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Social Service, Public Service to CombineIn the real world, social workers, educators and counselors often work very closely together to solve problems. Training for that kind of collaboration will get a boost this summer when the Saint Louis University School of Social Service merges with SLU’s College of Public Service.
Social Service will become known as the School of Social Work within the College of Public Service. Dr. Susan Tebb will serve as the school’s director, reporting to Dr. James Gilsinan, dean of the College of Public Service. The school will remain housed in Tegeler Hall.
Taking effect July 1, the merger is expected to create new opportunities for innovative academic programs and cutting-edge research.
“This move really takes advantage of our strengths,” Gilsinan said, adding that the two units already offer common academic offerings. “When we come together, we can be even more innovative and creative. That synergy will increase.”
The merger isn’t a new idea. When Public Service was founded in 1998, there were discussions of a merger with Social Service. Those discussions resurfaced in fall 2003. Since that time, officials with both units have spent a lot of time examining the transition. There also has been significant faculty input.
Two faculty committees, one from each unit, held a series of joint meetings on integrating Social Service into the faculty governance of the college. Dr. Robert Cropf, associate professor of public policy studies, and Dr. Roy Ruckdeschel, professor of social work, chaired the committees, which examined organizational structures, positions and roles. One of their recommendations was that Social Service faculty members join committees within the college.
“We found a very open environment,” Ruckdeschel said. “We’re very comfortable fitting into the College of Public Service.”
In addition to faculty participation, officials expect that the academic units’ similar missions will encourage a smooth transition. Public Service and Social Service educate students to be community-oriented professionals who will strive for positive change when they enter the workforce, Cropf said. Before graduation, students get real-world, hands-on education through clinical experience, which is a key component of both units’ degree programs.
“Social Service shares with the college a belief in social justice,” Cropf said. “When we talk about the importance of collaboration and working with the community, that’s something Social Service has been doing for 75 years.”
The merger also is built on a strong foundation of historical cooperation. Social work professors have participated in the College of Public Service’s Neighbor-to-Neighbor program, addressing important issues in urban areas of the city. In addition, one Social Service faculty member holds a secondary appointment in the College of Public Service, and two social work professors are alums of the college. Courses have been co-taught with faculty members from both areas, and social work faculty members sit on the board of the college’s Center for Counseling and Family Services.
Another example of this cooperation is the advance standing MSW students with a family concentration gain when they begin Public Service’s Ph.D. program in marriage and family counseling.
“Once practitioners get out there ć whether they’re social workers, teachers, speech pathologists or counselors ć they almost always work in an interdisciplinary way, and it’s better that they gain those skills as part of their early training,” Tebb said.
Gilsinan and Tebb hope the increased collaboration and interdisciplinary efforts will lead to increased funding for research by faculty members in both areas. They also will examine possibilities for joint degrees as well as seek ways to bring about a closer relationship between the Graduate School and the School of Social Work.
Read this and other exclusive stories in the July issue of Grand Connections.
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