Masters of Social Work degree launched in western Kansas

GARDEN CITY, Kan. - The University of Kansas, Fort Hays State University and Garden City Community College are partnering together to enable students to obtain up to a Masters degree in social work without having to leave southwest Kansas.

“It’s going to be able to advance my career,” said Aimee Fields, one of the program’s first students. “I can eventually do counseling or get an administrator job.”

The program benefits students like Fields, a 2009 graduate from Fort Hays State. She works full-time in Dodge City, and with the program, she can attend weekend classes at GCCC for her Masters degree, rather than going to Lawrence full-time.

“Our goal and mission is to serve all of Kansas and this partnership helps strengthen communities throughout western Kansas, and for KU to be part of that and partnering with two other great institutions is wonderful.,” said Kendal Carswell, the Western Kansas MSW degree coordinator for KU.

Through the program, a student can complete an Associate’s degree from GCCC, a Bachelor’s from the Fort Hays State extension office, and the Master’s from KU, without ever leaving Garden City.

“[Students] don’t have to go away, they can get their credentials here, and then continue to provide an opportunity for those students, but eventually they provide a huge service to the region,” said Bruce Exstrom from GCCC.

The program aims to provide more local social workers. A KU study shows that there are more than 4,000 social workers in Kansas, yet less than 200 live and work west of Wichita.

“There is a dire need in some instances for social workers in western Kansas,” said Tim Davis of Ft. Hays State. “There are many areas out here that have no social workers. We get calls from agencies on a weekly basis asking for graduates.”

In its first year being offered, 15 students have enrolled for the degree program, hoping that being able to stay close to home will help their job prospects.

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