Brought To You By NSU; Written by Leah Jackson

Northwestern State University received approval from the Louisiana Board of Regents to offer a Master of Social Work degree.  The program will be offered completely online and will build upon NSU’s existing Bachelor of Social Work that graduates about 50 students per year.  

“The MSW program will help address the dearth of the mental health workforce and services in Louisiana. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), nearly 3.4 million people in Louisiana live in a community that does not have enough mental health professionals such as social workers,” said Dr. Susan Campbell, interim chair of NSU’s Department of Social Work.  “The mission of the MSW is to develop clinically trained social work professionals to meet the growing need for practitioners in our regional and national work force, with particular emphasis on providing trauma-informed services in rural central and western Louisiana.” 

Dr. MaryAnne Candley, MSW, a Licensed Master Social Worker, will serve as the program coordinator.  Candley joined the NSU Social Work faculty as an assistant professor in 2019. In addition to teaching and advising, Candley is also the coordinator of online studies where her duties include supporting and enhancing the online learning environment and experience for social work students. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work and earned a Ph.D. in human services with an emphasis on social and community services. 

“Social work is a very rewarding career in that social workers have the opportunity to be change agents,” she said.  “We work with individuals, families, groups, communities and organizations, so social workers enjoy the ability to effect change in whatever setting is most comfortable for them.” 

Before joining the NSU faculty, Candley worked with an interdisciplinary group that focused on birth inequities. She also engages in practice as a medical social worker. Previous practice experience also includes working with the homeless and elderly populations, and with children and families.  

“Across the board higher education is engaging with different learners than the traditional, 18-year-old student,” Candley said. “Many people are seeking degrees while actively in the throes of employment, raising children and assisting elderly or ailing parents or loved ones. Online learning allows people, regardless of their circumstances, to continue to meet their competing demands while also pursuing higher education.” 

Campbell said the Social Work Department will work with the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) Board of Accreditation for the MSW program to become nationally accredited. The timeline for accreditation is approximately three years with a likely approval date of February 2028.   

The CSWE accreditation process will allow the Master of Social Work program to back-date accreditation to its initial start date of August 2025. Students who graduate from the MSW program before 2028 will have to wait until February 2028 for the accreditation to be granted and backdated. Therefore, graduating MSWs prior to May 2028 would not be able to pursue licensure until official accreditation approval is given.  

“To maintain the integrity of the MSW program and support the professional development of our students, the Department of Social Work will welcome its inaugural MSW class in stages,” Campbell said. “Stage one will be a part time, traditional MSW program, with students beginning their coursework in August 2025 with an anticipated graduation date of May 2028. Stage two will be a two-year, full time MSW program in which students begin their coursework in August of 2026 and graduate in May of 2028. The final stage will be the one-year Advanced Standing program with students beginning in August of 2027 and graduating in May of 2028.” 

Most employment data and job prediction statistics identify an increase in the need for social workers, Candley said. There are only three accredited MSW programs in public institutions.  

“NSU is uniquely situated, as the central and southwestern portions of the state do not currently offer any MSW programs,” she said. “While this program will be offered completely online, our geographic location and focus on trauma will help prepare students to work in these underserved areas as well as nationally.” 

The push for approval of the master’s in Social Work at NSU began years ago, spearheaded by the late Dr. Claudia Triche, then department head, who advocated for the creation of a Master of Social Work degree at NSU.   

“Social work is a profession that assists people to improve their lives by helping them deal with their social environments, relationships, personal and emotional problems, disabilities and resources for life, such as shelter, food and employment,” Campbell said. “Social workers are employed in the areas of children and family services, schools, health care, mental health, substance abuse and prevention, employee assistance programs (EAPs), as well as in federal, state, or local policymaking along with other sectors. While the bachelor’s degree in social work is the minimum requirement for entry into the social work profession and qualifies one for a number of entry-level jobs, the master’s degree (MSW) is necessary for many positions, including most in health care, K-12 schools, mental health and in supervisory and administrative positions.” 

Information on NSU’s Department of Social Work is available at   

PICTURED: Social Work Faculty:   Faculty from NSU’s Department of Social Work met to discuss the recently-approved Master of Social Work degree program.  Seated from left are Lisa Mount, Kirby Peddy, Dr. MaryAnne Candley and Dr. Susan Campbell, interim department chair.  On the back row are Dr. Andrew Fultz, Denise Bailey, Byron McKinney, Dr. Jennifer Shaw, Randy Hoffpauir, Jessica Fultz and Morgan Durr.

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