GARFIELD COUNTY — A new opportunity offered locally by the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Denver gives students the ability to study for their master’s of social work degrees without leaving Garfield County.
The program has three features to attract students in addition to local accessibility for a master’s level education: Western Colorado students will pay tuition that is substantially lower than what the school’s on-campus students pay; there are eight $8,000 child welfare stipends offered for tuition assistance; and the $65 application fee will be waived for prospective students whose applications are postmarked by May 15.
Applications to the Western Colorado MSW program will be accepted until June 15, but early application is recommended for optimal consideration.
“There is a great need for social workers in this area of western Colorado,” said Mary Baydarian, human services director for Garfield County. “By bringing a program of this quality to our area of the state, the University of Denver is not only providing amazing opportunities for local students, but allows people who are interested in human service work to learn in their home community and apply for positions to work here after graduation.”
The Colorado Department of Human Services, in partnership with the school’s Butler Institute for Families, has committed to offering eight Title IV-E child welfare stipends of $8,000 each to this Western Colorado MSW program. Stipend recipients must commit to working in public child welfare in Colorado one year for each year they receive the stipend.
“There is recognition at the state level of the need to expand resources, in this case, qualified caseworker availability in rural Colorado,” said Baydarian. “A number of human service departments in this region will provide field placement opportunities, including Garfield County.”
This is a monumental event for human service programs in northwest Colorado,” said Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky. “It will help our work force here, people who live here, and also our human service departments all around western Colorado. It’s a game-changer for this region.”
A local first
The first student to enroll in the program is a long-time resident of the county working in the human services field. Rachele Mettauer is foster care coordinator for Garfield County.
“I have known I wanted to be a social worker since I was 12 years old,” said Mettauer. “I have looked for a good study program, and have always respected DU, so I was excited to learn of this opportunity. It meets my needs and works for my family, and opens up a world of opportunity for me.”
Mettauer says Garfield County Department of Human Services applies child welfare practices that are viewed as cutting-edge, and she wants to improve her learning to bring new skills to her job and benefit programs here.
The school’s alumni surveys found that the MSW has proven to be one of the most versatile graduate degrees students can earn, opening the way to literally hundreds of diverse careers, from school social worker to adoption specialist, agency director to mental health counselor, immigration reform advocate to family therapist and much more. Graduating students find opportunities to work in human services departments, mental health and substance abuse treatment centers, hospitals, and programs serving seniors.
There also is an increasing need, especially in rural areas, for social workers with expertise in integrated health care, due to implementation of the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act. Other social work careers include work with returning veterans, in criminal justice and victim advocacy, and in clinical private practice.