MSW Student Handbook 2021-2022

Defining Roles

MSW Advising Team

The MSW program takes a team approach to support students throughout their time in the program. The primary advising team consists of a Faculty Advisor, location-specific Graduate Coordinator (Grad Coordinator), and location-specific Director of Field Education (Field Director).

Other administrative staff members, including the Assistant Director of Enrollment, Program Coordinator, and Department Coordinator, provide general support services and resource referrals for students.

Philadelphia students benefit from additional support and resources provided by the Associate Director for Student Services.  

Student are encouraged to consult with any faculty or administrative team member to address issues that may arise while in the program.

Faculty Advisor

Each student is assigned a faculty advisor to support their progress and success in the MSW Program. Students are encouraged to contact their advisors for assistance with selecting appropriate courses, identifying campus resources, and for educational and career guidance.

  • Students can find their advisors listed in myWCU under the Academic Records and Degree Progress tiles.
  • Faculty can find their advisees in myWCU within the Student Records and Registration tile.

Graduate Coordinator

WCU's MSW Program has one Graduate Coordinator assigned to each location (Philadelphia: Dr. Casey Bohrman; West Chester: Dr. Page Buck). Graduate Coordinators work with students, faculty and field staff to address student-related challenges and facilitate solutions.

Director of Field Education

There is one Director of Field Education (Field Director) for each location (Melissa Dziedzic, WC; Layna Smith, PH). Field Directors work with students to identify field placement opportunities and match students to sites to complete their field education experiences. Field Directors may work with students to help address field-related issues or concerns in collaboration with practice course instructors, field liaisons, faculty advisors, and/or graduate coordinators.

 

MSW Programs and Plan Codes

Advanced Standing MSW Program

The advanced standing MSW program is a reduced-credit program available only to students who earned a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree from an accredited program within the last seven years. The program requires the completion of 36 credits, including nine core courses, three electives, and a minimum of 504 field practicum hours.  

Academic Plan Codes

  • Advanced Standing West Chester = S178
  • Advanced Standing Philadelphia = S179

Regular Standing MSW Program

The regular standing MSW program is available to students with bachelor's degrees in areas other than social work. The program requires 60 credits, including seventeen core courses, three electives, and a minimum of 952 field practicum hours spread over two academic years and two different field placements.

Academic Plan Codes

  • Regular Standing MSW West Chester = S176
  • Regular Standing MSW Philadelphia = S177

Gerontology Certificate Program

The Graduate Certificate in Gerontology is an interdisciplinary program designed to serve individuals who are now employed or anticipate working in the field of aging. The 12-credit interdisciplinary curriculum includes courses taught by expert faculty from social work, nursing, health, nutrition, kinesiology, and other fields.

Academic Plan Code

  • Gerontology Certificate = C204

 

Curriculum

In compliance with the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) accreditation standards, the Department of Graduate Social Work does not give course credit for life experience or previous work experience.

MSW Core Course Sequencing and Numbers

  • The curriculum includes two levels of coursework and fieldwork: Generalist and Specialized.
  • Coursework should be taken in sequence according to the prescribed Course Plans (see next section) and assigned pre-requisites and co-requisites.
  • Sequencing requires completion of Generalist courses and fieldwork before starting the Specialized sequence.
  • Generalist courses include: 501, 502, 511, 533, 541, 554, 555, 560, 596, 597
  • Specialized courses include: 534, 542, 561, 562, 563, 598, 599

MSW Course Plans

Course plans are available in two different layouts (slight variations exist between some of the plans, but all are accurate and usable for student advisement).

Test-Out Exams

Students entering the regular standing MSW program have an opportunity to test out of SWG 533 Methods of Social Work Research and SWG 554 Human Development Across the Lifespan. Students must take the exams prior to the start of their first semester and must score 80% or higher on the specified exam to receive a release from the course requirements. 

  • The Assistant Director of Enrollment, Jeanean Mohr, manages the test-out process.
  • Students who successfully test out of one or both courses will see the class(es) documented as fulfilled by examination on the Degree Progress Report (DPR) in myWCU.
  • Students do NOT have to replace the credits if they test out. Instead, they are eligible to graduate with a reduced number of credits.
  • Students following the 4-year course plan and relying on federal financial aid who test out of SWG 554 should replace the course on their fall schedules to maintain federal loan eligibility, which requires enrollment in at least 6 credits/semester.

