BPD Update Online, Spring 2004
President's Report
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Anita Curry-Jackson, Ph.D., President, BPD

President's Report
Anita Curry-Jackson


"Thinking outside the box." Those are the words that led to major changes to social work curricula at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The collaborative partnership between the John A. Hartford Foundation and the Council on Social Work Education Strengthening Aging and Gerontology Education in Social Work (SAGE-SW) supported a major initiative to improve the aging curricula content in social work higher education.

The impetus for the initiative was twofold. One, demographic data indicate that the population of older adults will increase significantly over the next ten years. And, the number of persons, in the older age categories (75+ and 85+), are increasing dramatically. Two, as the aging population increases, the demand for professionals with competencies to work with older adults exceeds the capacity and interest of those in the helping fields. This shortage is even more pronounced in the profession of social work and is well documented by Damron-Rodriquez and Lubben (1997). They report only 10 percent of all social work students take a gerontology course and three-fourths of all MSW programs have no faculty identified with aging. This shortage of "gerontology competent" social workers as well as the inadequate attention and resources within social work higher education related to older adults is being addressed by social work programs across the United States through the Geriatric Social Work Initiative.

The Geriatric Social Work Initiative is funded by the John A. Hartford Foundation. It is important to acknowledge Laura Robbins who was the foundation's Senior Program Officer and the great champion for social work higher education and the Geriatric Social Work Initiative. Her tenacity and commitment to older adults led to a comprehensive and proactive approach to preparing social workers for an aging population. The Geriatric Social Work Initiative included the following - Faculty Scholars Program, Doctoral Fellow Program, Practicum Partnership Program, Faculty Development Program, and Geriatric Enrichment Program.

The Geriatric Enrichment Program and the Faculty Development Program have had the most significant impact on undergraduate social work education. The Geriatric Enrichment Program funded 67 social work programs across the United States with approximately 36 undergraduate social work programs receiving $60,000 each to transform their curricula. The goal was to assure that all social work graduates regardless of their chosen field of practice were knowledgeable about the aging population and possessed the minimum competencies for working effectively with older adults. Thus, the focus was on the transformation of the curricula to include adequate content on older adults. Although the funding for the Geriatric Enrichment Program ends June 30, 2004, the transformed curricula and the curricular revision processes have been institutionalized and will be sustained.

The Faculty Development Program provided another opportunity for undergraduate social work faculty to develop and hone their teaching competencies related to older adults. The faculty development institutes assisted with teaching resource materials, teaching strategies, and networking and collaborating opportunities among participants.

Both of these programs have assisted undergraduate social work programs to stay current with the aging population and to prepare "aging-savvy social workers". This issue of Pedagogy highlights the Geriatric Social Work Initiative and the achievements of undergraduate social work programs.

Anita Curry-Jackson, Ph.D. President,
Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors

Click here to send an email message to Anita Curry-Jackson

An interview with Mit Joyner is on the next page...

Spiral, Horizontal Line Spinning

BPD Update Online, Volume 26, No. 2, Spring 2004

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