Combating social worker shortage through inter-college connections

Quinnipiac partners with Albertus Magnus to offer masters in social work

Katie Langley, News Editor

Graduates of nearby Albertus Magnus College will now be eligible to complete their masters in social work at Quinnipiac University after a new agreement between the two schools was announced by email Sept. 8. 

Illustration by Alex Kendall

Professor Stephanie Jacobson, associate chair of the department of social work, said the idea for the program started with Albertus Magnus’ sociology department, which was looking to build a pathway for students to pursue social work at the graduate level.

Since creating a new master’s degree program is an intensive process and Quinnipiac and Albertus Magnus are only separated by 20 minutes, the two faculties decided to create a “mutually beneficial” partnership, Jacobson said.

Located in New Haven, Albertus Magnus has around 1,300 students, comprising 600 traditional undergraduate students and 700 adult undergraduate and graduate students.

Albertus Magnus students will be able to decide in their second or third undergraduate year if they want to apply for the MSW program at Quinnipiac, Jacobson said. Students are required to have completed 20 undergraduate liberal arts credits and exhibit a 3.0 GPA to apply.

Those that are accepted into the program will go on to take three master’s-level classes at Quinnipiac in their junior or senior year of undergraduate study.

“(Albertus Magnus MSW students) will have nine credits that double count toward their undergrad at Albertus Magnus, and then those nine credits will be part of the graduate credits when they come for the master’s program (at Quinnipiac),” Jacobson said.

Pedro Silva, a third-year graduate student pursuing his MSW at Quinnipiac, is the president of the Social Work Association of Graduate Students and the former president of the Connecticut chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

Silva, who received his bachelor’s degree from Quinnipiac in psychology and sociology last year, said that the new partnership gives students from a smaller school more opportunity to expand their education, as a MSW is the highest degree social workers can obtain.

“I think it’s a great partnership,” Silva said. “We’ve always strived to try to bring access to more social workers in Connecticut. I’ve seen from me being an untraditional student and transferring into Quinnipiac to do the MSW program, there’s always barriers for non-traditional students.”

The updated MSW program is attempting to eliminate some of those barriers by reserving 10 seats for Albertus Magnus students in the program’s acceptance process, Jacobson said.

Jacobson said that the new collaboration between Quinnipiac and Albertus Magnus will help to bring students in and increase “diversity of perspective” within the department and the university.

“Albertus Magnus has a much higher percentage of students of color (than Quinnipiac) and also first-generation students going to college,” Jacobson said. “So having a pipeline for them to go into a graduate program and be prepared and already have taken some of the credits when they come over, we’ll just increase the number of social workers ready to serve a more diverse community.”

Albertus Magnus has over 31 percent Black students and over 18 percent hispanic students, compared to Quinnipiac’s over 81 percent non-minority population as identified in the university’s diversity and inclusion report released Sept. 8.

Quinnipiac’s MSW program was launched in 2013, originally accepting just 10 students per academic year.

According to Social Work Today, roughly 85% of American counties had insufficient or no behavioral health services in place as of 2016, an issue felt the hardest in rural states.

Within Connecticut, according to a 2018 report from the Behavioral Health and Economics Network, the state’s behavioral health workforce would need to increase by 50% in order to meet the needs of communities.

“There’s definitely a shortage of social workers in the country and also particularly in Connecticut,” Jacobson said. “It’s a growing career, there’s a need for mental health services and master’s level social workers provide the majority of that service and so it’ll create a pipeline for more students to go into social work and to be highly prepared and ready for that.”

Brittney White, a third-year MSW student, said that she decided to pursue social work in order to combat the serious need for social workers within the community.

“I would hope that the long term benefits (of the MSW partnership) is growing our field because I do think there is a special call for social workers right now,” White said. “And I think as the years go on, we want to see the field grow and have more brilliant minds from various different disciplines wherever they are.”

White said that social workers can take on many different roles. For example, she plans on using her MSW to combat the maternal mortality rate in women of color by being a “patient advocate” and fighting for policy change. 

“Social work is sometimes like a secondary career for some,” White said. “Some people don’t really see it as something that they can engage in long term… so I do think partnerships like this can help bridge that gap from when the individual is an undergrad, getting their feet wet trying to figure out what they want to do long term.”