Skip to Top NavigationSkip to ContentSkip to Footer
Master's of Social Work

Mission, Goals, and Practice Competencies

Mission, Goals, and Philosophy

  •  MSW Program Mission

    The mission of the Ferris State University Master of Social Work Program is to educate professional social workers to be leaders in their field, promoting social and economic justice, diversity, and empowerment and addressing oppressive social conditions. Graduates will exemplify the Ferris State University Core Values of Collaboration, Diversity, Ethical Community, Excellence, Learning and Opportunity. Graduates will be critical thinkers able to meet the challenges of a global society through lifelong learning, innovation, political engagement, service and community collaboration.

  •  MSW Program Goals
    1. Prepare social workers with the knowledge, skills and values to be advanced social work practitioners with individuals, groups and families, toward the enhancement of social interaction and human functioning.

    2. Prepare social workers to practice without prejudice or discrimination towards those marginalized populations in the global community with respect to social work values and standards. Promote and be an advocate for social diversity.

    3. Prepare social workers to engage in activities that promote collaboration and lifelong learning toward the effective performance of personal and professional responsibilities.

    4. Prepare social workers with state of the art evidenced based clinical practice skills to assist people in healing trauma, while finding additional social/political solutions to meet their life goals.

  •  MSW Educational Philosophy

    The Ferris State University Mission states that our university: "Prepares students for successful careers, responsible citizenship, and lifelong learning. Through its many partnerships and its career-oriented, broad-based education, Ferris serves our rapidly changing global economy and society.”

    We are fortunate that our Founder, Woodbridge N. Ferris, who once said, “The highest work is that of social work,” set a course for our university that resulted in a mission so consonant with our social work program.

    Likewise, we embrace and promote the Ferris State University Core Values of:

    • Collaboration,
    • Diversity,
    • Ethical Community,
    • Excellence,
    • Learning and
    • Opportunity

    which are consistent with those of our program and our profession. These core values are in harmony with our professional values and are infused and highlighted in our collaborative efforts with others across the university as we strive to live them out and encourage our students to put them into practice as well.

    The Ferris State University Vision also echoes the educational vision of the social work program when it states that we will be “the recognized leader in integrative education, where theory meets practice throughout the curriculum, and where multi-disciplinary skills important in a global economy are developed with the result that Ferris State University will also be:

    • The preferred choice for students who seek specialized, innovative, career- and life-enhancing education
    • The premier educational partner for government, communities, agencies, businesses, and industries through applied research and joint ventures
    • A stimulating, student-centered academic environment that fosters life-long engagement, leadership, citizenship, and continuing intellectual development
    • A university that aligns its practices and resources in support of its core values of collaboration, diversity, ethical community, excellence, learning, and opportunity.”

    This vision is embedded in our curriculum and its realization will be evident in the practice of our graduates who will emerge as leaders and lifelong learners active in their communities on multiple levels.

    The Council on Social Work Education in 2008 identified 10 Competencies in its Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards that all professional social workers should be able to demonstrate. These competencies are woven into our curriculum and our assessment of student learning.

    These competencies are that each of our students will:

    • Identify as a professional social worker and conduct oneself accordingly
    • Apply social work ethical principles to guide professional practice.
    • Apply critical thinking to inform & communicate professional judgments.
    • Engage diversity and difference in practice.
    • Advance human rights and social and economic justice.
    • Engage in research-informed practice and practice-informed research.
    • Apply knowledge of human behavior and the social environment.
    • Engage in policy practice to advance social and economic well-being and to deliver effective social work services.
    • Respond to contexts that shape practice
    • Engage, assess, intervene, and evaluate with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.

    As members of the National Association of Social Workers we list in our code of ethics the specific Values and Ethical Principles to which we as a profession aspire.

