Become an agent of change: Online social work degrees at UofL

Armon Perry

When Armon Perry was growing up, he was bussed from a low-income neighborhood to a high school in a more affluent area. He realized that a person’s family, origins and background played a significant role in shaping chances in life. He knew from an early age that he wanted to help people. “Social work was where I needed to be,” he says.

His career path led him to the University of Louisville, where he now serves as the program director for the online Bachelor of Social Work. While students in the BSW program have their own unique motivation for earning a degree, Perry says that what they share is a desire to be an agent of change. And he’s determined to make that a reality for as many students as possible.

Opening up opportunities for every student who wants to change the world

“The people who come into our program are people who see things they feel need to be changed and they want to take an active role in being a part in that,” Perry explains. “These are folks who live in their communities and see that there are deficiencies, there are gaps, there are inequalities and they want to do something about it.”

The Bachelor of Social Work at UofL, offered fully online, is the perfect option for “students who otherwise would have been disenfranchised and marginalized” and wouldn’t have been able to pursue their degree because of their family or work responsibilities, or because of other barriers.

“Maybe they live in a rural area, maybe they live in an area where transportation and the logistics wouldn’t allow them to get to and from campus,” he notes. “Opening up this online option gives them additional opportunities to be able to connect with us and use their talent and abilities to help change the world.”

UofL students have a flexible way to achieve their dreams

Natalie Pope describes herself as “very much a liberal arts kind of student who wanted to save the world.” After earning her undergraduate degree, she says, “I realized that the best way I could contribute [to social betterment movements] would be to have a set of practical professional skills that I could offer to help advance these social causes.”

She chose UofL’s online Master of Science in Social Work after researching the graduate degree path and realizing that it could be a powerful professional move. It also offered her a way to better manage her job and education at the same time. “I was balancing a full-time student schedule and a full-time work schedule and I immediately realized that I couldn’t leave work twice a week halfway through the day,” she explains.

Pope specialized in gerontology because she was also driven by a personal need to help not just the world but also her brother, who has autism. She felt the specialization held answers to the challenges of creating a life and future for him “that’s socially meaningful and engaged, while still financially viable for us as a family.”

Natalie Pope with parents at graduation

Her degree and specialty provided her with the educational skill set she needed to achieve her goals. “I have a place in that conversation and can really hold my own as a competent professional,” she says. “I owe a lot of this to Kent [School of Social Work].”

Helping graduates make a difference in Kentucky

In Kentucky, there is a tremendous need for social workers to help address the problems citizens face. According to recent statistics, Kentucky has the highest rates of child abuse in the country and ranks number one for deaths from cancer. In addition, drug overdose deaths have steadily been on the rise since 2012. According to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, an 11.5% increase in 2017 set a new record for deaths caused by overdoses. The previous record was set just the year before.

With an emphasis on social justice dynamics, UofL’s online BSW and MSSW programs provide students with the skills and education they need to make a difference in Kentucky. Students in the BSW program can opt to enroll in the Drug and Alcohol Counseling track, which includes specialized courses in substance abuse, mental health and issues in alcohol and drug counseling. The MSSW program, ranked as the number one social work program in Kentucky by U.S. News & World Report, offers six areas of specialization online, including Alcohol and Drug Counseling, Forensic Social Work, Gerontology, Mental Health, Military Social Work and Psychosocial Oncology.

BSW graduates qualify to continue on to the Master of Science in Social Work with advanced standing, allowing them to complete the MSSW degree in only one or two years. The social work program at UofL, Kent School of Social Work, ranks in the top 28 public university programs in the country by U.S. News & World Report, 2019.

If your calling is to help others and you’ve dreamed of making the world a better place, UofL Online can help you make that dream a reality. Find out more about the online BSW and MSSW programs at UofL and take the first step in becoming an agent of change in your community.