News - More Students Drawn to Social Work and Criminal Justice

More Students Drawn to Social Work and Criminal Justice

By Rachel Heston-Davis

The departments of social work and criminal justice at Greenville University have realized significant growth in the past two years, with enrollment increasing in strides.

This growth is due in part to the appeal of these departments’ holistic approach to education, in which high caliber scholarly pursuits dovetail with hands-on learning to produce graduates equipped to make an impact.


G.U.’s social work program is now fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, allowing G.U. to confer a BSW (bachelor of social work) on graduates.

Students pursuing the BSW at G.U. benefit in several ways:

  • Qualify for an accelerated track in many master’s level social work programs. “We have several students who graduated [from G.U.] in May 2018, who will walk with their master’s degrees in August 2019,” says G.U. Director of Social Work Hannah Shanks.
  • Qualify for immediate licensure that leads to employment. Upon program completion, students can sit for social work licensure and thus qualify for many jobs in the field. With 400 hours of practicum work built into G.U.’s program, students graduate prepared for employment.
  •  Cultivate valuable parallel interests. Social work students frequently double-major, participate in volunteer organizations, play sports, serve others through student leadership on campus and get involved with local churches. Shanks calls it a “great strength” for them to experience a range of activities and practice skills that help them work with people and organizations.
  • Link faith to work. “We create multiple opportunities for students to reflect on what their faith means to them and how it functions in their practice,” Shanks says. “We are not a Christian counseling program, but we do talk quite a bit about how students can work comfortably and competently with the faith of their clients as well. It’s an important part of holistic social work practice—we must never ignore our, or others’, faith when doing our work.”


G.U.’s criminal justice major prepares students for Christian service within the criminal justice system, graduate school or law school.

This preparation comes in two forms: professors with ample experience, and face-to-face interaction with the people and offices that make up the criminal justice system.

Michael Laughlin, department chair, stresses that G.U.’s program “hires professors with the requisite scholarly learning, but also practical experience.” This could mean former lawyers, corrections officers or law enforcement personnel who possess the right scholarly training.

That’s just the beginning of real-world knowledge. Students visit the locations where criminal justice plays out every day, such as juvenile delinquency centers, police and correctional facilities, drug court, trial court, traffic court and more.

The goal, says Laughlin, is to give students interactions with the justice system in as many contexts as possible. This helps students decide which branch of criminal justice they’d best fit with, and inspires career paths they may not have previously considered.

Plus, says Laughlin, it “give[s] them more to talk about in their [job] interviews than what they learned in class or from a textbook.”


For more information about the hands-on learning, faculty mentoring and practicum preparation of these two G.U. majors, visit social work and criminal justice online, where you can apply or request more information from the right-hand menu.


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The departments of criminal justice, biology and chemistry present the Greenville University Forensics Conference in April. Register for the conference or give a gift of financial support online. Register by March 29.

This story was published on March 29, 2019

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