Stephen F. Austin State University

School of Social Work

From the Director

Greetings and Welcome to the School of Social Work!

It is a great privilege to serve as Director/Associate Dean of the School of Social Work (SSW) at Stephen F. Austin State University. The School's mission is to prepare competent and effective social workers committed to generalist and advanced generalist practice who are able to respond to the needs of rural communities and to people with rural lifestyles. The School is committed to academic excellence and diversity across its various programs and is engaged in promoting individual, family, and community empowerment through its involvement in a variety of initiatives and programs.

Throughout this site, you will find many examples of what makes the SSW a unique academic unit in the institution. Our faculty's influence on the profession of social work and the field of social welfare has been historical, and continues to be, far-reaching and enduring in rural social work. SSW students are extraordinarily talented and deeply committed to social welfare issues. And SSW graduates are exactly the leaders and innovators we need working in the public and no-profit sectors.

Thank you for your interest in the School of Social Work, and I hope the information provided on this website will assist you in gaining additional insights into our various programs.

Warm Regards,
Freddie L. Avant
Director and Associate Dean

The School of Social Work

The social issues and chronic human needs of Stephen F. Austin State University's service region, as well as the university's mission, led to the initial development of a bachelor's level (BSW) program in 1978. The BSW Program's mandate for generalist preparation was exactly what was needed for the many small towns, unincorporated settlements and rural lifestyles and environmental structures characteristic of Northeast Texas. Since its inception, the BSW program has attracted many of its undergraduate students from this rural area who display high level commitment toward resolution of problems in the area. Furthermore, it has been successful in graduating a significant number of entry level professionals who often remain in the region and obtain social work employment in state and private agencies.

Although many of the BSW practitioners remained in the East Texas Region, there was a limited number of MSW level professionals engaged in direct practice, research, supervision, and administration of the more complex services. The lack of MSW social workers in the region was indicative of the fact that few BSW's left rural Northeast Texas to seek MSW preparation in the closest programs at Houston or Dallas (where there was no concentration in Advanced Generalist Practice and limited content on rurality.) In addition, it had proved difficult for area agencies to attract MSW's from outside the region. The limited number of MSW applicants led to an increase in the number of BSW's and non-professional service providers employed in advanced practice positions.

As the number of complex social problems increased, the social work community of deep East Texas began to speak of the need for advanced social workers to fill the gaps in services and leadership in the rural region. The University responded by seeking approval from the Coordinating Board for Higher Education to develop a Master's of Social Work Program, which was approved in 1990. Dr. Michael R. Daley and Dr. Will B. Scott and other faculty members who were teaching in the BSW Program in the early nineties began the intensive work on development of the vision, focus, and definitions of advanced generalist practice for the rural environment. The efforts of these and other key individuals led to initial accreditation, which was awarded in 2001 and was retroactive through the graduate class of June 1998.

School Mission

Since the initial stages of development of the BSW program, many changes have occurred including changes in the University's mission, achievement of School status for the social work programs, and the creation of a School mission. The mission, which has been shaped, refined and approved by School of Social Work faculty truly reflects the history and future of the School of Social Work at Stephen F. Austin State University. The mission is as follows:

The mission of the School of Social Work at Stephen F. Austin State University is to prepare competent and effective professional social workers committed to generalist and advanced generalist practice and able to respond to the needs of rural communities and to the challenges faced by people with rural lifestyles. The School is committed to providing leadership for the region, particularly in identifying and addressing community needs and issues, including those related to the alleviation of poverty and oppression within the context of rurality, cultural diversity and social and economic justice. In support of its educational endeavors, the school is dedicated to excellence in teaching, research, scholarship, life long learning and community service.

The Region

Stephen F. Austin State University is located in Nacogdoches, Texas and serves the Northeast Texas Region for Education, which includes thirty six East Texas counties that comprise approximately 28,227 square miles. Thirty two of the thirty six counties are rural and the region is below the state average for residents per square mile. The region possesses many of the characteristics associated with rural areas and small towns, such as a sense of community, limited traffic, fresh air, and numerous opportunities for outdoor activities. However, the region also faces numerous social issues, including but not limited to low high school and college completion rates, poverty rates above the state average, limited access to medical services, and average to above average referral rates for juvenile probation. Furthermore, there are few resources to address the issues and existing services face a variety of barriers to delivery, such as geography, transportation, limited financial resources, and a lack of trained professionals. The presence of such issues initiated the development of the BSW program, the addition of a MSW program, and subsequent evolution into a School of Social Work.