Interview with Michelle Tucker, Ph.D., MSW - Associate Dean and MSW Program Director for the Carver School of Social Work at Campbellsville University

About Michelle Tucker, Ph.D., MSW: Michelle Tucker is the Associate Dean and MSW Program Director at Campbellsville University’s Carver School of Social Work. In her administrative roles, she serves as mentor and advocate, not only for students, but also for the faculty team at the Carver School. In addition, she oversees the development and expansion of curricular and extracurricular programming and works closely with program faculty and staff to connect with students and guide them through their graduate school experience, including their field practicum placements.

Dr. Tucker has also taught many courses in the MSW program as well as the undergraduate program in social work at the Carver School. She earned her BSW from Campbellsville University, and both her MSSW and her Ph.D. in Social Work from the University of Louisville.

Interview Questions

[] May we have an overview of your academic and professional background, including your work as Associate Dean and MSW Program Director at Campbellsville University’s Carver School of Social Work?

[Dr. Tucker] I received my BSW in 1998 from Campbellsville University, Carver School of Social Work, my MSSW in 2005 from the University of Louisville Kent School of Social Work, and my Ph.D. in 2008 from the University of Louisville Kent School of Social Work. I teach across the curriculum at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. I have taught nearly all the courses in the curriculum over the last 12 years, with a primary emphasis in practice and research courses. My favorite courses to teach at the graduate level are Foundation Practice I and Program Evaluation and at the undergraduate level it is Quantitative Research. I enjoy students’ excitement when they learn those beginning skills about how to engage clients in the change process. It is also very important to me for students to understand the importance of evaluating the quality of their work to ensure quality service delivery to clients and to understand how to use research to inform their practice decisions.

As with any administrative role, my responsibilities as Associate Dean and MSW Program Director are quite broad. Overall, I see my role in these positions as that of encourager, mentor and advocate for staff, faculty, adjuncts and students to ensure they have a quality work and learning experience at the Carver School of Social Work. This is accomplished through a collaborative relationship and teamwork approach with the Carver School leadership team, staff, and faculty.

We work together to promote a quality and effective MSW Program for students. An example of our collaboration occurs through the implementation of an outcomes evaluation process that informs curriculum and pedagogical revisions, to not only meet CSWE’s rigorous accreditation standards, but to also optimize the student’s learning experience. Staff, faculty and leadership are committed to their calling to work hand in hand to ensure a quality educational experience that prepares students for a career in social work practice.

The leadership team takes a collaborative approach with students as well. Although all students are assigned an academic advisor, our leadership team members often have individual conversations with students. Deciding to attend graduate school is a big decision and sometimes students want to process that decision with a member of our leadership team. This allows us to explain program options and guide students through the decision making process; for example, the program offers full time, delayed field entry and part time options. These options allow students to select the path that would optimize their success in the program. Even after a student is admitted into the program, new life circumstances can happen. We work collaboratively with the student to explore options and identify strategies to maximize their success.

[] May we have an overview of Campbellsville University’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 advanced social work roles in settings ranging from community health and child protection to public advocacy and family counseling?

[Dr. Tucker] Our MSW program equips students to practice within a variety of social work areas of practice that include working with individuals, families, groups, communities and organizations at all three levels of practice, micro, macro and mezzo. This allows graduates tremendous flexibility in their social work employment. Specifically, a student may enter into the program with the intentions of providing individual counseling to older adults in a long-term care facility. After practicing for a while in that setting, the student may decide to move to group counseling with adolescents in the school setting. During their work within the school setting, the graduate may recognize the need for significant policy revisions at the state level to more effectively meet the needs of school aged children.

MSW graduates will be equipped to pursue positions in state and/or federal governments to impact and influence the development and revision of policies to increase mental health services within public school systems. Lastly, the student could take this experience and obtain leadership positions in social work agencies to oversee and implement quality services within public or private agencies.

