The undergraduate social work program at UNH was already doing well when USA Today College and College Factual ranked it eighth in the country last year for top colleges at which to study social work. Besting its former position, the College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) program has now moved up to number seven.
Since 2011, UNH’s social work program has seen a steady increase in enrollment; this year, 46 students received bachelor’s degrees in social work compared to 22 undergraduates six years ago. When compiling their list, College Factual considers “low student-to-faculty ratios, high graduation rates and low student loan default rates,” according to a June 11 USA Today article.
“UNH’s social work program is one of the oldest in the country, and it was one of the first to be accredited,” says Martha Byam, clinical associate professor and coordinator of the undergraduate program, adding that it was accredited in 1974. “I think we’ve found a formula that works.”
But there is more to it than that. At UNH, students are required to complete 40 hours of volunteer service in addition to a 450-hour internship during their senior year. What’s more, the department has a strong relationship with state healthcare agencies as well as a solid advisory board, both of which add to the program’s continued betterment, Byam says.
That formula includes the only dual-degree adventure-based therapy program in the nation (available to undergraduate and graduate students), an emphasis on alternative treatment modalities, including equine-assisted mental health therapy and pet-assisted therapy, study abroad service programs in the Dominican Republic and Ireland and an online master’s degree program.
Earlier this month, 12 graduate and undergraduate social work majors spent 12 days in Ireland for the study abroad course Comparative Social Welfare Systems: Dublin, Republic of Ireland / Belfast, Northern Ireland. Trish Cox, clinical assistant professor and coordinator for the master's in social work program, and Will Lusenhop, clinical assistant professor, led the course that had students touring cultural and historic venues, including a visit to a child welfare agency in Belfast and meeting with the Ireland Association of Social Workers.
With job possibilities ranging from, among others, working in mental health facilities, hospitals, counseling centers, child welfare agencies and addiction and recovery facilities, the social work graduate has ample opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives.
“There seems to be an increased interest in people wanting to do good in the world, and maybe by the world,” Byam says.
According to USA Today, UNH’s social work program, which combines theory with practical experience, produces graduates who go on to earn an average starting salary of $41,000.
“Our social work team consists of highly experienced faculty and staff who are dedicated to our students’ educational success, including intensive field internships,” says CHHS dean Michael Ferrara. “As this program continues to grow and thrive, it will help UNH continue to address the workforce shortages in New Hampshire related to behavioral health.”