Please note: This is NOT the most current catalog.

Social Work
(SOCIAL work and family studies)

Director, 2007-08: Mary Carlsen (Social Work and Family Studies), social policy, professional ethics, cross-cultural practice

Faculty, 2007-08: Naurine Lennox (Social Work), social service systems and history, rural and community practice, research; Valerie Green (Social Work), practice, field education

St. Olaf students prepare for lives of service as responsible and knowledgeable citizens. Those who study social work are committed to enhancing human well-being and alleviating suffering. Social work, a program in the Department of Social Work and Family Studies, builds on students’ liberal education by enabling them critically to examine need, illumine inherent human strengths, reflect on their ethical conduct, and explore policies and programs that address social problems. The program mission is to prepare students ethically to serve diverse populations and promote a just global community. Completing a bachelor of arts degree in social work prepares students for beginning generalist professional practice with diverse clients, both rural and urban. The Council on Social Work Education accredited the program in 1990; graduates meet requirements for the licensure examination at the baccalaureate level.

Courses meet WRI, MCS-G, HBS, and ORC and are appropriate for students who are interested in social welfare, the Peace Corps, Americorps, Lutheran Volunteer Corps, or related areas like family studies, education, church work, and human resources. Level 300 courses are reserved for majors.

Students considering social work graduate school are strongly encouraged to consult faculty about appropriate undergraduate courses. The program also provides preparation for graduate study in marriage and family counseling, non-profit management, social policy, ministry, special education, law, and related fields.


Social work education builds on the liberal arts with professional foundation courses. It prepares, for generalist practice, students who understand scientific approaches to knowledge building and practice, are reflective of and responsible for their own ethical conduct, and are committed to lives of service and leadership in the global community. Courses are sequential, culminating with the 400-hour field practicum and capstone course with a project. Students gain experience with individuals, groups, families, organizations, and communities in settings as diverse as child welfare, health, and corrections. Practicums are in the nearby communities; placement elsewhere can be arranged with advance preparation.


Those interested in the major should contact the program director in their first year or as early as possible. Students in good standing at the college who have satisfactorily completed prerequisite courses and Social Work 221 are eligible to apply for admission to the program. Students are granted major status only after satisfactory completion of Social Work 221, 246, 254, and a program application. Students must achieve a grade of C or better in all prerequisite and required courses to progress in the program. Details are specified in the Program Manual available from faculty.

Prerequisite Courses Required for the Major

Sociology 121, Psychology 125 and 241, and Biology 123 or 243.

Foundation Social Work Courses Required for the Major

221, 246, 254, 258, 261, 274, 373, 380, and 381. Students must be admitted to the social work program and in good academic standing to register for all 300-level courses. A field practicum of at least 400 clock hours (Social Work 380 block practicum), professionally supervised in an affiliated agency, is required during fall semester of the senior year. Social Work 373 and 380 together constitute a full semester’s work (3.5 credits). Field practicum experience may be completed while living on or off campus. Statistics is strongly recommended, especially for students who anticipate graduate study.


The program actively seeks and encourages students from diverse backgrounds to consider a social work major and provides one-to-one advising.

First- and second-year students interested in social work are encouraged to submit an Interest Inventory. It is in the Program Manual, available from program faculty, and on the program website. The program application, admission requirements, requirements to remain in good standing in the program, processes for petitioning reinstatement, and grievance procedures for redress of any adverse decision are also in the Manual. The program does not discriminate against any student on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, culture, class, religion, national origin, age, physical or mental ability, sexual orientation, public assistance status, or geographic location. Students are formally notified in writing of admission to the program by mid-December of the junior year.

Students who transfer to St. Olaf at or before the beginning of the junior (third) year may be considered for admission to the program, provided they have completed equivalent prerequisite courses in sociology, psychology, and human biology. Field practicum and methods courses must be completed while enrolled at St. Olaf. No credit or waiver is given for previous internship, work, or life experience.


The St. Olaf Social Work Program encourages student participation in off-campus programs, both domestic and international. Majors can conveniently schedule an Interim abroad, including Social Work 256: Family Social Services in Central Mexico and Family Studies 263: Indigenous Cultures of Australia. To participate in a semester program off-campus (e.g., HECUA in South America, ACM Chicago Urban Studies, Tanzania, Namibia, or Mexico) and complete the program requirements in four years, students must plan early and carefully with the help of social work faculty. St. Olaf co-sponsors Social Work in a Latin American Context (Mexico) for social work majors in the spring semester of the junior year which fulfills major requirements.

Students often count social work courses for other interdisciplinary majors and concentrations including family studies, American racial and multicultural studies, biomedical studies, and women’s studies. Social work majors are eligible for student-rate membership in the National Association of Social Workers and to receive its publications.

Social work faculty occasionally supervise students doing independent work in social welfare and social service. Completing the social work major is possible only through the regular college, however.


120 I Want to Help People

Students explore service to human beings as a profession, a vocation, and a volunteer commitment. Who needs help? Who helps? Where? How? What motivates people to help? Using the liberal arts as a foundation for helping people, students study career opportunities in areas such as health care, social services, ministry, youth work, and the arts. The class includes lectures, discussions, speakers, and field visits; additional fee. Offered during Interim.

