By Angelica Sisson
The National Catholic School of Social Service at Catholic University has been ranked the top Catholic social work school in the country by The Social Work Degree Guide. Additionally, the school was ranked the number two Christian Social Work School behind Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky.
The Social Work Degree Guide has five main parameters for judging: average tuition, return on investment, student-to-faculty ratio, accreditation, and religious coursework.
The mission of the School of Social Service is grounded in Catholic teachings to “educate students from diverse faiths and cultures who in their professional endeavors will embody the values of social justice, service, and scholarship,” according to the School of Social Service website. “This mission is grounded in the justice and charity foundation of Catholic social teachings and the tradition of a modern university that welcomes all forms of human inquiry.”
“NCSSS helps me fall in love with social work every day,” sophomore social work major Roisin Gibbons said. “The faculty are all amazing and they are determined to help us succeed in our time here. I have a personal connection with all of my teachers and even with professors I haven’t had yet.”
There is more of an emphasis at the School of Social Work to attract Catholic applicants, said Marie Raber, the Associate Dean who has worked here for 26 years. While not all the students are Catholic, there is an overlap between Catholic social issues and social work that does attract many Catholic students. Raber thinks people are coming because of the renewed emphasis that the school puts on the teachings of the Catholic Church, which is evident in the release of these new rankings.
Social Service Dean, Will Rainford, has also established a Dean’s Council of two bishops, two heads of Catholic charities, and graduates of the School of Social Work that now run Catholic charities. The Council is meant to serve as a resource on attracting more Catholic applicants to the school.
“I entered into NCSSS as a sophomore and have seen great changes since I first entered,” Elizabeth Barry, senior social work major said. “We have more of a community among the Bachelor in Social Work (BSW) students, which has been fueled by great monthly BSW student meetings, NCSSS Open House, and community service together.”
Raber, along with the School of Social Work Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, Aileen Worrell, said that the school has grown in multiple ways over the past few years. The school annually hosts a mass at the St. Vincent de Paul Chapel to celebrate the patron saint of social work, Saint Louise de Marillac. This past year had over one hundred and fifty people in attendance, the highest turnout yet.
“I have also seen a great change in research opportunities for undergrads,” Barry said. “More undergrads are now able to work in research positions within NCSSS which gives them hands on experience with our professors. I think the greatest change since my beginning in NCSSS has been the opportunities available to students.”
Barry took advantage of one of those opportunities last week when she and another senior social work major, Kaitlyn Feeley, went to Dallas, Texas, with Rainford and two other School of Social Service faculty members in order to attend the Baccalaureate Program Directors Conference. Feeley and Barry appeared at the conference, and talked with students and faculty from social work schools across the nation.
Rainford, who has been Dean since 2013, has sought to make the school more visible. The School of Social Work seeks to partner with Catholic charities, and now hosts an open house every year. A new scholarship program has also been instituted: The Pope Francis Scholars Program. Students may be nominated to be a Pope Francis Scholar by a member of the Catholic clergy or laity.
“We are thrilled and proud to be so highly ranked by the Social Work Degree Guide,” Rainford said in an article by Catholic University’s Office of Public Affairs. “Our mission is grounded in the justice and charity foundation of Catholic social teachings and in the tradition of a modern university that welcomes all forms of human inquiry.”