Seeing Tremendous Growth as Online Master of Social Work Completes First Year

 In Social Work

Karina Ricko dreamed of earning her master’s degree, but after graduating in 1996 from Misericordia University in Pennsylvania, she put that dream aside to get married and raise her family.

Twenty years later, Ricko seized her opportunity and signed up for the Online Master of Social Work program in the School of Social Work at UCF.

“This program has greatly benefited my schedule and crazy life,” Ricko said. “I only have to come home from work and log into my web courses, and I have access any time I want or need.”

The school launched the part-time, online degree program in January 2016 to provide an opportunity for interested students, particularly non-traditional students, to earn their master’s degree in social work.

“More and more schools were offering online programs,” said Shellene Mazany, director of the online program. “We wanted to remain cutting edge and offer opportunities to all students, even those outside the state of Florida.”

Since its launch, the program has seen tremendous growth in enrollment. While students can apply with any undergraduate degree for the master’s degree program, those with a bachelor’s in social work, and a minimum GPA of 3.3, can apply for the advanced standing option, which is four semesters long versus three years for the traditional option.

Another unique feature of the Online MSW is its accelerated pace. The traditional program involves 14 weeks of study for two or three courses; the online option is half the time spent on one course, Mazany said.

Ricko, who has completed her second year of study, embraces the challenge. She has worked in the social work field for 20 years, and the online option fits into her schedule.

“I love the aspect of no travel time involved and easy access any time of day,” she said. “As a mom and a full-time social worker, I have to balance my time.”

It has helped Darell Yates with studying and time management as well. Yates, who earned his bachelor’s degree in liberal studies and has completed his second year in graduate school, wanted to push himself while inspiring others around him.

“I wanted an opportunity to learn a critical profession involving empowering people to change their lives for the better,” he said.

Yates plans to gain commission as an officer in the Armed Forces part time, helping the troops and military families. He also plans to work at one of the VA medical centers helping veterans and their families receive the best possible care.

He wants to be an inspiration for the next generation to shoot for the stars and achieve its dreams.

“I want to show them it’s never too difficult or too late to achieve greatness,” Yates said.

He especially feels that it is important to be a positive example in this field for other young men; men make up less than 25 percent of social workers, according to data released by the National Association of Social Workers in 2008.

Yates and Ricko are just two examples of the caliber of student in the program.

“Many have personally overcome challenging situations or experiences, which has compelled them to pursue the field of social work,” Mazany said.

The program has attracted the attention of students across the state. Beatrice Cadet, a resident of Jacksonville, recently completed her first year.

“I’m interested in helping others, providing resources for people who may not have the easiest access to them,” she said.

Cadet graduated with an undergraduate degree in health care administration from the University of North Florida in 2013 and works at University of Florida Health in Jacksonville. When she applied for a position with the case management department, Cadet found she needed an undergraduate degree in nursing or a master’s degree in social work.

Her research left her deciding between the University of South Florida and UCF, but she ultimately decided to enroll with UCF.

Balancing her full-time job with school can be tough, but the interactive platform in the program has been a major factor in Cadet’s success.

“In my undergraduate program, I didn’t do so well with my time management with online courses,” she said. “[Now] my professors are always shooting messages saying ‘Great job with this’ or ‘Awesome work on that.’ You can’t find that in other programs. I’ve never had professors this engaged, especially with an online program. They make you want to keep learning more.”

Written by Drexler B. James ’13

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