Faith-based college offering an alternative to U of M’s BSW program

Booth University College’s social work program measures up despite lack of accreditation

Booth University College offers aspiring social workers an alternative, faith-based education to the accredited program at U of M. Cindy Titus

Students entering a social work program in Winnipeg may be surprised to learn that the University of Manitoba’s (U of M) program is not their only option.

Charlene Epp had never considered going back to school when she was let go from her position of 20 years with Manitoba Housing. But after having lunch with a friend, she decided that social work was something she wanted to try, and within a week she was registered for the program at Booth University College.

“I wouldn’t have minded going to U of M – one reason that I didn’t is because of the physical distance of the campus and, also, I was intrigued by Booth,” said Epp, who is excited to be graduating in April 2011. “I wanted a faith-based education – it’s something that is important to me.”

Students in all programs at Booth are required to take 12 credit hours of religious studies, three of which are in world religion.

Aside from faith-based learning, the curriculum for Booth’s Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program is standard.

The program is not accredited. But, according to the Manitoba Association of Social Workers, graduates from both the U of M’s BSW program and Booth’s BSW program are recognized and can apply to become registered social workers within the province.

“It’s not a matter of the quality of the course, but the quantity of students attending the college,” said Bonnie Bryant, director of the social work program at Booth, explaining that to be accredited there needs to be a minimum of 500 students enrolled – more than the college has space for.

Bryant believes that by having faith-based learning in smaller class sizes, the program is able to build a strong and supportive community for its students and focus closely on practicing clinical development.

The U of M’s faculty of social work was established in 1943 and offers a bachelor of social work (BSW) program as well as pre-master’s, master’s and PhD programs in social work.

I was intrigued by Booth. I wanted a faith-based education – it’s something that is important to me.

Charlene Epp, second-year student, Booth University College social work program

The only social work program available through Booth is the BSW.

“Our bachelor of social work program prepares people for entry level in any social work position, we are the only program in Manitoba accredited by the Canadian Association of Schools of Social Work,” said Kim Clare, associate dean and chair of the social work program at the U of M.

Clare feels that being in an accredited program helps students to feel secure in the courses they are taking.

“It’s like having a verified cheque in hand – it’s perceived as a legitimate bachelor of social work across Canada and is a transferable degree to the United States,” she said, noting that the program is also recognized by the Council on Post-Secondary Education in the U.S.

For students within the province, being in an accredited program does not necessarily have more pull than a non-accredited program. 

For Epp, the community built within Booth’s program – knowing all her fellow students and instructors on a first-name basis – supported her through the transition of beginning a new career.

“I feel really prepared going into the field from Booth,” she said.

Published in Volume 65, Number 12 of The Uniter (November 18, 2010)

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