The University of Southern Maine School of Social Work prides itself on providing students with an exceptional education in a supportive environment. The information on this page provides students with a virtual handbook of policies to guide them through their BSW or MSW degree. We encourage students to familiarize themselves with these policies and discuss them with their faculty advisor.
All BSW and MSW students are assigned a full-time social work faculty member as an advisor. Students can view their assigned faculty advisor in their MaineStreet Student Center and contact their faculty advisor via their university email. Students are strongly urged to develop relationships with their faculty advisors and utilize their support and mentorship. Faculty advisors can support students in planning their course schedule and degree plan, exploring social work career options, navigating academic and interpersonal challenges, and connecting to university resources. Students are strongly encouraged to communicate with the faculty advisor in advance of registration for classes or withdrawal from a class. Questions and concerns about the program should be directed to your faculty advisor before contacting program coordinators of the Associate Dean, except during the summer semester when faculty advisors are unavailable. Faculty advisors maintain records of their discussions with advisees and make these available to advisees in the “Advisor Notes” section of MaineStreet.
BSW students are assigned both a professional advisor and a faculty advisor. When you begin the program, you will meet with your professional advisor in an “ACS” (intake) appointment. After that, the primary advisor you will work with depends on your completed credits and standing in the program. Our dual advising program is designed for students with 54 or fewer credits to work with their professional advisor, and then switch to their faculty advisor for your junior and senior years in the BSW program.
MSW students are assigned a full-time social work faculty member as an advisor. Students can view their assigned faculty advisor in their MaineStreet Student Center and contact their faculty advisor via their university email.
BSW and MSW students are strongly urged to develop relationships with their faculty advisors and utilize their support and mentorship. Faculty advisors can support students in planning their course schedule and degree plan, exploring social work career options, navigating academic and interpersonal challenges, and connecting to university resources. Students are strongly encouraged to communicate with the faculty advisor in advance of registration for classes or withdrawal from a class. Questions and concerns about the program should be directed to your faculty advisor before contacting program coordinators of the Associate Dean, except during the summer semester when faculty advisors are unavailable. Faculty advisors maintain records of their discussions with advisees and make these available to advisees in the “Advisor Notes” section of MaineStreet.
Email serves as the primacy method of communication in the School of Social Work. Important University and School announcements are distributed via email listservs. Students should contact the SSW Administrative Specialist if they believe they are not receiving listserv emails. Individual communications from administrators and course instructors are also sent through email. When enrolled in classes, students are expected to access and read their emails on a regular basis, a minimum of twice per week.
To join the BSW listserv, click on this link. Once on the linked page, fill in your name and USM email address and hit ‘subscribe’. You will receive a confirmation email that you will need to open and hit the confirmation link within. After that, you will be subscribed.
Instructors for courses in the School of Social Work assign final grades according to the Standard Grading Scale outlined below. Students in the BSW Program must maintain a 2.5 overall cumulative grade point average, and a grade of C (2.0) or better in all major and foundation classes. Students in the MSW Program must maintain a cumulative 3.0 GPA in all course work in the program in order to remain in good standing and be eligible for a MSW degree. MSW students must receive a minimum of B- grade in all courses. MSW students receiving a grade below B- in a course must retake the course and receive a passing grade. If the student fails to bring the overall GPA up to a minimum of 3.0 by the end of the following semester, they may be dismissed from the MSW program.
The School of Social Work adheres to the Academic Grade Appeal Policy set forth by the University. Students who wish to appeal a grade are advised to follow the steps outlined in the USM Catalog.
Standard Grading Scale
Incomplete grades are granted only in extenuating circumstances at the discretion of the instructor. Students must request to be considered for an incomplete grade with the instructor well in advance of the end of a given semester. The instructor and student must then agree to a plan for completing all outstanding class assignments prior to the end of the following semester (excluding summer semesters). If outstanding class assignments are not completed, the incomplete grade will be updated automatically to a grade of “F” at the end of the following semester. Students who do not complete the outstanding work by the designated time may be ineligible to take subsequent required courses and field practicum.
Difficulties between a student, a faculty member, Faculty Field Liaison, and Field Instructor are handled within the School of Social Work. If fieldwork is involved, it is the responsibility of the Faculty-Field Liaison to notify the Field Work Coordinator and to set up a meeting with the Field Instructor to discuss the student’s concerns. Although most grievances are resolved at this level, in a few cases there is a need to take the process further. In such instances a Problem Resolution Meeting or an Academic Review will be arranged. Below are the procedures for both.
Purpose of and Reasons to Convene a Problem Resolution Meeting
This option is instituted to address minor issues or concerns that arise for students in the classroom, in fieldwork or any other part of the program that require a process for intervention and problem resolution, but do not rise to the level of needing an Academic Review. This is an intermediate step that allows for assessment of the problem, open discussion and problem resolution. The outcome of this may point to the need for a full Academic Review, but typically problems are solved at this level. Any student or faculty member can request a Problem Resolution Meeting by contacting the BSW or MSW Program Coordinator. The Program Coordinator will assess the need to convene the meeting and make the decision about which type of meeting forum is needed. This meeting is facilitated by the Program Coordinator.