MSW Course Descriptions

Course descriptions and requisites for all core courses and most elective classes can be found in the Graduate Catalog in the Courses section under the Department of Graduate Social Work.

MSW Elective Requirements

  • Three (3) electives are required for both regular and advanced standing students
  • Students may take electives at either location without special permission
  • Students wishing to take an elective outside the MSW program must request permission by emailing the Graduate Coordinator, Casey Bohrman.
    • If permitted, students should try to enroll themselves in the course via myWCU.
    • If self-enrollment does not work, the student should contact the course instructor (or department secretary) to request permission to enroll in the course.

MSW Elective Course Numbers and Schedules

  • Electives that run regularly and are approved by CAPC have unique course numbers and are listed in the Courses section of the Graduate Catalog under the Department of Graduate Social Work. They include: 570, 571, 576, 577, 578, 579, 580, 581, 583, 584, 585, 586, 588, 589, 592, 593, and 595.
  • Other elective courses run under a general SWG 590 number and get listed as Seminar in Social Work.
  • Elective schedules are developed by the Curriculum Committee and distributed one or more times per year to MSW students and faculty

MSW Summer Courses

The department offers numerous electives and two required courses during the summer months to provide flexibility and help lighten the load for students during the Fall and spring semesters.

Summer Course Offerings

  • Core courses:
    • SWG 542 - Specialized course that also runs in the Fall
    • SWG 534 - Specialized course that also runs in the spring
    • SWG 560 - primarily reserved for incoming Advanced Standing students, but might be open to current students with permission from the Grad Coordinator
    • SWG 503 – bridge course for advanced standing students only
  • Elective courses:
    • A variety of classes offered each summer
    • Varied formats (online, in-person, hybrid)
    • Varied times/schedules (1-week, 5-week, 1-week, Saturdays, weekends, etc.)
    • The department runs at least one course during each of the three summer sessions (aka Summer 1, Summer 2, Post-Summer)

Funding Summer Courses

Students wishing to use federal financial aid to pay for summer courses must be enrolled at least half-time (4.5 credits). Federal funds for summer classes come from the previous academic year disbursement, and availability depends on whether the student borrowed the total loan amount during Fall/Spring. For example, if a student plans to take a course in Summer 2022, they must use funds from the 2021-22 disbursement.

  • Current students should plan accordingly to reserve funds for summer courses. Students should contact the Financial Aid Office for information and must complete a Graduate Summer Loan Request.
  • Incoming students wishing to use federal funds to pay for summer classes should contact the Financial Aid office.

Certificate Programs

WCU offers numerous certificate programs that complement the MSW degree, including the Gerontology Certificate, managed within the Department of Graduate Social Work. Most graduate certificates require 12 to 18 credit hours. Students who want to add a related certificate program to their education can apply nine certificate program credits to fulfill MSW elective requirements. Except for the Gerontology Certificate, students may not use additional certificate credit hours toward the MSW degree. MSW students enrolled in the Gerontology Certificate program may apply three credits of Field Practicum towards the certificate degree requirements if placed at an approved aging site.

Certificate Programs

  • Gerontology
  • Applied Mindfulness
  • Healthcare Ethics
  • Healthcare Management
  • Nonprofit Administration
  • Public Administration
  • Specialization in Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Urban and Regional Planning

Enrolling in the Gerontology Certificate Program

Current MSW students do not have to apply to the Gerontology Certificate Program. Rather, a student can add the certificate to their academic plan in myWCU through "Academic Records" and the "Change/Update/Add a Plan" function.

Incoming MSW students who haven't started classes must wait until the semester begins before adding the certificate to their academic plan.

There is no additional cost to add the certificate. 

Dr. Angela Lavery serves as the Faculty Advisor for all MSW students enrolled in the Gerontology Certificate Program. 

Enrolling in Other Certificate Programs

Students wishing to enroll in certificate programs offered by other departments should consult the individual department for guidance.