221 Social Work and Social Welfare

Students study the progression of the U.S. social welfare system from English Poor Laws and the Social Security Act to contemporary reforms and how its components (public, private, faith-based) interrelate to serve diverse populations in cities and small towns. The development of social work, its values and knowledge and its relationship to fields of social welfare are included. Students shadow a social worker for eight hours. Offered Fall Semester.

246 Human Behavior in the Social Environment

Humans relate to one another in couples, families, groups, organizations and communities. Through social systems theory, ethics and a strengths perspective, students apply prerequisite and advanced theoretical research material from biology, sociology, and psychology to assess situations encountered by social workers. Diverse examples are drawn from literature -- Love in the Driest Season, The Color of Water, A Poison Stronger than Love -- and from students' autobiographies. Prerequisites: Sociology 121, Psychology 241, and Biology 123 or 243; open to non-majors by permission of program director only. Offered Fall Semester.

254 Inclusive Practice: Individuals and Families

Social work majors study the "how-to" of social work practice, particularly intercultural communication. They describe strengths and problems of diverse individuals and families; frame goals and plans for change utilizing the planned change process and the systems perspective; and use ethical decision-making, informed by the scientific method, grounded in the liberal arts, and concerned with social justice. Students demonstrate learning in videotaped role playing and have an agency interviewing experience. Prerequisites: Social Work 221 and concurrent enrollment in Social Work 246. Offered Fall Semester.

256 Family Social Services in Central Mexico (abroad)

Families in central Mexico survive and thrive in their communities. Students explore how public and private organizations work with informal systems to assist those challenged by poverty, injustice, poor health, addictions and global economic pressures. Development opportunities for, and contributions of, women are emphasized. Speakers, site visits to agencies and programs, home-stays, indigenous village immersion, and an orientation to Mexico City are included. Offered during Interim 2007 and in alternate years.

258 Social Policy

Immigration policy and welfare reform exemplify how society's values and needs translate into policies and programs. Social workers work for justice by creating, implementing and evaluating policies in health, employment, housing and child welfare. Students study policy formation and analysis that reflect interests and powers of diverse groups as well as economic and social needs of certain populations at risk, especially women, the poor, African-Americans, gay men and lesbians and Latinos. Open to non-majors by permission of program director. Offered Spring Semester.

261 Inclusive Practice: Groups, Organizations and Communities

Social work majors continue the "how-to" of generalist practice. They assess strengths and problems of diverse groups, organizations and communities and use the systems perspective to help client systems frame goals and plans for social change. Students scientifically assess macrosystems and develop plans for implementing change that are reflective, scientific, just, and grounded in the liberal arts. Prerequisite: Social Work 254. Offered Spring Semester.

274 Evaluation of Social Work Practice and Programs

Social work majors study scientific approaches to building knowledge for generalist practice and assessing effectiveness and efficiency of both individual practice and social service programs. Students learn to assess needs and progress, design case interventions, measure client satisfaction and assess program outcomes. They evaluate elements of practice with diverse clients and portions of programs with which they are familiar and apply ethical standards to scientific inquiry. Open to family studies majors and others by permission of program director. Offered Spring Semester.

294 Internship

298 Independent Study

373 Culturally Competent Practice

This course immediately precedes the Field Practicum (Social Work 380). Students integrate principles and skills of culturally competent assessment, planning, intervention, and evaluation diverse clients - micro, mezzo, and macro. They roleplay diverse practive situations and articulate implications of social policy for cross-cultural practice. Brief immersion opportunities in diverse communities are included. Prerequisite: Social Work 261. Offered in September each year, for majors only; additional fee.

380 Field Practicum (2.5 credits)

In this "real world" experience, social work majors complete at least 400 hours in a rural or urban agency with structured learning about generalist practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities from diverse backgrounds. Students engage in professional responsibilities with careful guidance and supervision from the field instructor and the field coordinator. Students periodically attend a seminar to integrate classroom learning, share experiences and obtain support. Prerequisite: Majors who have satisfactorily completed all foundation and required courses with numbers below 380. Offered Fall Semester.

381 The Social Worker as Professional

This capstone course is for senior majors. Students complete a project commonly assigned to a beginning level generalist social worker. Weekly seminars introduce auxiliary skills and knowledge for beginning workers. Students discuss current social work issues and provide peer assistance with projects. Evaluation includes: a report of project results; analysis of decision-making in relation to theory, scientific findings, diversity, and ethics; and assessment of demonstrated mastery of program objectives. Prerequisite: Social work majors who have satisfactorily completed Social Work 380. Offered Spring Semester.

396 Directed Undergraduate Research: "Topic Description"

This course provides a comprehensive research opportunity, including an introduction to relevant background material, technical instruction, identification of a meaningful project, and data collection. The topic is determined by the faculty member in charge of the course and may relate to his/her research interests. Prerequisite: Determined by individual instructor. Offer based on department decision.

398 Academic Internship

398 Independent Research