New Partnership Leads to Master of Social Work

It takes truly inspired people to become social workers, and thanks to a new partnership between the University of Mobile and Samford University, students now have a fast track to enter the field. 

The partnership enables students to earn a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in sociology from the University of Mobile, plus a Master of Social Work from Samford, in only five years. It is one of eight 5-year integrated master’s degree programs offered at UM. 

On average, social workers with a graduate degree earn nearly twice as much as those with only a bachelor’s, and the partnership will allow a seamless transition, according to Dr. Cassidy Cooper, associate professor of sociology at the University of Mobile. 

“We’re a really good fit in terms of ideology, preparation and geography,” Cooper said. Like the University of Mobile, Samford University offers an education steeped in Christian values. 

Students living in Mobile will have a variety of options when it comes to attendance at Samford, she said. They can attend classes entirely online, face-to-face in Birmingham, or a mixture of the two. In her seven years in Mobile, Cooper said she’s learned many of the students value face-to-face learning when it comes to social work, so it was important for that to be an option. 

The two schools have been in discussions about the partnership since Samford launched its graduate program a few years ago, Cooper said. They want more graduate students, and the University of Mobile wants to give its budding social workers the best possible chance to be successful. 

Cooper has taken students on trips to Samford’s campus in Birmingham so the faculty could meet them. As the partnership between the two schools grows, Samford’s professors will be teaching online adjunct classes for the University of Mobile’s social welfare concentration, she said. 

Zelda Peach is the first student enrolled in the graduate program and began classes at Samford this fall. A standout at the University of Mobile, Peach’s first contact with the university was at the age of 14, when she was a homeschool student. By 16, Peach was taking early enrollment classes, thanks to an alliance between the university and South Alabama Homeschooling. That early pathway was a blessing, she said. 

“Being homeschooled and attending the university early in high school prepared me for college academia in a way that traditional schools simply cannot offer,” Peach said. “It also gave me the opportunity to graduate high school in three years and put me on track to graduate from undergrad early.” 

Peach said she wants to follow in the footsteps of her grandmother, who was a clinical social worker at Providence Hospital for many years. Admittedly “captivated” by sociology, she plans on working with young adults and children. Eventually, she’d like to become a professor like Dr. Cooper, one of her favorites at the University of Mobile. 

“She encouraged us to follow our passions within the field and research new ideas, building a portfolio of work that was both academically good and meaningful to us individually,” Peach said. 

She is already benefitting from the sociology partnership with Samford, having received credit for social service internship hours earned with Housing First in Mobile over the summer. 

Cooper said it’s important for students like Peach to receive encouragement and opportunity when they’re engaged in something that’s much more than a mere interest. 

“It’s a vocation for them, serving a larger purpose,” Cooper said.

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Michael Dumas