Flexibility is one of the most significant advantages of an MSW degree. Many degrees prepare their graduates for one specific job or area. If the graduate decides they want to do something different, it may require the individual to seek yet another degree. That is not the case with social work. There is inherent flexibility in the field of social work due to the fact that it intersects with human circumstances and well-being at all levels and sectors of society–from hospital and psychiatric contexts to the military, schools, and humanitarian work abroad, from individualized counseling and group therapy to broader policy work and program development. Our program seeks to prepare students to explore the richness and range of the social work profession.

The Carver School of Social Work is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). The curriculum is built upon the 9 core competencies established by CSWE’s Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards.

  • Demonstrate Ethical and Professional Behavior
  • Engage in Diversity and Difference in Practice
  • Advance Human Rights and Social, Economic and Environmental Justice
  • Engage in Practice-informed Research and Research-informed practice
  • Engage in Policy Practice
  • Engage with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations and Communities
  • Assess Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations and Communities
  • Intervene Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations and Communities
  • Evaluate Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations and Communities

Below is the full curriculum. An important distinction for students is the difference between the foundation and advanced curriculum. If a student has an undergraduate degree in social work from a CSWE accredited school of social work and meets all other admission criteria, they are eligible to apply for the 30 hour Advanced Program. If a student has an undergraduate degree in any other discipline, they are eligible to apply for the 60 hours program. The 60 hour program includes 30 hours of foundation curriculum and then 30 hours of advanced curriculum.

Course #
Course TitleCredit hr.
SWK 510Foundation Practicum I3
SWK 511Foundation Practicum II3
SWK 520Human Development3
SWK 530Research3
SWK 545Practice Foundation I-Individuals3
SWK 546Practice Foundation II-Families3
SWK 547Practice Foundation III-Communities3
SWK 548Practice Foundation IV - Groups 3
SWK 570Cultural Competency3
SWK 575Policy & Practice3
Total hours for foundation30

Advanced Course #Course TitleCredit hr.
SWK 610Advanced Practicum I3
SWK 611Advanced Practicum II3
SWK 660Psychopathology3
SWK 615World Problems & Advocacy3
SWK 655Program Evaluation3
SWK 626Advanced Practice with Children & Families3
SWK 665Leadership and Supervision in Social Work3
Total hours for advanced30 hours

Clinical Area of FocusCourse TitleCredit hr.
SWK 650Change Theory3
SWK 661Clinical Diagnosis and Psychopharmacology3
SWK 692Theories for Social Work Practice3

Addiction Area of FocusCourse TitleCredit hr.
SWK 650Change Theory3
SWK 661Clinical Diagnosis and Psychopharmacology3
SWK 681Addictions3

Other Electives Course TitleCredit hr.
SWK 630Global Experiential Learning3
SWK 680Special Topics3
SWK 686School Social Work3
SWK 682Human Trafficking Interventions3
SWK 687Medical Social Work3
SWK 685Community Development and Grant Writing3

The foundation year of the curriculum provides an engaging and experiential learning opportunity for students to begin to develop the skills of all nine competencies. They learn about various human developmental theories and how to be culturally competent practitioners in a diverse world. They will learn the impact of social policies on society, particularly on vulnerable populations and how to advocate for basic human rights, as well as social, economic, and environmental justice for these clients. Students will learn engagement, assessment, intervention, and evaluation skills to practice with individuals, families, groups, and communities/organizations. The program also emphasizes the importance of utilizing evidence-based research to inform practice decisions and to actively engage in research to learn more effective ways to practice social work across all levels of practice.

The advanced curriculum continues to build and develop students’ mastery of the nine core competencies and creates opportunities for students to customize their curriculum to meet their individual interests. There are nine elective hours that give students the freedom to select any courses from our elective options that would best serve their career goals. We recognize that students are the expert on the direction they want to take their career and these electives give them the opportunity to do so.

There is also the option to choose from two areas of focus: clinical and addictions. The courses in these areas of focus allow students to use their electives to delve even deeper to broaden their knowledge and experience in one of the two areas. Students would also complete their practicum at an agency that provided clinical or addictions treatment, in accordance with their area(s) of focus.

