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Program Information: Policies

BSW program policies


Before new students begin their course work at Calvin, they are asked to complete an "Advising Information" questionnaire. Those who indicate an interest in majoring in social work are assigned to a social work faculty person as an advisor.

Students applying to the B.S.W. may indicate a preference for a particular advisor from among the social work faculty. Once accepted into the program, the Director re-assigns students to advisors, attempting to honor student preferences. A B.S.W. student who wishes to change advisors should first make the request of the new advisor and then fill out a B.S.W. Program "Change of Advisor Form" available from Ms. Lindholm (Room 206, Spoelhof Center).

B.S.W. students minimally meet with their advisors once per semester to plan course selection and scheduling. They also confer with their advisors about their functioning in the B.S.W. program, career-related matters, and graduate school options and opportunities.

Additionally, each academic year, the Social Work Program Director calls a meeting of all those interested in applying for the B.S.W. program to share information about the program and admission to it. In the fall of each year, a meeting of all junior-level B.S.W. students is called by the Field Education Coordinator to share information about the following year's field education placements.

Although the college permits second-semester seniors to not consult their advisors prior to their last semester before graduating, B.S.W. students are excluded from this policy. They must see their advisors to do a final check on their earned credits and remaining requirements for the B.S.W. degree. The Council on Social Work Education recommends this advising policy.

Retention in the B.S.W. Program

Policies and Procedures for Continuance and Graduation: Due to the nature of social work practice and the expectations of a professional program, academic standards for continuance in the program include professional behaviors and practices.  All undergraduate social work students will receive and are required to comply with the following standards as well as related policies in the program and practicum handbooks.  Additionally, social work students are expected to adhere to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics and the Michigan Social Work Licensing Code of Ethics. 

Faculty regularly evaluate academic performance in several areas, including but not limited to the demonstration of basic professional practice skills, stress management and emotional self-awareness, professional judgment, and academic performance.  Criteria defining each of these four primary areas of academic expectations are identified below. 

1.         Basic Professional Practice Skills

  • Communication:  practices using effective oral and written skills; uses existing technologies as appropriate; employs effective interpersonal skills including the ability to take appropriate responsibility for one’s own actions and decisions and their potential impact on others; and possesses the ability to identify and acknowledge limitations. 
  • Ability to Exercise Critical Thinking:  demonstrates the ability to plan, monitor, and evaluate practice interventions and overall practice; articulates the planned change process. 
  • Physical Skills:  demonstrates sufficient motor, sensory, and speech and language skills to actively attend and participate in class and practicum sites.

All students must meet the basic requirements of the Social Work Program with or without accommodations.  Please refer to the section on Accommodations for Students with Disabilities.

2.         Stress Management and Emotional Self-Awareness

  • Effective Self Care and Coping Skills:  handles stress appropriately by use of self-care techniques and supportive relationships; recognizes personal needs and plans accordingly.
  • Emotional Maturity:  demonstrates understanding of appropriate self-disclosure; maintains respectful relationships with peers, colleagues, faculty, and others; demonstrates empathic support to peers; and uses assertive problem solving strategies rather than aggressive or passive actions.  Seeks professional help for medical or emotional issues that interfere with professional and scholastic performance.  

3.         Professional Judgment

  • Comprehension of Ethical Behavior:  demonstrates adherence to the NASW Code of Ethics, state licensing laws, and field education site policies and procedures; practices within the competencies and limits of a generalist BSW practitioner. 
  • Committed to Professional Learning:  takes responsibility for learning and seeks feedback and/or supervision from field education instructors, faculty, peers, and colleagues; participates in classroom discussions and stays engaged in learning; holds self accountable for work assigned.  
  • Self Awareness:  demonstrates awareness of one’s own attitudes and beliefs (economic status, age, ethnicity, and lifestyle differences) and their impact on professional practice; acknowledges when personal values interfere with professional practice and client relationships and makes appropriate referrals or takes appropriate action. 

4.         Academic Performance

  • Earns a minimum of C in courses in the social work major beyond SOWK 240 and 250 (C- is minimum grade for SOWK 240 and 250), and maintains a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5.  Classroom performance and class attendance constitute behaviors that factor into a course grade. 
  • Fulfills the expectations and standards detailed in the Field Education Manual. 
  • Obtains a mid year (mid semester for block placement cases) evaluation from the field education instructor and faculty liaison that satisfactory progress is being made toward competent, ethical practice; earns a final evaluation in field education which affirms the student is adequately prepared to graduate as a beginning generalist social work practitioner.  Specific expectations and standards are detailed in the Field Education Manual. 

