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    CSUF’s Master of Social Work programs get almost $10 million boost
    • July 7, 2023

    Cal State Fullerton’s Master of Social Work program is already making an impact in preparing the next generation of social workers, clinicians and behavioral health practitioners to serve the Orange County community.

    But after recently being awarded nearly $10 million in grants, MSW at CSUF will be uniquely positioned to provide even more support in the area of mental health in a post-pandemic reality.

    With the receipt of a $4.75 million grant from the California Department of Health Care Access and Information, CSUF will look to expand the capacity of its MSW program through the Master of Social Work Expansion Project.

    The first of several initiatives slated for these funds will allow for an increase in enrollment in the MSW program by approximately 15 to 20 students each year over the next three years.

    Additionally, the grant allows for the development of a Latinx Certificate Program that formalizes training and fieldwork experience with the Latinx population. As a part of this program, funding will be available for a study-abroad component in which students will be able to practice their skills and interact with local communities in a Spanish-speaking country.

    “The bilingual and bicultural clinicians that our program would be producing will be better prepared in serving the Latinx population when they enter the job market,” said CSUF Department of Social Work chair, Mikyong Kim-Goh.

    Mikyong Kim-Goh, chair of the CSUF Department of Social Work (Courtesy of CSUF News Media Services)

    Another component this grant will support is the creation of the Pupil Personnel Service credential specifically for those MSW students interested in working in a school-based setting as a social worker.

    The final area in development with these grant funds is the designation of advance standing. This will allow the CSUF MSW program to admit students with bachelor’s degrees in social work from accredited programs and provide them the opportunity to expedite their timeline for completion of the MSW degree from two years to approximately 12 months.

    The second grant awarded to CSUF’s MSW program is $5 million from CalOptima to help establish the OC Behavioral Health MSW Stipend Program. Each year over the next five years, a group of MSW students will be selected to receive a stipend that can be applied to tuition, living expenses, textbooks and supplies.

    “The stipend is going to help a great deal, just given that a lot of our students are working while they are completing this MSW program, which is very, very difficult to do,” Kim-Goh said. “This is going to relieve a lot of financial barriers and ultimately benefits the Orange County region because most of our graduates stay in this area to become part of that behavioral health workforce in the county.”

    Coming out of the pandemic, the need for mental health services has become more crucial than ever, and compounding the issue is a shortage of trained professionals to help meet those needs. Kim-Goh said that specifically in the public sector, recruitment and retention of social workers is becoming increasingly difficult, with the OC Health Care Agency reporting a nearly 25% vacancy rate for these positions. She believes CSUF’s receipt of the grant funding will not only allow for program growth but will help add qualified individuals in this field.

    “With our program expanding, and also producing bilingual and bicultural practitioners, once they graduate from the MSW program, it’s a way to at least partially address the workforce shortage issues in Orange County,” Kim-Goh said.

    Established in 2007, CSUF’s MSW program remains the only one of its kind in Orange County offered through a public university. A program with a highly competitive selection process, there are currently approximately 250 students enrolled in the full-time and part-time degree paths.

    “In terms of affordability, I think we are providing this excellent curriculum and education,” Kim-Goh said. “We have a top-notch faculty, but at a price that’s incomparable.”

    An additional aspect of CSUF’s MSW program that sets it apart is that more than half of the Titans currently enrolled are of Latinx heritage, with 15-20% coming from Asian Pacific Islander backgrounds. This means nearly three-quarters of the MSW students are from communities of color, a direct reflection of the Orange County population they are training to serve.

    “Orange County demographics have been changing a lot in the last 20 years or so, and we really need the clinicians, the social workers and behavioral health practitioners who have those cultural and linguistic skills to be able to communicate and provide services and meet the needs of those communities,” Kim-Goh said. “I’m very proud of what we have done, and I think we have a top-notch program.”

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    ​ Orange County Register