    They are:

    • the Value of Service and the accompanying Ethical Principle that Social workers’ primary goal is to help people in need and to address social problems.
    • the Value of Social Justice and the accompanying Ethical Principle that Social workers challenge social injustice.
    • the Value of Dignity and Worth of the Person and the accompanying Ethical Principle that Social workers respect the inherent dignity and worth of the person.
    • the Value of Importance of Human Relationships and the accompanying Ethical Principle that Social workers recognize the central importance of human relationships.
    • the Value of Integrity and the accompanying Ethical Principle that Social workers behave in a trustworthy manner.
    • the Value of Competence and the accompanying Ethical Principle that Social workers practice within their areas of competence and develop and enhance their professional expertise.

    Our faculty are learner focused and recognize, value and are committed to our non-traditional students who bring a wealth of life experience to their studies. We endeavor to develop transformational leaders through teaching and modeling as we recognize that many of our graduates will return to or assume leadership roles in their organizations and communities. We judiciously use traditional and cutting edge technologies recognizing their importance and potential in education and in social work practice. We recognize the importance of addressing specific life issues such as the effects of trauma, substance abuse, mental health and aging and foster a lifespan perspective. Our commitment is to graduate competent practitioners with the expertise and motivation to tackle many of our society’s most challenging problems, as our founder Woodbridge N. Ferris said “to make the world a better place.”

Program Competencies and Learning Outcomes

  •  Practice Competency 1

    Identify as a professional social worker and conduct oneself accordingly

    Social workers serve as representatives of the profession, its mission, and its core values. They know the professions history. Social workers commit themselves to the profession’s enhancement and to their own professional conduct and growth.

    Social Workers:

    1. Advocate for client access to the services of social work
    2. Practice personal reflection and self-correction to assure continual professional development
    3. Attend to professional roles and boundaries
    4. Demonstrate professional demeanor in behavior, appearance, and communication
    5. Utilize supervision and consultation effectively, with emphasis on secondary traumatic stress and trauma triggers
    6. Engage in career long learning.
    7. Readily identify as social work professionals
    8. Demonstrate professional use of self with client(s)
    9. Understand and identify professional strengths, limitations and challenges
    10. Develop, manage and maintain therapeutic relationships with clients within the person in environment and strengths perspective with trauma focused perspective
  •  Practice Competency 2

    Apply social work ethical principles to guide professional practice.

    Social workers have an obligation to conduct themselves ethically and to engage in ethical decision-making. Social workers are knowledgeable about the value base of the profession, its ethical standards, and relevant law.

    Social Workers:

    1. Demonstrate knowledge of the NASW Code of Ethics
    2. Abide by the ethical standards of the profession
    3. Utilize the Code of Ethics to guide ethical reasoning
    4. Recognize and manage personal values to be consistent with the Code of Ethics
    5. Tolerate ambiguity in resolving ethical conflicts; and, apply strategies of ethical reasoning to arrive at principled decisions.
    6. Apply ethical decision-making skills to issues specific to clinical social work.
    7. Identify and use knowledge of relationship dynamics, including power differentials.
    8. Recognize and manage personal biases as they affect the therapeutic relationship in the service of clients’ well-being.
  •  Practice Competency 3

    Apply critical thinking to inform & communicate professional judgments.

    Social workers are knowledgeable about the principles of logic, scientific i9nquiry, and reasoned discernment. They use critical thinking augmented by creativity and curiosity. Critical thinking also requires the synthesis and communication of relevant information.

    Social Workers:

    1. Utilize effective problem solving and critical thinking skills
    2. Integrate multiple sources of knowledge, including research findings
    3. Analyze models of assessment, prevention, intervention and evaluation
    4. Utilize effective oral and written communication in working with individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities.
    5. Engage in reflective practice.
    6. Identify and articulate clients’ strengths and vulnerabilities and trauma triggers.
    7. Evaluate, select, and implement appropriate multidimensional assessment, diagnostic, intervention, and practice evaluation tools.
    8. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of multiple theoretical perspectives and differentially apply them to client situations.
    9. Communicate professional judgments to other social workers and to professionals from other disciplines, in both verbal and written formats.
  •  Practice Competency 4

    Engage diversity and difference in practice.