Accommodations for Students With Disabilities

No student who demonstrates professional ability and qualifications will be discriminated against or excluded from the social work program on the basis of disability.  Qualified individuals with disabilities seeking reasonable accommodations must work with the Office of Services to Students with Disabilities and provide required documentation to request reasonable accommodations.  Coordinators within the Office of Services to Students with Disabilities will make the recommendations for reasonable accommodations.  The social work program will work with the student and the Office of Services to Students with Disabilities to reasonably accommodate a qualified student with a documented disability.

Policies and Procedures for Academic or Disciplinary Probation or Termination

All faculty are involved in the formation of students’ professionalism and are responsible for reporting concerns to the social work program director and other faculty as appropriate to assure ethical practice and academic achievement.  The specific process employed for reporting and reviewing a concern relative to a student’s performance will be based on the severity of the issue.  Relevant information may be disclosed to the field education site per the Release of Information form (which all students are presented with after being accepted into the program) if the concern is practicum related or is affecting performance in field education. 

In most situations, a faculty member will address concerns directly with a student and establish a plan of action with that student to resolve the concern.  Faculty will inform the Social Work Program Committee (SWPC) of the concerns so that any pattern of behavior or issues is identified and addressed in a timely manner.  (The Social Work Program Committee includes social work faculty and two B.S.W.-student representatives.) Documentation of individual meetings, concerns addressed, and plans of action will be completed if appropriate and maintained by the concerned faculty member.  In most cases, the student’s advisor will become involved as a support to the student.  If the concern is related to field education, the faculty liaison may offer to meet with the field education instructor and the student. 

In the event the concerns are unresolved or of a more serious nature, a meeting will be conducted with the student, the involved faculty member and/or the academic advisor, and the program director.  If the problem is related to the field education experience, the meeting will include the field education coordinator.  The outcome of this meeting is discussed with the SWPC; the student is invited to be present.  This committee has the power to terminate the student from the program through a simple majority vote.  The program director does not vote.  Action of the SWPC can include:

  • Continuation in the program with no restrictions;
  • Probationary status; or
  • Termination from the program. 

Following the meeting a letter will be written by the social work program director documenting the outcome of the meeting and any actions taken. In the event of probationary status, the student will be advised in writing of the actions he/she must take to address the concerns and a timeframe for doing so in order to regain full program status. This may include (but is not limited to) future meetings with his/her advisor, seeking outside assistance, re-evaluating academic load and readiness for the major, meeting a minimum GPA during the subsequent semester, and/or meeting a specific performance level in field education.

This letter will be sent to the student, the concerned faculty member, the academic advisor, the field education coordinator, and the program’s academic dean.  If the matter is related to field performance, a copy will also be sent to the field education instructor.  The program director will also write a summary of the meeting.  This summary and any related documentation will be maintained by the program director. 

Students placed on probationary status or terminated from the program have the right to appeal the decision (see Student Appeals). 

Compliance with Other Policies, Laws, and Regulations

Social work students are subject to the policies and procedures for appropriate conduct as set in the Calvin College Student Handbook.  In addition to all college regulations governing student conduct and responsibilities, social work majors as citizens are also subject to all federal and state laws. A student may be terminated from the social work program for violating these laws, rules, or regulations. Social work students may also be dismissed from the program for violations of the NASW Code of Ethics. 

Students placed on probationary status or terminated from the program have the right to appeal the decision (see Student Appeals). 

This policy does not supersede or replace any applicable college wide disciplinary process or policy. 

Student Appeals

Should a student be refused admission to either the B.S.W. program or field education, or should a student otherwise be informed that he/she may no longer continue in the program, the student has the option of appealing such actions. If the student chooses to appeal, he/she must submit a written appeal to the social work program director within two weeks of the date of rejection or discontinuation from the program. The program director will forward the appeal to the Social Work Appeals Committee. This committee consists of two social work faculty, a student member of the SWPC, and the program director. Social work faculty are appointed to one-year terms on this committee. The student appealing may request replacement of one member of the committee if the student believes there is bias or prejudice. Similarly, a member of the committee may request to be excused from hearing an appeal. Both requests should be made to the social work program director, who will make final decisions and, if necessary, appoint another member.

