NACOGDOCHES, Texas –– Following recent approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Stephen F. Austin State University’s School of Social Work will begin offering a Doctorate of Social Work program in spring 2023, officially becoming the university’s fourth doctoral-level degree option.
SFA’s DSW program is structured to enhance the clinical expertise of social workers while also containing a pedagogical track that prepares graduates for teaching in bachelor’s- and master’s-level social work programs. It also will prepare social workers to enter leadership positions in health care management and administration.
“SFA’s overarching goal focuses on creating transformational learning experiences for students, and the DSW program strongly aligns with this goal,” said Dr. Emmerentie Oliphant, interim chair of SFA’s School of Social Work and the Buddy Zeagler Endowed Professor. “Students will be engaged in learning and will practice opportunities to develop leadership, teaching and practice competencies. The program also will provide experiential learning opportunities based on social work practice realities, which will develop students’ abilities to address social problems. The social work practice will focus on individuals, families, groups, communities and organizations.”
The need for social workers is at an all-time high in Texas and the United States, and the need gives rise to an accompanying need for more social work instructors to teach in bachelor’s and master’s social work programs.
The School of Social Work recognized a need for a doctoral program in 2007 and, under the leadership of Dr. Freddie Avant, associate dean of the School of Social Work, established a planning committee in 2010.
“The Bachelor of Social Work and Master of Social Work are already among SFA’s largest academic programs,” said Dr. Marc Guidry, SFA associate provost. “The DSW will further enhance the School of Social Work’s reputation as the premier provider of social work education in East Texas and take our Center for Rural Social Work Research to new heights. Adding a doctoral program adds to the reputation of the entire university for academic excellence at the highest level. Therefore, the DSW will be an anchor program for the university and a magnet for recruiting high-performing students to our campus.”
SFA is one of two Texas universities to offer the DSW program. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board approved Angelo State University’s DSW program at the same time as SFA’s. However, unlike Angelo State, SFA will offer in-person courses.
Currently, the nearest higher education institution to offer a DSW program is Tulane University in New Orleans, which is more than 350 miles from Nacogdoches. Therefore, the addition of the DSW program addresses a regional need for East Texas.
“I am very proud of the staff and faculty who have worked so hard to make the DSW a reality,” said Dr. Lorenzo Smith, SFA provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “This is another great example of how SFA is serving as the anchor university for deep East Texas.”
The initial DSW cohort will consist of 10 students, and classes will be held on Fridays to make it accessible for those who work.