BY JESSICA POPE
VALDOSTA - The Valdosta State University Department of Social Work has already developed a project charter for a proposed Social Work Clinic in the Health Sciences and Business Administration (HSBA) Building. Such a venture may never have been possible if not for the construction of the university’s latest academic facility.
Dr. Mizanur R. Miah, head of the Department of Social Work, noted that the future Social Work Clinic will seek to improve access to professional social work treatment and advocacy for vulnerable and underserved populations in South Georgia; provide professional social work services that are both supervised and delivered by faculty members who are licensed clinical social workers in Georgia; improve mental and behavioral health outcomes for university employees, their families, and others in the university’s service region; and provide education, field placements, research opportunities, and professional training for Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) Program students, university social work faculty, and social work professionals in the region.
“Our future plans will, thus, reinforce the ideas of President (William J.) McKinney, who announced on the ceremonial groundbreaking of the HSBA Building on Oct. 4, 2012 … ‘The Health Sciences and Business Administration Building will serve as an advanced academic facility to educate Georgia’s future health care professionals.’ Our MSW Program and the Social Work Clinic plan are fully committed to do so.”
“In keeping with President McKinney’s further assertion on that occasion … “It will also provide continuing education for existing practitioners” … the Department of Social Work plans to offer regular and continuing training workshops for our area agency — public or private — practitioners who are involved in providing social services” to men, women, and children in health care, mental health, child welfare, military, gerontology, school, and other settings.
Department of Social Work faculty and administrative staff relocated their offices to the HSBA Building in mid-March. The first social work classes will meet in the new facility during the upcoming summer semester.
“We … are very excited about moving into the new HSBA Building,” Miah noted.
VSU’s Department of Social Work was established in 1995 as the Division of Social Work, housed in a small brick house on Georgia Avenue, shared Dr. Marty Giddings, professor and former department head. Faculty offices were scattered throughout the house, but because there was insufficient space, classes were held in West Hall, she added.
“… a major impact of the new building is that all of the offices and classrooms will be housed in one large building,” she explained.
In 1996, the Division of Social Work moved to the Center for Continuing Education. Two years later, it relocated to a renovated warehouse on VSU’s main campus. The faculty was asked to submit names for the new building, Giddings added, and the majority agreed on the name Pine Hall, which is where the Division of Social Work became the Department of Social Work and where it remained until the new HSBA Building was completed.
“Enrollment in the Department of Social Work has grown over the last decade, and … (the department) has not had sufficient room for expansion in Pine Hall,” she said. “Because there were only two classrooms in Pine Hall, many classes had to be held in the (James L. and Dorothy H. Dewar) College of Education and Human Services … across North Oak Street. Additionally, because Pine Hall was an older structure that was originally designed to be a warehouse, there were residual structural problems with the air conditioning, roof, and plumbing that were not designed to handle the heavy demands on office and classroom use.”
Giddings noted that all of the faculty offices in the HSBA Building are well designed, well appointed, and feature a large window.
Dr. Monique Busch, an assistant professor in VSU’s Department of Social Work and a licensed clinical social worker operating a private practice at Performance Solutions Unlimited LLC, shared, “There is something very special about being in a brand new space, being able to make it out own, having everything look and feel so nice and new. This is a very positive opportunity for our department, our students, and all of our community partners.”
Giddings predicted that the students will ultimately be positively impacted the most by the facility.
“The faculty will be able to teach in classrooms that are extremely comfortable, well-lighted, of appropriate size … and all of the classrooms will contain state-of-the-art technology,” she added. “All of these factors are likely to enhance student learning in an extremely positive environment.”
Once physically isolated from daily interaction with others on campus, Miah noted that the move to the HSBA Building will afford the Department of Social Work a host of opportunities to form partnerships with other disciplines — particularly exercise physiology, nursing, athletic training, communication sciences and disorders, and health care administration — designed to greatly enhance teaching, learning, team building, training, and the pursuit of cutting-edge research.
Fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, the Department of Social Work offers a Master of Social Work Program that focuses on multi-level, advanced generalist practice. Students learn about both clinical and community practice and are able to develop the requisite skills to practice in many settings, from schools to hospitals, law enforcement to hospice. Students in the program can attend classes on campus full-time or part-time, or they can take advantage of an innovative web-based program that requires them to meet face-to-face only a few weekends each semester.
Because the Department of Social Work has sufficient space allocated for its growth and expansion, Giddings said that Miah, with support from Dr. Brian Gerber, dean of the Dewar College of Education and Human Services, is already planning to launch a Bachelor of Social Work (B.S.W.) Program at VSU in the near future.
The Department of Social work is one of nine departments overseen by the James L. and Dorothy H. Dewar College of Education.