Program lauded for graduation rates, faculty-to-student ratios and more

Monday, August 15, 2016

Pettee Hall at UNH
Pettee Hall at UNH, home of the department of social work

The university’s social work program in the College of Health and Human Services has long attracted top students and faculty. But now, it’s getting some national recognition — USA Today and College Factual recently named the University of New Hampshire as one of the top 10 U.S. colleges at which to study social work.

UNH ranked eighth overall, with USA Today and College Factual calling attention to the social work program’s unique blend of “coursework and practical experience in the form of a senior internship.” To earn a place in the rankings, institutions needed to have “low student-to-faculty ratios, high graduation rates and low student loan default rates,” according to the article.

Patrick Shannon

Patrick Shannon is associate 
professor and chair of the 
department of social work at 

That UNH is listed alongside top social work schools like University of California-Berkeley, Rutgers University and Fordham University isn’t a surprise to associate professor and department chair Patrick Shannon. A strong partnership with state healthcare agencies, an emphasis on online education, and a focus on alternative treatment modalities have all helped put UNH on the map.

Patrick Shannon says the social work program is growing rapidly. Program innovations include:

  • a fully online graduate degree program, as well as a number of online courses for undergraduates.
  • the only dual-degree adventure-based therapy program in the country. The program is available for both undergraduate and graduate students; at the undergraduate level, students graduate with bachelor’s degrees in social work and outdoor education. “It’s really incredible, and it’s being done in a way nobody else is doing on this level,” Shannon says.
  • an emphasis on alternative treatment modalities, including equine-assisted mental health therapy and pet-assisted therapy. The program also partners with the university’s Institute on Disability and other departments to provide opportunities for students.
  • an array of study abroad programs, including service trips to the Dominican Republic and Ireland.

“Word is out there that we’re a rigorous program,” Shannon says. “Now, we’re getting nationally and internationally known.”

According to the USA Today rankings, graduates of the UNH social work program earn an average starting salary of $41,000 a year.

Those job opportunities are often the result of the department’s relationship with New Hampshire healthcare agencies and nonprofits, Shannon says. Undergraduate seniors participate in internships with agencies in the state Department of Health and Human Services and nonprofits like Child and Family Services.

“It’s been a really good working relationship,” Shannon says, adding that the partnerships strengthen the university’s ties with local communities, the state and the region. “We’re very involved in these initiatives that benefit the agencies, benefit the people who need services and benefit our students. They’re right in the middle of it all.”

For more on the rankings, see USA Today’s website.

social work students at UNH

Grad gravitas

The UNH social work program's online MSW was named one of the 20 best online social work degree programs by the Center for Online Education.

See listing