    Social workers understand how diversity characterizes and shapes the human experience and is critical to the formation of identity. The dimensions of diversity are understood as the intersectionality of multiple factors including age, class,

    Social workers:

    1. Demonstrate knowledge and respect for diversity
    2. Treat all clients with dignity and respect
    3. Recognize the extent to which social structure and values may oppress, marginalize, alienate or enhance privilege and power
    4. Identify selves as learners and engage with whom they work as educators
    5. Demonstrate self- awareness to eliminate influence of personal biases and values in working with diverse groups.
    6. Research and apply knowledge of diverse populations to enhance client well-being.
    7. Work effectively with diverse populations.
    8. Identify and use practitioner/client differences from a strengths and trauma informed perspective.
    9. Demonstrate knowledge of historical trauma and impact on diverse populations.
  •  Practice Competency 5

    Advance human rights and social and economic justice.

    Each person, regardless of position in society, has basic human rights, such as freedom, safety, privacy, an adequate standard of living, health care, and education. Social workers recognize the global interconnectedness of oppression and are knowledgeable about theories of justice and strategies to promote human and civil rights. Social workers incorporate social justice practices I organizations, institutions, and society to ensure that these basic human rights are distributed equitably and without prejudice.

    Social workers:

    1. Recognize that each person, regardless of position in society has basic human rights
    2. Recognize the global interconnections of oppression and promote human and civil rights
    3. Recognize oppression and discrimination and their harmful effects
    4. Advocate for human rights and social and economic justice.
    5. Use knowledge of the effects of oppression, discrimination, and historical trauma on client and client systems to guide treatment planning and intervention.
  •  Practice Competency 6

    Engage in research-informed practice and practice-informed research.

    Social workers use practice experience to inform research, employ evidence-based interventions, evaluate their own practice and use research findings to improve practice, policy, and social service delivery. Social workers comprehend quantitative and qualitative research and understand scientific and ethical approaches to building knowledge

    Social workers:

    1. Use practice experience to inform research
    2. Use research evidence to inform practice, policy and social service delivery
    3. Use evidence-based practice process in clinical assessment and intervention with clients.
    4. Participate in the generation of new clinical knowledge with respect to trauma through research and practice.
    5. Use research methodology to evaluate clinical practice effectiveness and/or outcomes.
  •  Practice Competency 7

    Apply knowledge of human behavior and the social environment.

    Social workers are knowledgeable about human behavior across the life course; the range of social systems in which people live; and the ways social systems promote or deter [people in maintaining or achieving health and well-being. Social workers apply theories and knowledge from the liberal arts to understand biological, social, cultural, psychological, and spiritual development

    Social workers:

    1. Utilize knowledge about human behavior across the life span
    2. Utilize knowledge about the range of social systems in which people live and how social systems affect client health and well- being (Person in Environment)
    3. Utilize conceptual frameworks to guide the processes of assessment, intervention and evaluation
    4. Critique and apply knowledge to understand person and environment.
    5. Synthesize and differentially apply theories of human behavior in the social environment utilizing a trauma informed care perspective to guide clinical practice.
    6. Use bio-psycho-social-spiritual theories, trauma informed care perspective, and multi-axial diagnostic classification systems in formulation of comprehensive assessments.
  •  Practice Competency 8

    Engage in policy practice to advance social and economic well-being and to deliver effective social work services.

    Social work practitioners understand that policy affects service delivery, and they engage actively in policy practice. Social workers know the history of current structures of social policies and services; the role of policy in service delivery; and the role of practice in policy development.

    Social workers:

    1. Analyze, formulate, and advocate for policies that advance social well-being
    2. Collaborate with colleagues and clients for effective policy action.
    3. Communicate to stakeholders the implications of policies and policy change in the lives of clients.
    4. Use evidence-based practice and practice-based evidence in advocacy for policies that advance social and economic well-being.
    5. Advocate with and inform administrators and legislators to influence policies that affect clients and services.
  •  Practice Competency 9

    Respond to contexts that shape practice.

