Lloyd P. Gestoso, DSW, Dean
Juliet J. Campbell-Farrell, PhD
Janet T. Tyler, PhD, Director of Field Instruction
Sharyvette Mattos, MSW
Cairn University was the first biblical institution to develop a Social Work program that offered Bible training combined with professional social work. The program was begun by Dr. Charles Furness in 1965. It was a groundbreaking initiative to produce credentialed professionals whose education was founded on the Word of God.
Social work is one of the most versatile of the professional helping disciplines, spanning all fields involving people in need. Social workers counsel, advocate, facilitate, negotiate, innovate, defend, and empower the people who are served. The social work profession is for those who seek to apply God’s commands to love and seek justice for their neighbors.
Social work is defined as the applied science of helping people achieve an effective level of bio-psycho-social-cultural-spiritual functioning and of effecting societal changes to enhance the well-being of all people (adapted from Robert L. Barker, The Social Work Dictionary (6th ed.). Washington: NASW Press. 2014). Cairn places a needed emphasis on the spiritual dimension because of its importance in achieving wholeness. Social workers intervene in the lives of those in need by counseling individuals and locating resources, facilitating groups with common needs, and promoting change within organizations and communities. Social workers specialize in confronting oppression and inequality. Graduates of Cairn’s Bachelor of Social Work program earn the professional title of Social Worker and are motivated by the grace and love of Jesus Christ.
The School of Social Work at Cairn University prepares students for entry into generalist social work practice by equipping them with professional knowledge, values, and skills understood within the context of a biblical worldview. The purpose of its holistic education is to equip students to demonstrate competency, excellence, and wisdom as they lead in their service to all those in need with empathy, expertise, and integrity and to advocate for social change within the church, society, and the world.
Generalist social work practice is a broad systems approach to helping that enables the practitioner to understand and operate within three dimensions of practice: micro (individuals), mezzo (groups), and macro (organizations and communities). This comprehensive approach empowers the worker to address an issue within the dimension of its origin, yet consider action within the other two dimensions.
Social work students take their God-given gifts and passions and focus on mercy, justice, holiness, and love. They understand the forms and mechanisms of oppression and discrimination and the strategies of change that advance social and economic justice. They demonstrate an understanding of and respect for the positive value of diversity. They learn to flow among the dimensions of individual, group, organization, and community, using their generalist practice skills. They learn to evaluate and implement policy. They utilize research skills to analyze existing research and complete their own. They study varied general education courses to develop critical thinking skills and to gain the knowledge of a well-educated person. Finally, they complete well over 500 hours of field placement, where they integrate faith, theory, and practice.
Graduates from the School of Social Work are trained to work in entry-level positions with sectarian (religious) and non-sectarian human service organizations. They can be found working effectively with the unborn, children and youth and their parents, schools, mental health and addictions, criminal justice, gerontology, medical facilities, and end of life issues. Biblical social workers are also well suited to work in domestic and international ministries and missions. Cairn graduates serve in all professional areas addressing human relationships.
The School offers four distinct programs. The first is the Bachelor of Social Work program. This program includes a significant integration of Bible, arts and sciences, and social work courses (132 credits), which results in the single Bachelor of Social Work degree.
The second program is the double-degree Bachelor of Science in Bible and Bachelor of Social Work program. This program extends the learning in Bible, arts and sciences, and social work (150 credits), which results in two baccalaureate degrees.
The third program is the dual-level Bachelor of Social Work and Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership program. This program integrates a master’s degree with the social work curriculum (159 credits). A limited number of upperclassmen are permitted to enter this program each year.
Each of the above programs are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and require the full social work field placement experience.
The fourth program is the Social Service Interdisciplinary program, in which a student takes some social work courses alongside courses from other academic disciplines in the University. The flexibility of this program allows students to customize their courses from multiple disciplines of their interests, yet also benefit from the social work community and advisement from social work faculty. They also benefit from completing a professional internship in an area of their interest. This program results in a Bachelor of Science in Bible degree. This program is not accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.
Students apply for admission to one of these programs in their sophomore year.
A minor in Social Work (20 credits) is also available. This minor may be added to bachelor’s degree programs from any of the University’s schools. This minor is not accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.
Related Program Information
Field placement is an integral part of the social work program. It gives students an opportunity to function in a professional setting under the supervision of a social work professional. Students do not just discuss helping others; they are professionally tested in the field with real people in need. The school offers field placement for BSW students. Areas where a student could be placed include, but are not limited to: children’s services, family services, services in gerontology, services for the developmentally disabled, criminal justice, education, community services, addictions, mental health services, and medical social work.
Field placement decisions are a collaborative effort between faculty and students. There are two field placement opportunities. The first involves a minimum of eight hours per week for two semesters. In this situation, students have an opportunity to begin integrating theory in a practice setting where they can observe and understand organizational process. The second involves 32 hours per week for one semester. In this situation, the student begins to focus intensively on the daily professional social work experience. Both placement opportunities are concurrent with social work classes and are monitored and visited by faculty.
The program started in 1965, and in 1974, Cairn was among the first schools accredited on the baccalaureate level by the Council on Social Work Education. CSWE is the national accrediting agency for both graduate and undergraduate programs.
Graduates of the Bachelor of Social Work program are eligible to sit for the baccalaureate voluntary license exam in the State of Pennsylvania. A similar baccalaureate license is available in 36 other states. This credential is an additional demonstration of the significance of the profession of social work to society.
A number of accredited graduate schools of social work offer advance standing of up to one year in a traditional two-year Master of Social Work (MSW) degree program. This privilege is available to graduates of baccalaureate social work programs that are accredited by CSWE. The Cairn School of Social Work prepares graduates for this opportunity.
Requirements for the BSW Program
Requirements for admission to and continuance in the Bachelor of Social Work program are found in the School of Social Work Student Handbook. Briefly, these include:
- Minimum GPA of 2.0 overall
- Minimum GPA of 2.5 in social work courses
- Completion of application form
- Recommendation by the Office of Student Life
- Recommendation by University faculty and staff
- Recommendation by social work faculty
- Recommendation by external professionals
- Faculty approval of background check results
- Agreed compliance with the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics
- Demonstration of personal qualities essential for working with people, such as:
- demonstrated responsibility
- sensitivity to the needs of people
- commitment to service
- understanding of biblical compassion, mercy, and justice
- value orientation consistent with the social work profession
- Compliance with the School of Social Work Student Handbook.
These qualities in the student will be assessed by the social work faculty and field instructors. Graduates of this program receive the Bachelor of Social Work degree and may also choose to earn the Bachelor of Science in Bible degree.