SEU Launches First MSW in Polk County

This fall, Southeastern launched the first Master of Social Work degree (MSW) in Polk County. This is also the first MSW program in the state of Florida to be offered by an evangelical university. The cohort held its initial class in August with an enrollment of 25 students, surpassing the initial projection of 12 students.

Bringing the MSW to SEU

“Starting an MSW program was a dream of the Southeastern University social work faculty and undergraduate students for many years. Our alumni frequently shared their desire to attend a graduate social work program at an evangelical, Christ-centered institution. SEU is grateful to now provide students with this opportunity,” said Dr. Erica Sirrine, dean of the College of Behavioral & Social Sciences.

The program has a clinical specialization where students will gain counseling and psychotherapy skills and includes a course in social work administration to prepare graduates for future leadership positions. A few sample classes include Psychopathology and Trauma Informed Clinical Practice. The program offers in-person classes two evenings a week in 8-week sessions. Students who have earned an undergraduate degree in social work from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) may apply for the Advanced-Standing MSW degree, which can be completed in two semesters, or approximately nine months.

A noble calling

“The mission of the Master of Social Work program at Southeastern University is to equip students to become competent clinical social work practitioners,”said Sirrine. “They will enhance the quality of life in their local communities — and beyond — by modeling Christ’s example of demonstrating love, grace, compassion and respect to diverse clients across a variety of practice settings.”

Dr. Johnny Jones serves as the director of the MSW program. Jones has more than 25 years of experience as a social worker, social work educator and social work administrator in both public and private, faith-based institutions. Jones has worked as a faculty member at the University of South Carolina and at Baylor University. At Baylor, he served as the director of the MSW program.

“Social work is a noble profession of caring and serving. Its historical beginnings are rooted firmly in the church,” said Jones. “Our primary objective is to provide students with the knowledge, skills, and abilities they need to be competent social workers.”

Master of Social Work practitioners are employed in a variety of settings, including private practices, family and mental health counseling centers, schools, hospitals, military and veteran centers, substance abuse and rehabilitation treatment programs, employee assistance programs and child welfare agencies.

The inaugural cohort

A portion of the inaugural cohort students graduated from Southeastern and started the MSW program after completing their undergraduate degrees. The cohort class also includes professionals from the field who are looking to advance their career opportunities. Some of the students have served as school social workers, healthcare and/or hospital social workers, child welfare social workers, and community social workers.

“I have been a social worker for 35 years and getting my master’s degree in social work has been a lifelong dream,” said Bonnie Gaynair, member of the cohort. “I chose to attend Southeastern’s MSW program because I have been impressed with the high caliber of the academic professors and excellent curriculum. I am a few weeks into the program and already feel challenged and excited about what I am learning.” Gaynair has served on the advisory council for SEU’s Department of Social Work for several years. She has also worked as a school social worker at Traviss Technical College with the Polk County School Board (PCSB) since 1993.

Graduates of the program can expect to pursue a variety of opportunities including clinical licensure, full-time counseling positions and leadership roles in social work administration.

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