 

Advising Resources and Technologies

Graduate Catalog

The Graduate Catalog is the place to retrieve current information regarding university and department policies, program and admissions requirements, administrative structures, course descriptions, etc. Students are encouraged to review the catalog, including sections listed in the quick links below.

Catalog Quick Links

MyWCU

myWCU, also referred to as PeopleSoft, is the software interface used by students, faculty, and staff to manage class registration and track student academics. There is a link to myWCU in the upper right corner of every WCU webpage.

myWCU training information, including videos for students, staff, and faculty, is available through Academic Enterprise Systems (AES).

  • Students can find information regarding financials, classes, academic records, and graduation in myWCU.
  • Faculty can find information regarding classes, grades, SRIS, student records, grades, and attendance.
  • Staff can access reports and student records and manage curriculum and enrollment.

D2L

Brightspace by D2L is the Learning Management System used by WCU to support education and offers a highly personal learning experience that connects faculty and students to collaborative learning tools, activities, resources and content. The university refers to Brightspace as D2L, the company that created WCU's Learning Management System.

IT Support

Helpdesk

The IS&T Help Desk, supporting students, faculty, and staff, is the central point of contact for all technology-related hardware, software, and system support such as Office 365, myWCU, and D2L at West Chester University. The IS&T Help Desk provides first-level customer support for students and employees in administrative offices, classrooms, residence halls, remote sites, and satellite locations.

Contact options:

Service Now

ServiceNow provides an intuitive interface enabling users to request help, report problems, order equipment and software, and check the status of their inquiries without directly contacting the Help Desk.

 

Registration

General Registration Process

Students register for courses using myWCU, an online portal accessible via the top right corner of any WCU webpage. To register, students should:

  1. Review the MSW Course Plans and select classes based on their selected course completion plan
  2. Consult their advisor if deviating in any way from the prescribed course plan or adjusting the completion timeline
  3. Log into myWCU
  4. Select the Classes tile and use the navigation menu to search, add, drop, etc., classes as appropriate
  5. Refer to the myWCU Student training website or the MSW program’s Registration FAQ for assistance
  6. Contact Program Coordinator, Beth Shearn or Assistant Director of Enrollment, Jeanean Mohr for assistance.

Incoming Student Registration

Following program admission, new students receive information about class registration via email from the MSW program’s Assistant Director of Enrollment. The email is titled "NEXT STEPS: MSW at WCU." New students should review the MSW Course Plans to determine the best completion option and communicate questions, challenges, and concerns regarding course planning and scheduling with the Assistant Director of Enrollment.

Continuing Student Registration

Registration for Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer classes for continuing students occurs in October and March each year. The Registrar's Office typically releases registration dates and times a few weeks in advance. Once released, students can find the information via their WCU email accounts, in myWCU, on the academic calendar, and the Registrar's Office website.

Continuing students should review the General Registration Process found on Page 9 prior to registration.

Registration

Apart from electives and 100% online offerings, students must register for classes at their affiliated location. Students wishing to take a class at the other location must request permission to enroll by emailing the Graduate Coordinator to explain the need to cross-register. If approved, the Program Coordinator or other staff member can register the student in the approved section by overriding the location restriction in myWCU.

Students wishing to change locations altogether should submit a Change Locationon form, sent to the Graduate School and Graduate Coordinators for review.

Course Drop or Withdrawal

WCU's drop/add period is the first week of classes (see Registrar's calendar). Consult the Registrar's webpage or the Add/Drop Classes instructions for information about dropping courses.

After the drop/add period ends, students may withdraw from a course, with or without financial obligation to pay for the course, depending on the time of withdrawal. Consult the Registrar's calendar for specific Course Withdrawal and Refund schedules.

  • A non-punitive grade of "W" will be entered on the academic record of any student who withdraws from a course after the Add/Drop period and before the Course Withdrawal period ends.
  • This action can be completed through myWCU using the "Drop" tab on the "Enroll in Classes" page.
  • Students who fail to officially withdraw from a course will receive a grade of "F" and are financially obligated to pay for the course.

Dropping or withdrawing from a course may have severe consequences for course sequencing, anticipated graduation date, billing, and financial aid. Students are strongly encouraged to meet with their academic advisor and the Financial Aid Office before withdrawing from a course.

