Interview with Joseph Herzog, Ph.D. - Chair and Professor in the Department of Social Work at the University of West Florida

About Joseph Herzog, Ph.D.: Joseph Herzog is Chair and Professor in the Department of Social Work at the University of West Florida. As Chair of the Department, he oversees curriculum development for graduate and undergraduate programs in social work, and also manages student recruitment, admissions, and advising. He has written 13 journal articles and 7 book chapters, and co-authored the textbook “Social Work Practice with Military Populations,” published by Pearson. At the University of West Florida, he has primarily taught practice courses in the Master of Social Work program.

Dr. Herzog graduated with an MSW from Florida State University and a PhD from the University of South Carolina. His social work career began in 1992. He has worked in both public and private non-profit agencies providing clinical supervision for staff and direct services for clients. From 1998 to 2008 he worked as the clinical director at the Frasier Center, a non-profit mental health center located near Ft. Stewart. His work at the Frasier Center with service members and their families led to his dissertation research on secondary trauma in military families.

Interview Questions

[] Could you describe the history and mission statement of the Department of Social Work at the University of West Florida? When was the Department of Social Work instated, what has been its legacy thus far in spearheading social work education and best practices?

[Dr. Herzog] The mission of the University of West Florida’s Department of Social Work is to prepare social work practitioners to empower individuals, families, groups, communities, and organizations within a geographic region of enormous need and promise. We admitted our first class in 2009. Guided by a person-in-environment framework and drawing on a diverse faculty, the department is committed to human rights, social and economic justice, and respect for diversity to improve the quality of life of those we serve.

[] May we have an overview of the University of West Florida’s Online Master of Social Work? What are the key learning outcomes for this program, and how does it prepare students for a wide variety of clinical social work roles?

[Dr. Herzog] The goal of the MSW program is to prepare advanced clinical/behavioral healthcare social work practitioners at the graduate level, to celebrate the profession’s history, purpose and philosophy, and to demonstrate commitment to the profession and to working with systems of various sizes, including individuals, families, groups, and communities. The MSW program promotes a culturally diverse, student-centered learning environment devoted to the needs and interests of our student body, within which students can integrate the knowledge, values, ethics, and skills of the profession into their practice and assume positions of leadership. We collaborate with and serve the region, the university, the public, voluntary agencies, and the global community, and act as a resource for current, relevant, and quality social work education.

The MSW program contributes to the development and application of knowledge in social work practice by supporting the teaching, quality scholarship, and community service of the faculty. To meet the program’s mission and goals, the faculty of the Department of Social Work has designed a foundation curriculum to provide entry-level social work graduate students with a generalist social work knowledge base. This includes the basic social work knowledge, values, skills, cognitive and affective processes, and behaviors for working with individuals, families, groups, communities, and organizations.

We have further identified Clinical/Behavioral healthcare as an area of specialization for the advanced curriculum in the program. The Clinical/Behavioral healthcare specialization curriculum builds on the generalist knowledge base of BSW graduates and foundation year MSW graduate students. The advanced curriculum provides students with the professional knowledge base from which they will practice. This knowledge base includes complex issues concerning human diversity and social justice, clinical social work practice, research methods, and evaluation of social work practice. While the required courses are set, students have the opportunity to take electives in areas such as Medical Social Work, Play Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Military Social Work, and Substance Abuse.

[] What online technologies does the University of West Florida’s Online Master of Social Work use to facilitate interactions between students and faculty, as well as between classmates in and outside of courses?

[Dr. Herzog] The University of West Florida’s Online Master of Social Work utilizes Canvas as its learning management system. For video conferencing the program utilizes Cisco Webex. Online classes are primarily asynchronous, though some classes may have synchronous components. No campus visits are required by the program.

Faculty utilize video conferencing for office hours. Typically students email for a conference and the faculty member sends a link for a video session. The field classes have a synchronous component in which students meet through video conferencing. Students can engage in asynchronous learning through things such as discussion boards, video recorded role plays, and breakout sessions.

[] The University of West Florida also offers a campus-based MSW program. May we have more information on this program and how it is distinct from the online MSW program?

[Dr. Herzog] The online program is separate from the face-to-face program. Online students are not eligible to take face-to-face classes at this time. Each student should evaluate their personal learning style to see which program would best meet their needs.

[] All students of the University of West Florida’s foundation Master of Social Work must complete both a foundational field practicum and an advanced field practicum, while advanced standing students complete the advanced field practicum. What do these practicums entail, and how does the field placement process work for each? What kinds of faculty/peer support do students receive during the completion of their field education requirement?

[Dr. Herzog] In an effort to provide students with a wide range of field opportunities, the Department of Social Work has established relationships with more than 100 agencies in the Florida Panhandle region as well as Alabama. Students in the online program are asked to submit three possible field agencies when they are first admitted into the program. The field program works closely with each agency to ensure that as a field site, they possess the resources and ability to provide students with field practice experience opportunities to work with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities under the supervision of a professional social worker with the required post-social work degree practice experience.

[] How do faculty members of the University of West Florida’s Master of Social Work mentor students throughout their enrollment? How can students make the most of these mentorship opportunities, and outside of faculty advising what other support structures are in place to help students?

[Dr. Herzog] Students are assigned faculty mentors upon enrollment into the MSW program. These faculty mentors are there to support students throughout their time in the MSW program. These mentors develop relationships with students, sharing guidance, experience and their expertise. Students also get to know the faculty through their classes and often form unofficial mentorships. The program is trying something new for fall 2020. We are partnering with Mentor Collective to develop a peer mentoring program. This mentorship experience will utilize advanced year students working with incoming traditional students in a mentorship capacity.

An excellent additional resource students can access at UWF is through the Military & Veterans Resource Center (MVRC). The MVRC provides numerous resources for military veterans, including assistance with VA Educational Benefits, active duty tuition assistance, out of state fee waivers, coordination of academic advising, tutoring, counseling, disability accommodations, and referral to state and federal resources and services.

[] For students who are interested in the University of West Florida’s Master of Social Work, what advice do you have in terms of submitting a competitive application?

[Dr. Herzog] One of the key parts of the application is the personal statement. In the personal statement we are looking for the reasons that the prospective student would like to become a social worker at the graduate level. This includes their career goals, what personal assets they would bring to the profession, and any experience they have working with oppressed populations. As a profession, social workers are committed to social justice and we look for these attributes in the personal statement of prospective students. In addition to the specific content, we look at the quality of the writing. Social workers do a lot of writing including clinical notes, reports, letters to judges, and other professional writing, so we look for evidence of strong writing ability in the personal statement. The prospective student should demonstrate proficiency in organization, spelling, grammar, and punctuation in their personal statement.

Students should provide three letters of recommendations. These letters should be from individuals who are familiar with the applicant’s ability to succeed in graduate school. Past employers and professors make good references. Applicants generally have a GPA of 3.0 or higher. However, we know that life happens so we take into account extenuating circumstances and look for trends in student grades.

[] What makes the University of West Florida’s Master of Social Work unique and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students? How does this program prepare students for advanced careers in clinical social work practice?

[Dr. Herzog] Courses are taught directly by faculty, not graduate teaching assistants. Faculty members have years of clinical experience and most are licensed. Our faculty is complemented by adjunct professors who are practicing social workers with many years of experience. Faculty members and adjunct professors use their clinical experiences to synthesize theory and practice in teaching courses. Alumni presence is strongest in the Northwest Florida region and the annual Northwest NASW luncheon in March provides a great opportunity to catch up with classmates.

Thank you, Dr. Herzog, for your excellent insight into the University of West Florida’s Master of Social Work program!