|By Alicia Smith '12
In May, Limestone College officially established a chapter of Phi Alpha, the social work honor society, on its campus, and inducted its first charter members.
With an 85% graduation rate, Limestone College has the largest Bachelor's of Social Work (BSW) program in the state of South Carolina.
The students inaugurated into Limestone's Rho Iota chapter of Phi Alpha academic group were
Sharon Tiralosi, President; Greenville, SC
Sheila Jordan, Secretary; Greenville, SC
Michael Davis; Columbia, SC
Stacie M. Eison; Union, SC
Felicia Fritz; Muncie, IN
Meika Jones; Gaffney, SC
Kaytina Lary; Kings Mountain, NC
Addie McCafferty; Columbia, SC
Anitra W. Mims; Spartanburg, SC
Amber-Monique Morris; Gastonia, NC
Professor Penni Griffin, Assistant Professor of Social Work and Social Work Advisor to Limestone's Program for Alternative Learning Styles, was also inducted into the association. Under Griffin's leadership as former Associate Dean/Director of Social Work at Limestone, the program grew from 28 students to 400 students statewide by the time she retired from that position.
Griffin led the program through its first two Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accreditation attempts with success across the board. She has worked tirelessly to help Social Work students achieve success financially by starting her own scholarship fund and by managing scholarships for the program. Academically she helped to raise the bar by implementing a continuous training program for Social Work instructors at monthly meetings.
Griffin continues to this day in helping me to insure that we not only maintain the standards required by CSWE as a program but perform well above the acceptable standard.
Phi Alpha, a national, student-led honor society for social work majors, was conceptualized in 1960 by a group of undergraduates at Michigan State University. Their purpose was to start an organization that promoted the goals and ideals of humanitarianism and set higher standards for social workers. Today, there are over 380 chapters of Phi Alpha across the United States and Ontario, Canada.
To become a member of Phi Alpha, students are required to have a minimum 3.5 grade point average in their required social work classes and be of a junior status, completing at least 60 credit hours total and a minimum of 15 hours of the mandatory social work courses. New members will be inducted into the honor society each semester.
One of the benefits of becoming a member of this organization is that the students are provided opportunities to gain practical and meaningful experience in community outreach. Dr. Chuck Kuhn, Phi Alpha advisor and Associate Professor of Social Work at Limestone, explains that "the Rho Iota Chapter... carries out a variety of community service projects across the state at the eight locations where social work is offered. These include gathering food for the local food pantry, clothing and coat drives, collecting books for libraries, and constructing playground equipment at domestic violence shelters."
With an 85% graduation rate, Limestone College has the largest Bachelor's of Social Work (BSW) program in the state of South Carolina. Students who are enrolled in the program are given the chance to participate in various internships, become a part of the Student Social Organization, complete volunteer work with several community projects, and conduct professional shadowing with community organizations.
Limestone's program, which began in 1985, is often recognized for its continuous support of its students upon graduating, earning it one of the largest social work alumni groups at a BSW level in South Carolina. Led by the knowledge they have garnered over their years here at Limestone, many graduates have gone on to careers working with hospitals, family services, hospice services and the Department of Social Services.
Jackie Puckett, Associate Dean and Director of Social Work at Limestone, believes that the reason the social work program is so popular is because students "like the idea of doing a job that allows them to directly help others while building a good life for themselves" and find it nice "to be able to get employment with your degree right out of school."
Puckett also hopes that students who are interested in going into the field realize how much of an emotional commitment being a social worker truly is. "You do not have to like everyone, but you are required to love and respect everyone that you meet. Those that understand the differences in these terms will probably be good Social Work material."