By Margaret McKinney
The New Mexico Highlands University School of Social Work has received official notice of reaccreditation from the Council on Social Work Education. The reaccreditation is for eight years, the maximum level possible.
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation recognizes the Council on Social Work Education, or CSWE, as the sole professional accrediting body for social work programs in the United States.
“Accreditation assures our students that they are receiving a high-quality social work education through a curriculum approved by a national accreditation body that is recognized in all 50 states and Canada,” said Alfredo Garcia, dean of the School of Social Work.
Garcia said that the School of Social Work’s curriculum focuses on multicultural practice and cultural competency.
“We’re training social workers to work with Spanish-speaking and Native American populations in New Mexico and the Southwest,” Garcia said. “We’re the only social work program in the country to offer a MSW with a bilingual/bicultural concentration.”
The Highlands University School of Social Work was the first university social work school in New Mexico. In 1974, Highlands’ School of Social Work was the first in the state to receive Council on Social Work Education accreditation.
“The New Mexico Highlands University School of Social Work has a long history of being one of the leading social work programs in the nation,” said Highlands University President Jim Fries.
“Reaccreditation allows us to continue that fine tradition. I appreciate Dean Garcia’s leadership and the efforts of our faculty to meet or exceed every standard required by CSWE.”
Schools that are CSWE accredited undergo a rigorous review process to determine if they meet national professional standards. Highlands met all 10 standards for both its undergraduate and graduate social work programs.
The 10 standards include a broad range of professional competencies. Some examples include: apply social work principles to guide professional practice; engage diversity and difference in practice; engage in research-informed practice and practice-informed research; advance human rights and social and economic justice; apply knowledge of human behavior and the social environment; and apply critical thinking to inform and communicate professional judgments.
For accreditation, the university’s School of Social Work prepared a comprehensive 116-page self-study report. Examiners from the Council on Social Work Education also visited Highlands.
“The reaccreditation process was a very concerted effort by all the social work faculty,” Garcia said. “The faculty curriculum committee, chaired by associate dean Jill Baker, took a strong leadership role.”
The Highlands University social work program is offered at the university’s main campus in Las Vegas as well as centers in Rio Rancho/Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Farmington and Roswell.
“Our satellite centers provide accessibility to students throughout the state,” Garcia said. “We have developed strong partnerships with agencies where our students gain excellent direct-practice experience. Another strength of our program is the diversity of both the faculty and the students.”
Details about the Highlands University School of Social Work are online at www.nmhu.edu/socialwork.