    Social workers are informed, resourceful, and proactive in responding to evolving organizational, community, and societal contexts at all levels of practice. Social workers recognize that the context of practice is dynamic, and use knowledge and skill to respond proactively

    Social workers:

    1. Continuously discover, appraise, and attend to changing locales, populations, scientific and technological developments, and emerging societal trends to provide relevant services
    2. Provide leadership in promoting sustainable changes in service delivery and practice to improve the quality of social services.
    3. Assess the quality of clients’ interactions within their social contexts while understanding the role of traumatic experiences.
    4. Develop intervention plans to accomplish systemic change.
    5. Work collaboratively with others to effect systemic change that is sustainable.
  •  Practice Competency 10

    Engage, assess, intervene, and evaluate with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. (Planned Change Model)

    Professional practice involves the dynamic and interactive processes of engagement, assessment, intervention, and evaluation at multiple levels. Social workers have the knowledge and skills to practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Practice knowledge includes identifying, analyzing, and implementing evidence-based interventions designed to achieve client goals; using research and technological advances; evaluating program outcomes and practice effectiveness; developing, analyzing, advocating, and providing leadership for policies and services; and promoting social and economic justice.

Engage, Assess, Intervene, and Evaluate

Planned Change Model

  •  Engagement

    Social workers:

    1. Engage effectively (prepare for action, use empathy, develop mutually agreed upon focus for work) with individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities.
    2. Develop culturally responsive therapeutic relationship.
    3. Attend to the interpersonal dynamics and contextual factors that both strengthen and potentially threaten the therapeutic alliance.
    4. Establish a relationship based process that encourages clients to be equal participants in the establishment of treatment goals and expected outcomes.
  •  Assessment

    Social workers:

    1. Assess through collection, organization and interpretation of data, assess strengths and limitations, and select appropriate intervention strategies with individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities.
    2. Use multidimensional bio-psycho-social-spiritual and trauma assessment tools.
    3. Asses clients’ readiness for change.
    4. Assess client’s coping strategies to reinforce and improve adaptation to life situations, circumstances, and events.
    5. Use differential and multi-axial diagnoses.
  •  Planning and Contracting

    Social workers:

    1. Effectively develop treatment goals with clients
    2. Identify, analyze and implement evidence based interventions designed to achieve client goals.
    3. Select and modify appropriate best practice intervention strategies based on continuous clinical assessment.
    4. Demonstrate sensitivity to trauma experiences and the role of trauma when implementing treatment plans, goals and objectives
    5. Implement prevention interventions that enhance client capacities.
  •  Intervention

    Social workers:

    1. Intervene through initiating actions to achieve goals, implementing prevention interventions that enhance client capacities, help clients resolve problems; negotiate, mediate and advocate for clients) with individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities.
    2. Help clients resolve problems
    3. Demonstrate the use of appropriate clinical techniques for a range of presenting concerns identified in the assessment, including crisis intervention strategies as needed and trauma focused as needed
    4. Collaborate with other professionals to coordinate treatment interventions
    5. Negotiate, mediate and advocate for clients
  •  Termination and Evaluation

    Social workers:

    1. Recognize and understand the psychological and social significance of separation and terminate services appropriately with clients.
    2. Use clinical evaluation of the process and outcomes to develop best practice interventions for a range of bio-psycho-social-spiritual conditions and traumatic experiences.
    3. Facilitate transitions and endings
    4. Contribute to the theoretical knowledge base of the social work profession through practice based research.
  •  Political Advocacy and Community Organization

    Social workers:

    1. Promote social and economic justice causes
    2. Engage in political processes that affect client well-being
    3. Understand how traumatic experiences can ignite the political process and affect policy and/or community changes.