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.

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

Letter GradePercentage

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.

When student issues arise, you can expect to hear from your course instructor, your field supervisor, or your faculty-field liaison. Examples of student issues may include, but are not limited to, academic performance (low quality of work), lack of engagement in class (late assignments, inconsistent attendance), and concerns about professionalism (unethical or questionable behavior and interaction with clients, professors or other students). When issues persist or are consistent across multiple classes, we have two processes for supporting students: an early intervention meeting and an academic review. Requests for these meetings may come from students, professors, or field faculty/staff/supervisors and should be made to the MSW or BSW program coordinator, who will determine the next steps.

Early Intervention Meeting

The early intervention meeting is called when the program coordinator is made aware of the need to address emerging concerns with a student in any area of the program. The spirit of this meeting is to support students to be successful. This meeting allows for an open discussion and assessment from all participant perspectives. 

The program coordinator is responsible for convening and facilitating the meeting, and inviting the student’s faculty advisor and the relevant participants, which may include faculty, field staff, field instructors or others who may be involved in the situation. They will first determine a date and time for the meeting and then reach out to the student to inform them of this. Every effort is made to provide ample notice to students while also scheduling the meeting promptly.  Students may bring a support person (who is not a USM student) to accompany them during the meeting who must be cleared by the coordinator in advance of the meeting. Lawyers are also not permitted as Early Intervention Meetings are not legal proceedings. If for any reason the coordinator is not able to attend the meeting, it will be rescheduled or led by a facilitator designated by the coordinator. 

Within the meeting, students and all involved parties will be asked to share their perspectives on the issues raised. Typically, these meetings will involve discussing and/or recommending support services available to students and creating a plan to outline any next steps. A letter detailing what was discussed will be sent by the coordinator to the student (and all participants) within 10 business days following the meeting.

Academic Review Meeting

The purpose of an Academic Review Meeting is to address academic or other acute and time-sensitive concerns. 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 his/her 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 or raises concerns about suitability in the field
  • A student violates the UMS Student Conduct Code
  • A student receives a poor field evaluation or a low-pass grade in field 
  • A student terminates their field placement without consultation with the school or has been dismissed by the agency

Academic Review Procedures

The Academic Review may be requested by any faculty or field staff  by contacting the program coordinator to discuss the reasons.  If the reasons are deemed appropriate, an Academic Review is convened by the BSW or MSW 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. Every effort will be made to schedule the Academic Review within ten business days of the request for such a meeting. 

All relevant social work faculty, field staff, and field instructors may be invited to attend the Academic Review, along with the student and their 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 (who is not a USM student) to accompany them for support at the review meeting. A lawyer is also not permitted as Academic Reviews are not legal proceedings. The support person is not a participant in the meeting unless invited to comment. If the student does wish to invite a support person, they must notify the Coordinator in advance of the meeting. 

The meeting usually takes one hour (depending on the situation). Once the discussion has ended, 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. Outcomes of the Academic Review may vary depending on the reasons the meeting was convened, but can include academic sanctions up to and including dismissal from the program. In most cases, students can expect the meeting to result in a plan with clear steps to follow.  If a resolution plan is the outcome of the review, the student will be required to review and agree to the plan.  The student is expected to follow through with the plan which will be provided to the student after the meeting in the form of a letter. While we aim for a remedial process, there are times when other types of recommendations are made (such as, change of cohort, reduction in course load, leave of absence or dismissal from the program). 

A letter summarizing the Academic Review, the outcome and any expectations is prepared by the Program Coordinator and shared with committee members for review.  The formal written letter containing all details and expectations will be sent to the student within 10 business days, however, the Coordinator will inform the student promptly of the outcome by phone or via email once decisions have been made.  The student has the option to prepare a written response or appeal within 10 business days of receiving the letter.

School of Social Work Policy on Program Dismissal

Separate and unrelated to Disciplinary Dismissal under the USM Student Conduct Code, a student can be academically dismissed by the School of Social Work for reasons specific to professional social work education standards. Student dismissal from the social work program occurs through the Academic Review process. Dismissal from the program may occur if a  student has violated the Code of Ethics of Social Work in courses and/or in field placement, or is unable to meet the academic standards of the BSW or MSW programs. 

In regards to academic performance, BSW students must maintain a 2.5 GPA and receive a C in each required or foundation course. When a student’s GPA is below the required level for more than a semester, they will be placed on academic probation and a recovery plan will be formed. If a student is unable to raise their GPA to a 2.5, they will be dismissed from the social work major and advised to switch to another major (if their overall GPA is above 2.0 and they are in good academic standing). MSW students are required to maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA and receive a B- or better in each class. When MSW students are unable to maintain these standards, the result may be an academic dismissal from the program.

Social Work education involves both academic work and the development of professional behaviors and attitudes. Students have a responsibility to conduct themselves in accordance with the NASW Code of Ethics and the USM Student Conduct Code. If students engage in questionable or unethical behavior in the classroom or in the field, with peers, faculty, staff, clients or supervisors, and/or questions are raised about the student’s suitability for the field, an Academic Review will be held to discuss the concerns and determine whether a remediation plan or program dismissal is warranted. The student may also be referred to the USM Student Conduct Officer for disciplinary action. 

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 for appeal. 

Should a student disagree with any decision resulting from the Academic Review, an appeal may be precipitated by the student within 10 business days from receiving the letter about the review outcome. This is initiated by a letter from the student to the Associate Dean of the School of Social Work outlining the reasons for the appeal. The Associate Dean may contact the student for more information or to schedule a meeting to discuss the situation in more detail. The Associate Dean shall issue a decision in writing to the student and the faculty member within a reasonable period of time, normally not to exceed 10 business days.  The appeal could be resolved at this level, but should the student feel the process has not addressed the issue in a satisfactory manner, they may next 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 to the Provost for a final decision. All stages of the appeal process will be documented within the School of Social Work.

When applicable, with a pending appeal of any kind in process, decisions about student continuation in classes will be made in the context of the Academic Review and in accordance with university policy.

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.