The faculty, staff, and students of Illinois State University’s School of Social Work enthusiastically welcomed the new academic year. We are in the midst of a busy fall semester with many exciting initiatives.

The semester has started off with a great deal of enthusiasm for our “bumper crop” of students. As the University has publicly announced, enrollment for the freshman class has been up, and within the School of Social Work we have also seen increases in enrollment for freshman/sophomore, undergraduate B.S.W.’s and graduate M.S.W.’s. This is an exciting time for us on faculty as we educate the next generation of people who will become our partners in our profession of social work.

The re-accreditation site visit from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) has kept us busy for the past several semesters, but particularly so this fall. Two site reviewers were on campus on November 10 and 11 to review both the B.S.W. and M.S.W. programs. Social work programs are reaffirmed every eight years. This has been a good process to think reflective and to proudly “tell the story” of our programs and our outstanding students. We eagerly anticipate the site visit and the outcome to follow.

Even as we are reflecting over the past eight years to fulfill the accreditation documents for CSWE, we are looking forward with some exciting changes for both programs. The faculty is in the process of engaging a strategic assessment of our M.S.W. curriculum to thoughtfully plan for changes that will prepare M.S.W. graduates for the dynamically changing fields of practice. We are currently in the process of conducting internal scans regarding the strengths and gaps in our curriculum and external scans of other MSW programs in the state as well as aspirational programs across the country. We will follow this with a process of several focus groups from alumni, field instructors, agency key informants, the community advisory board, as well as current students. Once the strategic data is collected, the faculty will make plans on how the MSW curriculum may need to be modified to meet the demands and needs of the practice community.

The B.S.W. curriculum is not likely to change as it is fairly prescriptive by accreditation standards. Although, undergraduate social work curricula will look very similar across schools, we want our Illinois State graduates to stand out.

Consequently, we have developed two goals to increase the number of social work students that are participating in the Honors Program and the ISULeads program. We are developing programs to encourage more of our qualifying freshman and sophomore students to enroll in the Honors Program. This is an important distinction that sets our students apart as they apply for jobs or graduate admission.

The  ISULeads incorporates learning from campus (curricular and co-curricular) and community experiences into three pillars: civic engagement; global perspectives; and leadership. Completion of all three pillars of ISULeads culminates in a special distinction on the graduates’ transcript and indicates a student who is a leader.

The upcoming year is full of promise and enthusiasm for growth and positive change. Of course the most important reason to be enthused is the exceptional incoming classes of social work students in both our B.S.W. and M.S.W. programs. Each year, as we welcome the next generation of our social work colleagues, I am confident that our profession of social work will be in very good hands for futures to come.