A joint program of SUNY College at Brockport and Nazareth College of Rochester is extending the schools' reach into the North Country.
A master's in social work program offered by the two colleges is being provided at Jefferson Community College in Watertown.
It brings the two local colleges to a new audience, fills an unmet need in the North Country, follows through on SUNY's plans to create better collaboration across the state school system and gives a new option for students, said Douglas Scheidt, dean of the School of Education and Human Services at SUNY Brockport.
"SUNY has a mandate for serving the entire state, and Watertown is an underserved area in need of an MSW program," Scheidt said. "Meeting that need is important, and it's great that it can come through such an innovative public-private partnership."
Nazareth president Daan Braveman said he believes the program is the only one in the state offered between four-year public and private institutions. The Greater Rochester Collaborative Master of Social Work has been offered since 2000 out of SUNY Brockport's campus center in Rochester.
JCC had an undergraduate degree in social work that was offered through Keuka College, but officials realized graduating students had no local option for earning a master's degree.
Officials from Nazareth and SUNY Brockport were approached by the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization about setting up the master's in social work program in Jefferson County.
JCC president Carole McCoy said the program offers a more complete educational slate for local students, allowing them to stay in the region to complete their master's degree.
"We can now provide a complete educational pathway for those just starting out as well as for seasoned professionals in the human services field," she said.
The program will help meet a shortage of mental health professionals in the area, Braveman added.
"There's a real need for people who are trained in mental and behavioral health in that area," he said.
The program will have two branches. The first, a 36-credit program, is for advanced standing students who have an undergraduate degree in social work. It will begin this fall 2013 and is expected to draw 15 to 22 students in the first year.
A second cohort starting in fall 2014 will open the program to students without an undergraduate degree. It is to be a 60-credit program.
Program officials envision 60 students total in the program by fall 2014.
They praise the program for setting a standard in public-private partnerships.
"This is a terrific example of how public institutions of higher education can and should team with each other, and with our colleagues at private institutions, to leverage our collective strengths in an effort to bolster the communities we serve," said John Halstead, SUNY Brockport president.
For Braveman, the interdisciplinary nature of the program represents the future of the health and human services industry. In recent years Nazareth has placed more emphasis on service in the allied health fields, including occupational therapy, nursing and art, and music therapy.
Braveman noted the Finger Lakes Health System Agency recently secured a large grant from the federal government to encourage the creation of a care coordinator, a person in a primary care setting who unifies different care settings in the best interests of a patient.
Though the MSW program at JCC does not directly create this position, it does address its spirit, he said.
"In JCC the program is creating professionals who can work in broader health and mental health fields," Braveman said.
"As I look down the road I see a real connection between social work and health and human services, and this program helps create that connection."
For Scheidt, the program also addresses a statewide call to create what SUNY chancellor Nancy Zimpher called "system-ness."
"The idea is that, as a system, we have so much to offer that's synergistic with other partners," he said. "This is a great example of that. It's offering a joint SUNY-Nazareth curriculum on another SUNY campus that is a benefit to an entire underserved region."
Partnerships are easier when they are built on existing relationships, which has been the case with the Nazareth-SUNY Brockport social work degree, Scheidt added.
"So often you're looking for where the opportunities are to partner," he said. "Well, this one came to us."
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