The first graduates of an Access US program in the Garden City area will be recognized at a social sponsored by Fort Hays State University's Department of Sociology and Social Work from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 16, in the Endowment Room of the Student Center on the campus of Garden City Community College.
Twelve students are in this first "cohort," said Kendal Carswell, assistant professor of social work at FHSU, who is the academic advisor and instructor for the social work classes on the GCCC campus.
"I am extremely proud of them," he said. "They have put in a lot of work, and I'm just extremely excited about seeing the fruits of our labors."
Ten of the students will graduate in December 2009 and two in May 2010, each with a Bachelor of Social Work degree.
The program began in January 2007 under the auspices of the Access University Systems Program, Access US, for short, which was created by the Kansas Board of Regents to help students complete a bachelor's degree close to home. GCCC is a partner with FHSU under Access US/.
"Access US provided scholarship funds to make this possible," said Carswell. He and an adjunct teach all the social work classes face to face. The students come from the Garden City-Liberal-Dodge City-Turpin, Okla., area. The classes are considered virtual classes.
"All the students are non-trads," said Carswell, using the short form for non-traditional students.
Carswell said that a second cohort will begin in January 2010 with 14 students. The social work program in the Access US program is three years. Each cohort, he said, is a closed unit because social work classes, being practice oriented, have to be sequential. They have to proceed in order because each class builds on the previous class, even though the students are on varying schedules in the required non-social work classes (called cognates) and general education classes.
"They took the majority of the cognate classes and all the social work classes through Fort Hays State," said Carswell, but students can start with an associate's degree and mix classes from community colleges. Ideally, he said, everyone would start as a junior
and work through the last two years of a four-year degree, but this almost never happens in practice, which is why a cohort is a three-year commitment.
The final semester is 480 hours working in the field, a requirement of the Council on Social Work Education, the accrediting agency. Some students get paid positions and others unpaid.
The second cohort is set to begin, and a third could begin in the fall of 2012, said Carswell, if the funding is available.
The social will be a celebration. "We're doing a deli buffet so they can build their own sandwiches, plus a couple of salads," he said. "And then, of course, there's dessert, too."
The social is not open to the public. About 40 people are expected -- students, faculty and university and GCCC personnel, including Martha Hinojosa, director of FHSU's Higher Education Opportunity Center In Garden City.
Students in the first cohort are listed by hometown:
DEERFIELD: Teresa Beaudry.
DODGE CITY: Frances Waldren.
GARDEN CITY: Sylvia Arias; Christie Connell; Kathy Frick; Kelly Houser; Lissa Mesa; Tammy Murillo; Jana Shadrick; Becky Thomas; LeAnn Woods.
TURPIN, Okla.: Cheryl Trayler.