Purpose of and Reasons for the Academic Review
The purpose of an Academic Review Meeting is to provide a forum for discussion and decision making when the traditional advisor/advisee relationship is believed to be inadequate for resolving the problem situation.
The issues that are the focus of an Academic Review are often related to problems that emerge in field work (e.g., the suitability of a student for the field of social work as defined in the Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers). However, there are many other reasons an Academic Review might be called. The following list, though not exhaustive, offers some examples of issues that could prompt an Academic Review:
- A student is evidencing academic or field difficulties;
- A student receives a failing grade in a critical course or is placed on academic probation;
- Problems emerge between a student and their field instructor that cannot be remediated with the faculty-field liaison.
- A student violates the NASW Code of Ethics in fieldwork or in the classroom.
- A student receives a poor field evaluation or has been dismissed from field placement.
The outcome of the Academic Review usually includes: (a) resolution without conditions, or (b) a plan for resolution with conditions. In some situations, when a resolution cannot be achieved, the Academic Review may result in the student’s termination from the Social Work program.
In addition to addressing clearly identified problems needing resolution, the Academic Review may be used as a forum to facilitate early intervention when a student is evidencing signs of academic or fieldwork difficulties. In some situations, developing plans to deal with emerging problems can mitigate more serious complications, and efforts are made to use the Academic Review in this way whenever possible.
Academic Review Procedures
- An Academic Review is requested
- Any social work faculty member or student can request an Academic Review. This meeting may be called after a student has spoken to his/her advisor but before the issue is taken to the level of the Office of the Dean
- An Academic Review is scheduled
- The Academic Review is called by the Program Coordinator. The Coordinator contacts the individuals involved to invite them and arrange for a day and time. The student is then informed when the meeting is scheduled. The Academic Review will occur within ten business days of the request for such a meeting.
- All relevant social work faculty and community professionals may be invited to attend the Academic Review Meeting, along with the student and his/her advisor. If key individuals cannot be present for the meeting, they are asked to submit their contributions in written form to be read aloud at the review meeting.
- The student may choose to invite one person to accompany him/her at the review meeting. This person can serve as a support only and is not a participant in the meeting. The support person may be invited to add information at the end of the meeting but should not plan to be a contributor. If the student does invite someone, he/she must notify the Coordinator in advance of the meeting.
- The academic advisor, or his/her proxy, serves as the note taker during the Academic Review to ensure the discussion is accurately documented.
- An Academic Review is Held
- The BSW Coordinator serves as Chair of the Academic Review and facilitates the meeting.
- The advisor serves as the recorder of the Academic Review and is also a participant.
- All people present at the review, except for the support person, are invited to participate in the discussion of the issues at hand.
- The meeting usually takes one hour (depending on the situation). Once the discussion has end, the student and the support person are asked to leave the room and the Academic Review Committee remains to discuss and decide about the outcome.
- A letter summarizing the academic review and the outcome is prepared by the Coordinator. Since the formal written letter may take some time to compose, usually the Coordinator informs the student promptly of the outcome by phone or via email once decisions have been made.
- The official letter is mailed to the student within ten business days following the meeting and a copy is placed in the student’s record. The student has the option to prepare a written response within ten days of receiving the letter and it is also placed in the student’s record.
- If a resolution plan is the outcome of the review, this serves as a contract between the student and the SSW. The student is expected to follow through with the plan as detailed in the letter.
The Right to Appeal
Nothing in this policy statement is intended to interfere with or deny any right guaranteed to a student by the University of Maine system.
Should a student not agree with a decision resulting from the Academic Review, an appeal may be precipitated by the student. The appeal process is initiated by a letter from the student to the Director of the School of Social Work outlining the reasons for the appeal. The Director may contact the student for more information or to schedule a meeting to discuss the situation in more detail. The appeal could be resolved at this level, but should the student feel the process has not addressed the issue in a satisfactory manner, he/she may appeal to the Dean of the College of Management and Human Services by contacting the Dean’s office. Further, if the student is not satisfied with the resolution at the Dean’s level, the student may appeal further to the Provost. All stages of the appeal process are documented and filed in the student’s record. If the student feels the above process has not resolved the issue, he or she may request that the USM Student Senate Executive Committee review the issue and report its findings to the President of the University. The final decision rests with the President, after the receipt of recommendations from those involved.
