Social Work Department History

From 1960s Radicalism to 21st Century Social Justice Professionalism

swkhistoryheader4“To develop social work professionals for practice that promotes social justices and empowerment towards the well-being of people in a diverse and global society.”–The Augsburg College Department of Social Work Mission, Established 1999.”The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain…until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into common life.”The tradition of Augsburg College has always been ‘education for service.” It was a natural extension of this history for students in the 1960’s to be engaged in work in the community. The War on Poverty was in full swing; the demand for professionally educated social workers far exceeded the supply. To better prepare and encourage the increasing number of students interested in entering the social work profession and to ground them in the social service systems, the department of Sociology provided a few related social work courses.However, nationally, many entering the field at the baccalaureate level had no preparation in social work. The Council on Social Work Education recognized this gap, and in the late 1960’s announced a decision to accredit social work programs at the baccalaureate level. Dr. Joel Torstenson, long-time chair of the Sociology Department, gained the support of the College to initiate a social work program and to seek accreditation for it. In 1971, Dr. Paul Steen, who had had a long and distinguished career in the field, was recruited to plan, develop, and seek accreditation for a social work program.Anthony Wagner joined the faculty in the early 1970’s, assuming the directorship of the Social Work Program in 1976, to replace Dr. Steen who planned to retire. Mr. Wagner left the College shortly thereafter to pursue an opportunity in the field (Exec. Director of Pillsbury United where he is currently). Edwina Hertzberg came on board in 1977 to direct the Program and continue the process of initial accreditation. Douglas Perry, who had taught with the Program earlier through field placement, filled out the two-person social work faculty (with senior social work majors numbering 35 that year). In 1978, the Social Work Program became a separate department.At the same time, St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, had decided to develop a social work program. A joint program was developed with Augsburg, wherein Augsburg students had the opportunity to engage in rural social work through spending their junior spring semester at St. Olaf, while St. Olaf student spent their senior fall semester at Augsburg learning urban social work. (The Joint Program continued until 1991, after St. Olaf’s accreditation by the Council on Social Work Education, at which time St. Olaf decided not to continue the joint program.)Augsburg College was awarded initial accreditation for its Social Work Program in 1980. Immediately, the Academic Dean, Dr. Charles Anderson, began pressing for an MSW Program. Meanwhile, the Program faculty had grown to three full-time and one part-time person with another member added in 1980. Initial accreditation was reaffirmed in 1982, and affirmed in 1986 under the leadership of Maria Brown, Chair. Meanwhile, typical of the tenor of the 1980’s, the number of social work majors had severely reduced—never, however, in quality.When Augsburg’s Weekend College began in 1982, the Department of Social Work, recognizing the potential of students among otherwise employed adults, early included this route to social work education for Augsburg’s students. To meet the new challenge, additional faculty were added or a total of five full-time and just two part time members. For purposes of assuring continuity and quality, all faculty were expected to teach both in the day and weekend classes.Following reaccreditation in 1986, with the strong encouragement of President Charles Anderson, planning for the MSW Program began in earnest, under the chairpersonship of Mary Lou Williams. Application for candidacy was sought and in 1991, approval was granted by the Council on Social Work education or the enrollment of students in Fall 1991. Francine Chakolis agreed to direct the MSW Program. In that year, the Department grew to a total of nine full-time plus one part-time faculty.In 1992, the Academic Dean accepted the Department’s Program plan for a restructuring of its administration to a Department Chair and Program Directors of each of the programs (BSW and MSW). In the spring of that year, Dr. Rosemary Link was elected chair.The BSW continued to grow.  In the 1993-1994 academic year, BSW students numbered 130, two thirds of whom attended during the weekdays, one third on the weekends.

After a tough, detailed process of curriculum and organization building, accreditation for the MSW was awarded by the Council on Social Work Education in 1994, a moment as exhilarating as the process had been exhausting. Each year, approximately sixty students are admitted to the MSW Program. The BSW continued to grow in both WEC and Day programs. In the 1993-1994 academic year, BSW students numbered 130, two-thirds of whom attended during weekdays, one-third on weekends.

The Department faculty continued to grow to address the enlarged social work student population and to meet the professional standards of accreditation. In 1995, there were seventeen full-time and six adjunct faculty in the Augsburg Department of Social Work. Dr. Rosemary Link was re-elected chair in 1995, Dr. Anthony Bibus became BSW director and Dr. Clarice Staff became MSW Director, followed by Nancy Rodenborg (BSW 2000-2003), Lois Bosch (MSW 2000-present), and Karen Robards (BSW 2003 – 2005).

The staffing of the department also expanded: Janna Caywood replaced Patrick Clemens as MSW Program Administrator in 1993, who was later replaced by Holley Locher in 2006. The department hired its first Data Management Specialist in 1996, who later became the BSW Program Assistant Director in 2006. Pat Samuelson, Secretary, retired after eight years, and Amy Brallier became Department Secretary in October 1996. She was followed by Administrative Assistant Kelly Anders (1999-2003) Anne-Marie Kuiper (2003-2004) and Vinni Thongthi (2004 – 2006).

Preparations started in 1995 for the re-affirmation of the BSW Program and were successfully completed with the site visit in the fall of 1996. The BSW program was accredited until 2002 and had 150 majors in the 1996-1997 academic year. Preparation then began for the MSW re-affirmation of accreditation (as this was the initial full accreditation, it could not be combined with the BSW site visit, but in the future, the Department hoped to combine the re-affirmation process of both programs). The MSW site visit took place in the fall of 1998 and at its meeting in February 1999, the Council on Social Work education accredited the program until October 2006.

Dr. Glenda Dewberry Rooney was elected chair in the spring of 1997 and served until 1999. After a one-year period in 1999-2000 when Co-Chairs Terry Cook and Ed Skarnulis managed the Department, Tony Bibus was elected Chair for a three-year term and served three more terms until 2009. Nancy Rodenborg took over as chair in January 2010. Accreditation of both BSW and MSW Program was re-affirmed by CSWE until 2006 (MSW) and 2009 (BSW). The Dual Degree Program (MSW and Masters in Theology for Mission with Luther Seminary) is approved and the first students have graduated. Enrollment in the BSW Program has included about 60 majors plus half a dozen exchange students from Norway. The MSW enrollment has stabilized at about 110 after two years of declining enrollments. The MSW Program started a dual degree with the MBA Program in 2009. There are now over 800 graduates of Augsburg College Social Work Programs, approximately half MSW. At the beginning of the 2001-2002 academic year, there were 13 full-time faculty members in the Department, with one additional new faculty member who joined in January. In 2008, there were fifteen full time faculty members, twenty adjunct faculty members, and three full time staff positions, including Administrative Assistant Emily Cronk, who joined the Department in 2007. Currently, there are fifteen full time faculty members, twenty-seven adjunct faculty, BSW enrollments were up to 80 in the major. Erika McCreedy has since succeeded Emily Cronk as Administrative Assistant. The program has added a field assistant as support for field education.

Department Chairs since 1980:
Edwina Hertzberg 1980 – 1983
Maria Brown 1983 – 1986
Mary Lou Williams 1986 – 1992
Rosemary Link 1992 – 1997
Glenda Dewberry Rooney 1997 – 1999
Edward Skarnulis/Terry Cook 1999 – 2000
Anthony A. Bibus, III 2000 – 2009
Nancy Rodenborg 2009 – present