[] What online technologies does Campbellsville University’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. Tucker] The program utilizes the Moodle online learning platform for all online and hybrid course offerings. The courses are asynchronous; however, students are invited to engage one another and faculty through the course discussion forum and the Professor Q & A forum. In addition, courses utilize Voice Thread to actively engage learners. Voice Threads allow students to record video responses in the discussion forum, record video presentations and even their skills demonstration. Classmates and instructors then respond back in recorded video. Online students are not required to make campus visits.

We are developing a student resource room for students within the Moodle platform that will be available in the fall. This will allow us to communicate more efficiently with students about program announcements and upcoming events, while also providing localized access to a variety of program and university resources.

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

[Dr. Tucker] At this point, we are a fully online program. We are hopeful to develop a hybrid advanced standing cohort at the Louisville location for August 2020. By hybrid, each course will have a face-to-face and an online component, except for the practicum courses. We are not offering a hybrid program at any other location at this time, but welcome student interest. The curriculum will be the same regardless of format. We expect those students who select the hybrid program option would be those who are less comfortable with the fully online option. These students want a face-to-face, in classroom experience with the professor for at least a portion of the course. Students are welcome to explore options within the program that best meet their needs.

[] All students of Campbellsville University’s Foundation Master of Social Work must complete both a foundational field practicum and an advanced field practicum, while students of the Advanced Standing track complete an 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. Tucker] The practicum entails two 450 hour internships at two different approved agencies for foundation students and one 450 hour internship at an approved agency for advanced students. Students will obtain approximately 15 hours per week in the agency and be enrolled in a concurrent online practicum course. Students will have course assignments such as detailing activities completed in the agency by writing competency papers. Students’ performance at the agency will be evaluated utilizing the Field Learning Contract on an ongoing basis. The Field Learning Contract contains the social work core competencies and practice behaviors. There are specified tasks associated with each practice behavior that students are required to complete during the 450 hours. A joint collaboration between the student, field agency instructor, and field course instructor will decide how the tasks will be completed within the agency.

Students receive support from the MSW Director of Field Education, the Field Course Instructor, and the field agency instructor. The MSW Director of Field Education guides the student through the process of securing an agency and gives approval of the placement. The student is assigned a field course instructor to oversee the field experience including the online field course. They maintain close contact with the student, the agency, and the MSW Director of Field Education throughout the placement. The field course instructor serves as the student’s link between the agency and Carver School. The field course instructor monitors, consults, and intervenes when necessary to ensure a quality field experience occurs for all students. In the agency the student is assigned a field agency instructor. This is a staff person employed at the agency. They are responsible for supervision of the student throughout the field experience.

The field placement process starts upon acceptance into the Carver School. Students receive an email detailing the steps necessary to complete the field placement process. Students are given a link to the MSW Field Manual, deadlines, and information on how to set up their personal IPT account (including a power point illustration). Students are given the paperwork for agencies to complete and contact information for the MSW Field Director. Students then will receive emails biweekly from the MSW Director of Field Education checking on student progress.

The Carver School has a self-initiated practicum where the student is responsible for identifying, researching, and interviewing at the agency that best meets their needs. Students will receive an email upon acceptance into the program detailing how to secure an agency. The MSW Director of Field Education is available to guide the student through the process and provide assistance as necessary.

Practicum settings can vary widely. Choosing your agency depends on what area of social work you want to specialize in. Some examples of agencies where Carver School students have completed their practicum at in the past include state child welfare agencies, home health care centers, hospice centers, homeless shelters, school systems, food banks, pregnancy centers, inpatient and or outpatient substance abuse centers, nursing homes, domestic violence shelters, behavioral health centers, administrative office of the courts, and hospitals.

Students are responsible for establishing relationships at the agency that reflect a commitment to the ethics and values of social work. They need to abide by agency policy and be professional in demeanor and appearance. Students need to complete all assigned tasks at the agency timely and effectively.