Class Waiting Lists

Students have the option to add their names to waiting lists for courses that have reached maximum enrollment. Please consult the Enrolling onto Waitlists instructions provided by the Registrar's Office.

Registration FAQ

The most common course registration questions and troubleshooting needs can be found on the MSW Program’s Registration FAQ.

 

Status Changes

Switching Locations

Students wishing to change locations should submit a Change Locationon form, sent to the Graduate School and Graduate Coordinators for review. Students wishing to switch from the Philadelphia to the West Chester location should be made aware of the 10% tuition difference between the two locations, as the tuition cost at West Chester is higher than Philadelphia.

Students wishing to remain at their location but needing to take a class at the other location should review the "Cross-Location Registration" procedures on Page 10.

Course Plan Change

Students who need to change course plans, completion timelines, or diverge from prescribed course sequencing should consult their advisors. Changing course plans without advisement could have negative ramifications related to financial aid and class eligibility, as well as field placement status.     

Generally, a student can slow their pace of study but should work with their advisor to modify the course line-up and ensure the appropriate number of credits per semester to stay on track and preserve financial aid eligibility.

Expediting program completion is less feasible. For example, once a student begins their coursework, it is impossible to move from the 2-year course plan to the 1-year plan in the advanced standing program. Similarly, once a student starts their coursework, it is impossible to move from the 3-year or 4-year course plan to the 2-year plan in the regular standing program.

The Narrow Window:

A regular standing student may begin their first semester on the 4-year course plan (with two courses) and still be on track for 3-year completion:

  1. IF they follow the course line-up for the 3-year program in their first Spring semester
  2. AND take the missed first-semester course the following Fall.

If students take only two classes in each of the Fall and Spring semesters in their first year, they cannot jump from the 4-year to the 3-year plan.

Leave of Absence/Time Off

Graduate students have a maximum of six years for degree completion. A maximum of two semesters (Fall and Spring semesters only) of non-enrollment are permitted before a student must enroll or request a leave of absence . Students who fail to re-enroll or request a leave of absence are subject to readmission.

Program/University Withdrawal

WCU's Graduate Catalog outlines various withdrawal options and procedures for students, including Term Withdrawal, University Withdrawal, Administrative Withdrawal, Retroactive Withdrawal, and Involuntary Medical Withdrawal.

Returning to the Program/Readmission

Students have a maximum of six years for degree completion. Readmission is not automatic and may be subject to additional conditions set by the department, school or college, or by the Dean of The Graduate School. Students inquiring about readmission to the MSW program may follow the steps outlined below or contact The Graduate School at gradschool@wcupa.edu.

  • MSW students requesting readmission to the MSW program following a leave of absence or non-enrollment for more than two consecutive semesters (Fall and Spring semesters only) should submit a Readmission Request if the timeframe falls within the six year degree completion window.
  • MSW students requesting readmission to the MSW program following a leave of absence or non-enrollment for more than two consecutive semesters (Fall and Spring semesters only) and outside of the six year degree completion window should submit a Petition for Exception to Policy.
  • Students seeking readmission after academic dismissal should use the Petition for Exception to Policy form above.

 

University and MSW Program-Specific Policies

We encourage students to review the University's Academic Policies and Procedures as well as the academic and field policies specific to the Department of Graduate Social Work, all located in the Graduate Catalog. Specific policies include:

University Academic Policies

Academic Integrity
Academic Records Information
Academic Standing
Additional Certification Policies
Course Policies
Degree Candidacy
Grade Information
Graduation and Degree Requirements

MSW Program-Specific Policies

 

Graduate Student Involvement

 

Graduate Student Support Services

Students can visit the University Services and Student Life section of the Graduate Catalog for an array of campus services and resources.

Philadelphia students are encouraged to also visit Resources for Philadelphia Students.

International students are encouraged to also visit the Global Engagement Office.

 

Graduation

Each candidate for a graduate degree must apply to graduate through myWCU. Fees and application deadlines are posted in the Graduate Catalog under Application for Graduation.

  • WCU posts information about graduation for both West Chester and Philadelphia on its Commencement
  • Students should direct questions about graduation (number of tickets, gowns/caps, etc.) to Commencement@wcupa.edu.