MSW Spotlight: Q&A with Craig Stanley

Craig Stanley, Ph., Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
Craig Stanley, Ph., Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

“The FSU online MSW program has provided a pathway for many working professionals to realize their full potential. Our graduates routinely become leaders in their areas of practice. To me, it is very gratifying to be associated with a high quality online degree program that allows people to achieve their goals and aspirations.” - Craig Stanley, Ph., Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

Q: Thanks for talking with us, Craig. Tell me about your role at FSU’s College of Social Work.

Craig Stanley, Ph.D.: Currently, I serve as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. I have been in this role for about two and a half years. I am responsible for oversight of the operations for the College’s academic programs to include our BSW, online MSW, and PhD programs as well as our Certificate Programs. I also teach classes for undergraduate and graduate students.

Q: Why did you decide to take the program online?

A: In Fall 2003, we were the first Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited program to gain approval for an Online MSW Program. Janet Berry, the director of distance learning programs, had been running off-campus programs that required students to meet at off-site locations throughout Florida to participate in their courses on a weekend format. These programs still did not provide a great amount of access for students who did not live close to one of our off-campus sites.

As internet technology improved, Janet pushed for an online MSW program in order to provide greater access to a high-quality MSW Program for Florida residents. She then expanded to areas outside of Florida to provide access to several rural areas that were underserved by MSW programs. In the beginning, we served very rural areas.

When I took over as the distance learning programs director in 2006, I realized that there was an opportunity to grow...I also realized that students who lived in more densely populated areas had commitments and obligations that made attending our campus-based programs difficult if not impossible. Building on Janet’s vision of providing access, we expanded our areas of coverage in order to improve access and grow enrollments.

Q: Who does your program serve?

A: We serve a population of students who find the flexibility of a high-quality, clinically focused, online MSW program attractive. These students are usually people who have family and/or work commitments that make it difficult to participate in a campus-based program that requires attendance on certain days and times.

Many of our students are already working in the field of social work. For them, achieving the MSW will help them to develop advanced knowledge and skills that will help them to better serve clients and move their career forward.

Quite a few students are pursuing a career change that will allow them to transition to a profession where they can provide clinical social work services to help families, groups, and individuals reach their goals. We also serve students who have finished a BSW program and want to take advantage of the accelerated Online MSW Advanced Standing Program. As one can see, we serve a diverse group of students who have decided that online education will be the best way to achieve their goals.

Q: What differentiates your program from competitors?

A: The FSU College of Social Work has been providing a clinical MSW degree program in the online format longer than any other institution in the world. We have used this experience to continually improve every facet of our program.

Many of the faculty teaching our online courses are nationally renowned researchers and scholars. Additionally, we have developed an excellent understanding of many of the unique challenges that working professionals face when they return to school. Students who participate in our programs benefit from our knowledge and expertise in online social work education

FSU prides itself on being a student-centered institution. The online program is no exception to this orientation. Our faculty and advisers are accessible to students and are available when students need help or support. We are very responsive to student feedback and use it to develop and improve our programs and services. We welcome our online students to the Tallahassee campus for College events and activities. Many of these students travel to the main campus to participate in graduation ceremonies as they complete their studies.

Our program is offered in an asynchronous format, which means that students may work on their weekly tasks and assignments at the time of day that works best for them. The asynchronous format offers a much higher degree of flexibility in online learning. For students who are juggling several demands on their time, the asynchronous format provides them with the opportunity to optimize their efficiency of their educational participation.

Q: What impact does obtaining an Online MSW degree have for your graduates?:

A: Our graduates go on to do amazing things. Currently, we have two graduates from our Online MSW who are participating in our campus-based Ph.D. program. We have one of the most highly regarded doctoral programs in the United States and these students will pursue positions as social work scholars and researchers upon their graduation.

A few of our graduates have gone into social work education. Currently, one serves as a Director and two serve as Field Directors for social work programs. A recent graduate was promoted to become an executive director for an agency that provides services to women and children who are victims of domestic violence. These are just a few accomplishments of note.

In addition to these individuals, a large number of our graduates have completed the licensing process in their state of residence. They provide invaluable services to include mental health and substance abuse counseling, child welfare services, hospital social work, military social work, social work in criminal justice settings, and marriage and family therapy services. Our graduates go on to make a positive difference in the communities in which they practice.

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