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

[Dr. Tucker] We do not have a formal mentorship program, rather all faculty, staff and leadership are available to students to assist in any way needed. We also have video faculty introductions on our Carver School Faculty & Staff page. In these videos, faculty identify areas of practice/interest in social work practice, thus giving students the opportunity to connect with a faculty member who shares their practice area interests. We are in the process of developing a virtual Carver School Student Resource page that would include separate areas/chat rooms for various specialized areas of practice. Students can connect with faculty and colleagues to explore interests and get advice. We also have lead professors for the clinical and addiction areas of focus. These professors are available to talk with and assist students regarding questions in their prospective areas.

Our program has recently partnered with ASWB (Association of Social Work Boards) in the Pathway to Licensure Initiative and we have a Pathway to Licensure Scholar on our faculty team, Dr. Dianna Cooper-Bolinskey. She is chairing the Carver School Pathway to Licensure initiative to help prepare our students for licensure preparation and professional practice beyond the exam. This process will help mentor students along the curriculum to prepare them for licensed professional social work practice.

We are partnered with the University of Louisville Trager Institute as part of their Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program to provide practicum placements for students where they can experience the full integration of social work within a medical field and where they learn how to become leaders of the interprofessional team within a primary care practice. Students in this program are mentored in their interest in geriatric social work.

We have also received the Social Workers on the Frontline of the Opioid Epidemic Grant from the National Council for Behavioral Health. This grant allows us to provide scholarships for students interested in pursuing the addictions area of practice in social work, as well as funds for practicum placements providing opportunities for students. Students in this program are mentored in their interest in the addictions treatment area of social work practice.

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

[Dr. Tucker] Be sure to clearly answer each component of the application packet and submit all required documentation, to include official transcripts of undergraduate degree and any graduate coursework as well.

We do not require students to write a personal statement for the application, unless they do not meet the minimum GPA requirements for admissions. This essay allows the applicant to discuss what prevented them from achieving a 3.0 GPA and what steps they will take to ensure they are successful in the MSW program. This information helps us to assess the student’s academic readiness for graduate school.

We do not request standard letters of references, rather we have a form that must be completed by each reference that includes specific questions and rating scales of different areas. The application requires three reference forms to be completed: one from someone who particularly knows the applicant’s academic background and suitability of graduate study, one who is very familiar with the student’s values and moral character, and one who particularly knows the student’s potential to excel as a social worker. References cannot be from relatives (current or previous).

It is important that references provide detailed responses that clearly answer the prompts and provide examples/details to support their answers. This really helps give the committee insight into the student’s ability to be successful in the program.

The admission process for foundation and advanced is the same. An important distinction is that only students with an undergraduate degree in social work from a CSWE accredited school of social work are eligible to apply for the 30 hour Advanced Program. No other degrees can be substituted for this requirement. This is a CSWE requirement across all MSW programs. If a student has an undergraduate degree in any other discipline, they are eligible to apply for the 60 hours program. The 60 hour program includes 30 hours of foundation curriculum and then 30 hours of advanced curriculum.

[] What makes Campbellsville University’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 social work practice, research, and leadership?

[Dr. Tucker] The advanced program infuses trauma-informed practice content throughout the advanced curriculum and electives. As social workers, we recognize now more than ever the permeating effect of trauma on individuals, families, groups, communities and organizations whom we serve in the social work profession. Responding to those needs, we have adopted SAMSHA’s six guiding principles of trauma-informed practice, “safety; trustworthiness and transparency; peer support; collaboration and mutuality; empowerment; voice and choice; and cultural, historical, gender issues” within the advanced curriculum and both areas of foci (SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach, p. 14). Our program’s aim to embed trauma-informed practice prepares social work graduates with an understanding of trauma and its consequences, and places an empowering emphasis on healing and recovery across all domains.

Thank you, Dr. Tucker, for your excellent insight into Campbellsville University’s online Master of Social Work program!