty with a wide variety of backgrounds and experience.

What topics are covered as part of the curriculum?

Our curriculum includes Introduction to Social Work; Human Behavior in the Social Environment (including the entire lifespan); Cultural Diversity; Social Work Practice with individuals, families, and groups, as well as with agencies in the community; Social Welfare Policy; Research Methods and Research Statistics; and Field Practicum. We also offer subject electives including Social Work in Criminal Justice; Social Work and Aging; Death and Dying; Women at Risk; Ethical Considerations of Social Work Practice; Child Abuse and Neglect; and Child Abuse Interventions.

Why is social work important?

Generalist social work practice is grounded in the liberal arts and the person and environment construct. To promote human and social well-being, generalist practitioners use a range of prevention and intervention methods in their practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. The generalist practitioner identifies with the social work profession and applies ethical principles and critical thinking in practice. Generalist practitioners incorporate diversity in their practice and advocate for human rights and social and economic justice. They recognize, support, and build on the strengths and resiliency of all human beings. They engage in research-informed practice and are proactive in responding to the impact of context on professional practice.

Why should students get a social work degree?

A social work degree helps students prepare for varying careers and further graduate study. You can begin your career with your Bachelor’s Degree, or you can pursue a Master’s Degree or a Doctoral Degree. If you have a desire to assist others in overcoming their barriers, promote human and social well-being, and advocate for social justice, then social work may be the career for you. The rewards of empowering others to succeed are immeasurable.

What career options are there for students with degrees in social work?

There is a vast array of career opportunities for someone with a social work degree. A bachelor’s degree in social work allows a person to work in several different capacities including public agencies such as Child Protective Services, medical social work, community non-profit agencies, and public office, to name a few. An advanced degree can prepare you to provide therapy, produce research to advance the body of knowledge, and provide education to the next generation of social workers.

Do you have any tips for individuals who are studying social work?

I would encourage anyone who has a desire to help others to look into a degree in social work. In my experience, it is important to make sure you are taking care of yourself in any helping profession. Sometimes helping others can be stressful, and having the ability to relax and care for yourself will minimize the potential to feel overwhelmed. It is difficult to help others when you are struggling yourself. In order to help others, you must first help yourself.

As Mr. Palmer says, earning your degree in a valuable and rewarding field like social work is a great way to help others with the work you do. The undergraduate online program at BUonline puts you on track to the career paths discussed above, as well as many more. Get started with us today and explore your future in social work.