The Social Work Appeals Committee will follow this procedure, processing the appeal within four working weeks of when the appeal is received, and notifying the student of its decision in writing within one week of the date of that decision: 

  • The program director will present the reasons for the termination. 
  • This will be done in writing, including any supporting evidence.
  • The student will present his/her appeal in writing and with supporting evidence.
  • Other parties may submit responses and documents.
  • All parties may appear in person before the committee.  The program director must be notified if an appearance is desired.The Appeals Committee will discuss the matter and vote.  A simple majority is needed to approve the appeal.  The program director has the right to vote.
  • The program director will notify all parties as to the outcome.  The student will be notified by email.  The program director will maintain the files.

Students wishing to appeal the decision of the Appeals Committee should follow the college’s Student Protest and Appeals Procedure, beginning at the level of the academic dean and following the outlined steps (see Calvin College Catalog and Calvin College Student Handbook for policy). This process ensures that the student’s concern is heard by a new audience. 

Student Initiated Grievances

On occasion, a student may have criticism of a professor for which he or she requests some action. Criticisms may regard the requirements of a course, the nature of a test, a grade received, teaching effectiveness, personal lifestyle, general performance, or sanctions given for academic dishonesty. The student should present such criticism directly to the faculty member. The student’s concern or criticism should be heard and given serious attention by the faculty member.

If the faculty member’s response does not satisfy the student, or if the student, for good reason, does not feel free to approach the faculty member, the student should bring the concern or criticism to the social work program director. The program director should work for resolution.

If the grievance involves the social work program director, the most senior faculty member of the program shall serve in all areas indicated as program director responsibilities. If the student or the involved faculty member does not accept the advice of the program director, then one of the following procedures will be followed: 

  • If the complaint concerns academic standards and expectations, the student must follow the appeal procedure as outlined above, submitting a written request to the program director that presents the concern and asks for resolution.  This must occur within two weeks following the meeting with the program director.  The program director will forward the appeal to the Appeals Committee, and the process noted above will be followed. 
  • If the complaint concerns matters other than academic standards and expectations, the student must follow the procedure as outlined in the Calvin College Catalog and Student Handbook. 

Admission to Field Education

B.S.W. students are required to make formal application for the field education sequence to the Field Education Coordinator. During the fall, an informational meeting is held for all junior students planning to enter field education during the following academic year. At this meeting, the application materials for field education are distributed. The application process requires:

  1. a written personal statement of preferences and goals for one's field education work.
  2. an interview with the field education coordinator.

Students who wish to do their field education through the Chicago Semester or Washington D.C. Semester should be certain of their plans by the fall of their junior year. An information meeting regarding field education options is scheduled in mid-October.

Students who wish to complete their field education requirements in ways other than the normal design (for example, a block placement) must make application through the Field Education Coordinator for an exception. Exceptions are not guaranteed and must be approved by the Social Work Program Committee. For more information, contact the Field Education Coordinator, Professor Lissa Schwander.

Should significant reservations about a student's continuation in the B.S.W. program arise at the point of application to field education, these will be processed by the Social Work Program Committee. In cases where the committee decides to deny admission to field education, the student involved will have the opportunity to appeal the decision to the Social Work Program Committee.

A great deal more information about field education is available from Professor Lissa Schwander, who is the program's Field Education Coordinator.

Student Files

The Family Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 along with 1976 amendments to the law require that institutions such as colleges provide:

...students access to official records directly related to the students and an opportunity for a hearing to challenge such records on the grounds that they are inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise inappropriate; that institutions must obtain written consent. before releasing personally identifiable data about students from records to other than a specified list of exceptions: that . students must be notified of these rights;." (Federal Register, January 6, 1975)

In accordance with this law and the standards of the Council on Social Work Education, B.S.W. students will be granted access to their files for review. Requests must be in writing and must be submitted to the Director of Social Work. Students may appeal in writing to the Social Work Committee to remove any inaccurate information from their files. These appeals will be acted on and the student notified within four working weeks of the date of the request. Students with concerns about their files are encouraged to first discuss these concerns with their advisor.

Upon being admitted to the B.S.W. program, students will be asked to sign a "Release of Filed Information" form so that social work faculty can use this information in making decisions about student retention in the B.S.W. program, entry into field education, recommendations to field instructors, recommendations for employment, and recommendations to graduate school.

