MRU launches Bachelor of Social Work degree as Albertans cope with pandemic challenges

(ANNews) – The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed cracks in our society as vulnerable populations face profound challenges involving health, grief, loss, finances, housing and child care.

In the midst of this upheaval, and as we mark World Social Work Day (March 16), Mount Royal University is excited to announce that the Government of Alberta has approved a four-year Bachelor of Social Work degree at MRU.

“The Faculty of Health, Community and Education encompasses a wide range of disciplines but at the heart of them all is a desire to help people, families and communities,” Dr. Stephen Price, PhD, dean of the Faculty of Health, Community and Education.

“Social work embodies this and it’s why we are so proud to bring this degree opportunity to our students and have our graduates work with and in communities where they may help.”

Community partners have shown they agree, stepping up to provide practicums to MRU social work students and recommending focuses within the degree to make sure it meets the needs of people and communities.

Mount Royal has been providing social work education for more than 60 years with a two-year social work diploma. The new degree was built in consultation with government, non-government organizations, a program advisory committee, alumni and students. Courses in social work practice, theory, policy, and research are grounded within contemporary theoretical frameworks, including decolonization, Indigenous ways of knowing, anti-oppressive practice, and strengths perspectives. The BSW will prepare students for practice with individuals, children and families, groups and communities in complex social settings.

“Social workers are essential workers and this pandemic above all else has demonstrated that social workers are positioned to help develop and strengthen connections between people. The BSW degree is something our employment community and our students have all asked for,” – Dr. Yasmin Dean, PhD., chair of the Department of Child Studies and Social Work at MRU.

Elder Roy Bear Chief of Siksika Nation graduated from Mount Royal with a social work diploma in 1994 and joined the MRU Child Studies and Social Work department in 2018 as Espoom taah (which is Blackfoot for  helper).

“The new degree is important because it allows Indigenous MRU social work students to easily transition into the BSW program,” Bear Chief says.

Applications are now open for MRU’s BSW program. (File photo)

“It’s about acclimating to an environment that is conducive to the feeling of being home since MRU is small enough to provide that small-town feeling. Some of the students come from various reserves and are already dealing with culture shock. Transitioning and providing an environment with a small-town feeling is already provided by MRU. You don’t want to disrupt the process of succeeding at MRU and this is part of the reason that I am excited about the new BSW program.”

MRU’s BSW, which has been awarded pre-accreditation status from the Canadian Association for Social Work Education, is unique in that it permits direct entry to a four-year degree program, an option that does not currently exist in Alberta. It will also be the first program in Alberta to offer a child intervention concentration, joining B.C. and Ontario that have similar specializations.

“Thousands of families a year are involved with child intervention in Alberta. Having social workers that are specifically trained to support this population, facing some of the most difficult challenges families can face, is a unique pathway and it’s one we know that there is a significant and ongoing need” said Dr. Peter Choate, PhD., program coordinator for social work at MRU.

In Fall 2021, the BSW will admit 35 students into the first year. Students possessing a completed Social Work diploma from Mount Royal University or from an accredited post-secondary institution within Alberta may apply through the post-diploma entrance option.

The BSW, which allows students to participate in practical learning right away, will build over four years to admit 60 students annually. Demand is high. Between 2015 and 2019, there were an average of 6.5 applicants for every one seat in the diploma program.

“Alberta’s always been this unusual mix of advantage and disadvantage and social work has some unique opportunities and obligations in this province. Having another perspective, the Mount Royal BSW perspective in social work education, is a tremendous accomplishment,” says Dr. Gaye Warthe, PhD., Associate Dean, Teaching and Learning, in the Faculty of Health, Community and Education.

“Mount Royal attracts so many non-traditional learners because of our small class sizes and our unique style of personalized learning. The learners we attract should have the opportunity to complete their education at Mount Royal where they started.”

Krista Andrews graduated from MRU in 2008 with the social work diploma and now supervises and provides support and leadership to a team of social workers.

“There is a saying amongst social workers that you don’t pick social work, social work picks you. I believe this is true for me,” said Andrews.

“Social justice, social action and community development are the foundation of what we do, and advocacy is sometimes the toughest and most fulfilling part of the role.”

Tim Hilton, a current MRU social work student, says many of the attributes of MRU as a whole also make it an excellent place to study social work.

“At MRU, the faculty know who you are,” says Hilton. “You’re not a number and you’re not another unfamiliar face. They believe in you, in your education and in your future.”

Applications for the Bachelor of Social Work Degree open on October 1, 2021. To apply visit


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