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UHD’s Bachelor of Social Work Program Pilots new undergraduate internship program

UHD Public Affairs • November 04, 2011 • Houston, Texas, USA

On hand for the presentation of the internships were, from left, Jeff Jackson, Interim Chair, UHD Department of Social Sciences; Jo Bailey, UHD associate professor and BSW program director; intern Damaris Cortez; intern Michelle Riley; intern Terrance Benson; Bill Flores, UHD President; Marion Coleman, Pathways director; intern Renee Hamilton; intern Natasha Marlow; intern Barbara Pruitt; intern Katherine Little, and Dawn McCarty, UHD assistant professor and BSW field director.

On hand for the presentation of the internships were, from left, Jeff Jackson, Interim Chair, UHD Department of Social Sciences; Jo Bailey, UHD associate professor and BSW program director; intern Damaris Cortez; intern Michelle Riley; intern Terrance Benson; Bill Flores, UHD President; Marion Coleman, Pathways director; intern Renee Hamilton; intern Natasha Marlow; intern Barbara Pruitt; intern Katherine Little, and Dawn McCarty, UHD assistant professor and BSW field director.

The Network of Behavioral Health Providers recently awarded seven internship stipends to University of Houston-Downtown Bachelor of Social Work Program students as part of a pilot program to place undergraduate BSW students with targeted, mental health and substance abuse provider agencies.

"Network members hope this program will lay the groundwork to interest students in nonprofit and public agency positions once they graduate," said Dawn McCarty, UHD assistant professor, BSW Program. "The Network is a consortium of major providers in the greater Houston area and this project is the first phase of their social work ‘Pathways’ education initiative to help correct a significant work force shortage in this area. They plan to funnel social work students into behavioral health-serving agencies, and they’ve chosen us (UHD’s BSW Program) to pilot this program.

"It has been a massive undertaking this summer. I'm thrilled we will be getting financial support for our students and that we could become a national model for undergraduate social work programs."

The Pathways internships will enable the students to complete their mandatory 400 hour practicum (15 to 20 hours each week) at a participating Network member agency and receive stipends of $400 each semester, McCarty said. The students also will take other classes.

Agencies that provide mental and behavioral health services in the past have offered limited opportunities to undergraduates or offered stipends, preferring more advanced graduate students, she said.

The Network, itself, is a nonprofit agency composed of the leadership of Houston-area public and private, nonprofit and profit, mental health and substance abuse provider agencies. The members are committed to identifying common concerns, emerging needs and public policy issues and collaborating to address those shared issues.

In 2009, the Network started The Pathways Project, a major initiative in workforce development and have developed a curriculum on careers in behavioral health for high school health academies and formed partnerships with schools of nursing to increase the number of students choosing psychiatric nursing.

The effort with UHD represents Network members’ desire to attract social workers to mental health and substance abuse service delivery, McCarty said. The group members also would like to develop relationships with education programs to prepare students for and develop pipelines into careers in this area. The Houston Endowment, the Meadows Foundation and the United Way of Greater Houston are funding the project. McCarty said the organization chose UHD to pilot the program, in part, because of UHD President Bill Flores and his support of the mental and behavioral heath service community as well as UHD’s willingness to explore new opportunities to benefit students.

"If our reputation for having a good BSW program is growing, it is because we have great students. They are our best ambassadors. We also have a reputation for being willing and eager to try new ideas," she said.

Last updated or reviewed on 9/17/12

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