Students' Rights to Organize

Students have the right to organize in their own interests in matters related to academic and student affairs. This also applies to the B.S.W. program. B.S.W. students are encouraged to maintain and participate in Organization of Students in Social Work (O.S.S.W.), a social-work-student organization which affirms two students to serve on the Social Work Program Committee, advocates with the college structure for the needs of social work students, invites social work professionals to campus for presentations, and organizes social and educational events.

Course/Faculty/Program Evaluation

B.S.W. students are asked to give written evaluation of course content and instructors who teach courses in the social work major and are under review for tenure or reappointment. A college-wide evaluation instrument is used in these cases. In the cases of other courses in the social work major, social work faculty may ask students to complete the same instrument or provide one of their own design. Additionally, just prior to graduation, senior B.S.W. students are asked to complete a survey about the B.S.W. program relative to program objectives.

B.S.W. graduates are also surveyed after they have been practicing social work for two years. They are asked for their estimate of how well the program has prepared them for professional practice. Part of this survey contains questions which other accredited schools of social work ask of their graduates and another part has questions tailored specifically to Calvin's B.S.W. program. Employers of graduates who have held social work positions since graduation are also surveyed if the graduates have given permission for their supervisors' participation. All data collected are used to make changes intended to strengthen Calvin's B.S.W.

Transfer Students

Calvin College's stated procedures and policies regarding transfer students are given in the college catalog. In brief, students transferring from other colleges and universities must follow the same application process as that for first-year students. Academic credits from accredited institutions are normally accepted according to the following stipulations:

  1. The courses must be academic and similar in nature to courses offered at Calvin College.
  2. A minimum grade of C- is required in each course to receive credit.
  3. No more than seventy semester hours of advanced credit are allowed for work completed at an accredited community college.
  4. No matter how much work done at other institutions may be accepted, all students must complete their last year in residence at Calvin.

Once admitted to Calvin, the records of transfer students are first evaluated by the Office of the Registrar and then passed on to the Social Work Program Director, provided there are courses on these records which might transfer as credit for courses in Calvin's social work major. The Social Work Program Director makes these determinations after reviewing course syllabi of the social work courses taken at other institutions (the syllabi must be detailed enough to indicate learning objectives, course topics, learning assignments, required reading, suggested readings, and, ideally, course bibliographies). Once transfer students know which of their courses will transfer, they are required to make full application to Calvin's B.S.W. program and await a decision from the Social Work Program Committee. Care is taken in this procedure to grant transfer students the maximum allowable credit for their previous academic work without violating course sequencing in the B.S.W. Program of otherwise compromising the integrity of the program.

In the evaluation of transfer credits or past experiences, academic credit is not given in Calvin College's B.S.W. program for life or previous work experience. This policy applies to all courses in the B.S.W. program including Social Work Field Education (380).

Program Statement on Non-discrimination

The Social Work Program Committee has adopted the following statement on non-discrimination:

The Calvin College Bachelor of Social Work Program, convinced that all persons are created in the image of God, affirms the worth and right to personal dignity of all persons. Consequently, the program is committed to operating in all respects without discrimination on the basis of race, color, gender, age, ethnic or national origin, handicap, or political or sexual orientation. (In regard to creed, the program appoints social work faculty who are committed to and articulate about the mission of the college and the objectives of the B.S.W. program. Regarding field instructors, students, and support personnel, the program is also committed to non-discrimination based on creed.)

Any person formally associated with Calvin's B.S.W. program (faculty, field instructor, student, support personnel) who believes that he/she has been discriminated against has the right, and is urged, to make complaint to the Director of Social Work (students are encouraged first to make complaint to their social work faculty advisor and then to the Program Director). The complaint may be related to any aspect of the program, including, but not necessarily limited to, admission to the program, course procedures and assignments, field placement procedures and assignments, classroom and field placement interactions, grades, field evaluations, faculty advising, and student organization. The Program Director, upon receiving a complaint, will within two weeks initiate attempts to help the person reach satisfactory resolution of the complaint. If this fails, the person has the right, and is urged, to seek advice and help from those in the college administration formally empowered to respond to such complaints. (Complaints of discrimination by faculty, students, and field instructors are processed by the Dean and the Provost; complaints by support personnel are processed by the Vice President for Administration and Finance. Ethnic minority students who are making complaint are urged to contact the Dean of Multicultural Student Development for additional service and support.)