School of Social Work Policy on Termination
In addition to the policies and procedures delineated as “Academic Dismissal” (University of Southern Maine Undergraduate catalog) and “Student Conduct Code,” a student can be terminated by the School of Social Work. Student termination usually occurs only upon the formal convening of an Academic Review Meeting when the conclusion is reached that a student is unable to fulfill the Code of Ethics of Social Work and is not suitable for the profession or is unable academically to meet the standards of the undergraduate program. In the case of academic problems, students in the BSW program must maintain a 2.5 GPA and receive a C in each required or foundation course; students in the MSW program must maintain a 3.0 GPA and receive a C- in each course. It is rare for a student to continue in the social work program having failed in these requirements. Students, for example, cannot move to sequential courses when they have not done well enough in pre-requisite courses. After being admitted to Methods or Field Work, continued academic problems are usually subject to Academic Review as above. All cases of serious problems meeting professional standards (where of course students do not agree with such findings) are taken up at a prompt Academic Review as noted above. It should be noted that USM policy for undergraduates does not permit termination of a student from college on this basis (unlike the termination due to the student conduct code). Students may transfer to another major. Additionally, a termination from the social work major lasts only two years, at which point a student may apply for reinstatement.
MSW students must be continuously enrolled in the MSW program for at least three credits every Fall and Spring semester. Students are expected to adhere to the curriculum plan for their assigned MSW cohort. Deviations from the curriculum plan should be discussed with the student’s faculty advisor and may require approval by the MSW Program Coordinator. The MSW cohort curriculum guides are available on the MSW webpage.
Leaves of Absence
If a student is unable to remain continuously enrolled in the MSW program for any reason, they must formally request a Leave of Absence (LOA) by submitting the Leave of Absence from MSW Program form [PDF] to the SSW and the University Semester Leave Form. LOA is permitted for up to one academic year, unless special permission has been granted to extend beyond that parameter. In most cases, if a student does not return within one academic year, re-application to the program is required.
Voluntary Program Withdrawal
Students wishing to permanently withdraw from the university should submit the University Semester Leave Form to the University.
Across the three MSW program options, there are five MSW cohorts:
- Two-Year Standard MSW (Full Course Load)
- Four-Year Standard MSW (Reduced Course Load)
- One-Year Advanced Standing MSW (Full Course Load)
- Two-Year Advanced Standing MSW (Reduced Course Load)
- Three-Year Low-Residency MSW
The cohort model provides curricular structure and a community of support for MSW students. Upon admission to the program, students are assigned to a cohort based on their indicated preference as well as an evaluation of their past academic performance and available spots in each cohort. Once admitted, expected to adhere to the curriculum plan for their assigned MSW cohort. The MSW cohort curriculum guides are available on the MSW webpage. Students may wish to switch from their assigned cohort to another cohort in order to follow a different curriculum plan or experience a different mode of study (e.g. in-person versus online). Students must submit a formal request to change their MSW cohort via completion of the Request Change of MSW Program Cohort form [PDF]. Requests are approved or declined at the discretion of School of Social Work administrators based on a variety of factors, including: the reason for the request, student performance in the program to date, strength of initial program application, and/or current program enrollment numbers.
Each year we welcome many students to our BSW program from local community colleges and other institutions out of state. We have an Office of Transfer Services that will work to determine how your credits transfer into USM. For prior coursework in social work, our internal committees and BSW coordinator will determine whether or not your prior coursework is comparable to the courses we offer. Your professional or faculty advisors can discuss your course planning in detail with you, based on the courses you transfer in.
Graduate students who wish to transfer into the MSW program are required to apply to the MSW program through the standard admissions process. Upon acceptance to the program, students should contact the MSW Program Coordinator to determine which credits (if any) from their previous institution may be used to fulfill degree requirements in the USM SSW. Syllabi from past courses must be submitted for review to assess their equivalency with University of Southern Maine School of Social Work courses. Transfer credits must be from an MSW program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. MSW students cannot transfer more than 30 credits from another institution. Credits completed more than seven years ago are not eligible for transfer credit.
The University of Southern Maine School of Social Work recognizes the many systemic barriers that criminal justice involvement creates for individuals pursuing higher education. We strive to offer equal access to our programs for all suitable candidates, regardless of criminal background. While criminal records are never a consideration in the admissions process, certain types of criminal offenses may preclude an accepted student from commencing the program if they cannot enter fieldwork due to a criminal background. While the University of Southern Maine School of Social Work does not conduct criminal background checks, most field agencies will require this and will not accept students as interns with certain criminal backgrounds. Agencies make decisions about accepting students as interns based on their own Human Resources policies.
Current and prospective students should also be aware that the State Board of Social Worker Licensure may deny an application for licensure based on criminal background. When a prospective student’s past criminal background involves a violation of the NASW Code of Ethics, this may indicate a lack of suitability for the social work profession. Students with a criminal background are strongly encouraged to discuss with their faculty advisor and the Office of Field Education the implications that their criminal background may have for achievement of their educational and professional goals.
While enrolled in the School of Social Work, students are expected to adhere to the USM Student Code of Conduct, the NASW Code of Ethics, and local, state, and federal laws. Failure to do so may result in an Academic Review and/or termination from the School of Social Work.