Interview with Kimberly Gallegos, Ph.D., LCSW - Program Director for the Bachelor of Social Work program at Our Lady of the Lake University

About Kimberly Gallegos, Ph.D., LCSW: Kimberly Gallegos is the Program Director for the Bachelor of Social Work program at Our Lady of the Lake University, where she manages program policies and procedures, oversees curricular development, and conducts student orientations and trainings. In addition to teaching graduate courses as an Assistant Professor, Dr. Gallegos teaches practice and research courses, along with an elective course on Human Trafficking.

Dr. Gallegos earned her BA in Sociology from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas and both her MSW and PhD are from the University of Texas at Austin. She taught for several years at Baylor University in Waco, and as an adjunct at both Temple College and the University of Mary Hardin Baylor, before joining OLLU in August 2018 and stepping into the Program Director role in 2019.

Interview Questions

[] May we have an overview of Our Lady of the Lake University’s (OLLU) Online Bachelor of Social Work program? What are the key learning outcomes for this program, and how does it prepare students for impactful roles in generalist social work?

[Dr. Gallegos] The key goals of the BSW program are to prepare professionally trained social workers for generalist social work practice and to prepare students for culturally competent practice with diverse populations with an emphasis on working with Hispanic children and families. Students are able to complete this program entirely online, which is advantageous for students who are working part-time or full-time, and/or who have family or other personal obligations. At the end of the program, we want students to be committed to serving people in poverty and those who are marginalized or oppressed, and to addressing issues of social, economic, and environmental justice.

The university requires that all students take 37-38 hours of foundational General Education core classes. These classes are important because they introduce students to “seeing” and critically thinking about people, cultures, and social problems from different perspectives. Social work students at OLLU are required to take courses in English, Literature, Communication, Foreign Language, Math, Natural Science, Social Science, Philosophy, Theology, Fine Arts, and History. Many students have already taken some of these classes and are able to transfer them into OLLU. In fact, OLLU allows students to transfer in up to 72 hours of credit taken at other institutions.

Students must also complete 40 hours of Social Work courses. These courses cover a variety of critical knowledge and skills necessary for students to achieve competencies required of professional generalist social workers and/or successfully prepare them to enter an advanced standing MSW program. Required Social Work courses include an introductory course, two policy courses, three human behavior courses, two practice courses, a research course, and their field education practicum – or their internship.

In order to graduate with their BSW degree, students must complete a total of 120 credit hours. We have intentionally designed our curriculum to allow students to complete our Violence Prevention Certificate, a minor, or in some cases, even a second major.

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

[Dr. Gallegos] Our BSW students complete their coursework through the Blackboard learning management system. Students who are not familiar with Blackboard will be introduced to it when they complete their New Student Orientation course. After that, students will have access to IT support throughout the program should difficulties arise.

Courses will be primarily offered in an asynchronous format, allowing students who have other responsibilities such as jobs and families the flexibility to complete course content on their own time. Our program does not require any campus visits, but we certainly welcome students to visit us on campus and look forward to seeing students participate in commencement activities.

[] OLLU also offers campus-based BSW programs on their main campus in San Antonio and on their Rio Grande Valley campus. May we have more information on the campus-based programs and how they differ from the online program?

[Dr. Gallegos] The degree plan requirements for our online program and our campus-based programs in San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley are identical. Students must complete the same General Education requirements, Social Work courses, and field internship experience. At this time, students in our online program are not able to enroll in campus-based courses. Our online program was intentionally designed for students who are working and/or taking care of children and/or their parents, and for those without easy access to a local accredited Social Work program.

[] All students of OLLU’s Bachelor of Social Work must complete a Social Work Field Placement. What does the field practicum entail, and how does the field placement process work? Is the process the same or different for students in the campus-based programs versus the online program?

[Dr. Gallegos] Field education is the signature pedagogy for social work. The intent of field education is to integrate the knowledge, skills, and theories learned in the classroom with the practical world of the practice setting. During their final semester, BSW students complete 450 hours in a social service agency in their own community under the supervision of a licensed master social worker. Students have completed their internships in a variety of settings including schools, health care agencies, child welfare settings and local non-profit agencies.

While OLLU has agreements with hundreds of agencies around the country, students may assist in identifying others that might be appropriate. Our Field Team will verify that the agency can successfully support a student’s learning needs and work to obtain an agreement. Students will be interviewed by a representative of the agency, in an attempt for both student and agency to determine whether the working relationship will be successful. Prior to an interview, I would encourage students to do some research on the agency history and programming, to approach the interview in a professional manner, and to have some questions of their own to ask.

[] Do you have any advice for students in terms of completing their field education? What are common challenges students experience during their placements, and what support systems does Our Lady of the Lake University put in place to assist students and their practicum supervisors during their field education experience?

[Dr. Gallegos] Some common challenges that students face during field are time management, particularly if they are working. Other challenges include having real clients for the first time who have challenging issues. While completing field, all students participate in a seminar course where they will have the opportunity to discuss challenges, as well as successes, with other students and an OLLU faculty member. Students are evaluated at mid-term by their agency supervisor, who provides feedback on how they are doing on all core competencies that students must achieve to successfully complete the program. This seminar course is taken as “pass/fail”.

[] How do the faculty members of OLLU’s Bachelor of Social Work degree program mentor and support students during their enrollment? How can students make the most of these mentorship opportunities? Outside of faculty advising, what other support structures are in place for students?

[Dr. Gallegos] Students in the online program will have access to their OLLU faculty course instructors and are encouraged to ask them questions related to professional development, in addition to questions about their coursework. There will also be ways that students can be a part of student organizations, including the Worden Social Work Organization and Phi Alpha, which is our student honor society. During their field internship, students will find their agency supervisor, who will be a licensed MSW, to be an invaluable source of mentorship. Finally, all students will continue to have access to InScribe, a platform where students can pose questions and interact with other students and OLLU faculty and staff.

[] For students interested in OLLU’s Bachelor of Social Work, what advice do you have in terms of submitting a competitive application?

[Dr. Gallegos] Students are encouraged to share the reasons they are interested in becoming a social worker. Many students indicate they feel “called” to Social Work and we want to know what those populations and issues are about which they are most passionate. Students apply directly to OLLU for acceptance into the Social Work major. Once students have met certain criteria, which is usually after a semester or two, including completing 6 hours of Social Work coursework, they then apply for admission to the BSW Program.

[] What makes Our Lady of the Lake University’s Bachelor of Social Work unique and a particularly strong BSW option for students? How does this program prepare students for diverse careers in social work practice?

[Dr. Gallegos] The Worden School of Social Service was the first School of Social Work in Texas, established more than 75 years ago. We are proud to say that our BSW program has been continually accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, which is the entity that sets and regulates standards of professional Social Work Education. The vast majority of students who earn their BSW go on to obtain their MSW, mostly in our Advanced Standing program. This is a great option for students because it allows qualifying students to complete their MSW degree in less than a year, which certainly opens more job opportunities.

Worden is a leader in Distance Education. Each year, we host the Social Work Distance Education Conference, which is attended by hundreds of social work faculty from around the nation.

Thank you, Dr. Gallegos, for your excellent insight into Our Lady of the Lake University’s Online Bachelor of Social Work program!