Interview with Tiffany Garcia, LMSW - Director of the Master of Social Work Program at Our Lady of the Lake University

About Tiffany Garcia, LMSW: Tiffany Garcia is the Director of the Master of Social Work program at Our Lady of the Lake University’s (OLLU) Worden School of Social Work. As the Director, Ms. Garcia is responsible for the day-to-day administrative functions of the San Antonio, Rio Grande Valley and online programs. Ms. Garcia manages the integrity of the program by managing course structure and competencies, supporting instructors and students, troubleshooting concerns and barriers, and consistently evaluating outcomes and measures. As the MSW Director, Ms. Garcia engages in constant collaboration within various program stakeholders to ensure continued growth for the program, students, and instructors. Ms. Garcia facilitates and manages orientations, trainings, continuing education opportunities, course development and redesign, and program evaluation to ensure that the Worden School of Social Work is providing quality education.

Prior to her role in academia, Ms. Garcia worked extensively as a social worker with expertise in supporting individuals struggling with severe mental illness, substance abuse and addictions, and mental health and relationship challenges. She specialized in a trauma recovery empowerment model during her individual and group therapy work, and has worked with veterans, families, the elderly, and members of the LGBTQI community.

Interview Questions

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

[Ms. Garcia] Worden’s concentration is unique in that it focuses on Hispanic Children and Families. During advanced coursework, students will focus on Hispanic Children and Families via readings and assignments to learn details and practice skills specific to this population. While we emphasize this specialization, our degree is a generalized practice degree, which means our graduates are prepared and competent to work with all populations. Worden’s curriculum adheres to The Council of Social Work Education’s (CSWE) required guidelines and competencies, which ensures that our students are receiving quality education that meets national standards and MSW licensure requirements.

Students who enter with an BSW degree will begin with advanced level courses focusing on direct practice skills and advanced research and policy. All other students will receive foundation level social work education to ensure general knowledge of the profession and prepare for advanced level work.

Upon completion of the program, Worden students are prepared to work within various social work positions, both at the micro and macro levels. While students learn general clinical knowledge, each should check with their state board on clinical licensure requirements. In addition, our faculty members are diverse, with an extensive background in various fields offering their expertise in class.

[] OLLU’s Master of Social Work offers three different delivery options: an in-person, face-to-face option on the OLLU San Antonio campus, a hybrid option on the Rio Grande Valley campus, and an online version. May we have more information on each of these options, and what students should take into consideration when deciding between them?

[Ms. Garcia] The MSW program offers three program options, onsite San Antonio (SA), onsite Rio Grande Valley (RGV) and online, that all follow the same mission statement, values and goals. The three program options are designed so that students can move seamlessly from one option to another while experiencing the same competencies, assignments, and pedagogical approach, as well as the University’s mission, vision and goals. Students who prefer an asynchronous setting and working on their own pace while meeting deadlines should consider the online program.

[] Students of OLLU’s foundation Master of Social Work program must complete a Foundational and an Advanced Field Education practicum, while advanced standing students complete the Advanced Field Education practicum. What do the Foundational and Advanced Field Education practicums require, and how does the field placement process work for each? What kinds of faculty/peer support do students receive during their completion of their field education requirement?

[Ms. Garcia] Foundation practicum requires 450 hours of direct practice experience, while advanced practicum is 500 hours. Practicum is the ‘hands-on’ experience and gives students the opportunity to train within an agency setting. Once a student is ready to enter field, they will work with the field team to complete paperwork and be given a list of potential agencies. Students are responsible to secure an agency and to complete all coursework in the field seminar course.

Students follow an All-In-One which is a document followed by student, instructor, and field supervisor, that details the competencies they will master during field. Foundation students follow standard CSWE competencies and advanced students follow a set of competencies developed by Worden that focus on the concentration and advanced practice skills. CSWE and Worden specific competencies can be found on the Worden website. Students in all program options are required to complete field education.

[] How do the faculty members of OLLU’s Master of Social Work program mentor and support students during their enrollment? How can students make the most of these mentorship opportunities?

[Ms. Garcia] Worden has a diverse faculty that are available to mentor students throughout the program. Faculty can mentor informally through questions and answers on specific questions and concerns, or students can request an ongoing mentorship where a faculty member will continue to help the student grow professionally. Faculty have mentored students in the honors programs, including McNair scholarship recipients and BSW, MSW and PhD TAs. With our faculty having diverse professional backgrounds and research areas, students can connect to discuss career goals and the profession as a whole.

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

[Ms. Garcia] When submitting a competitive application, applicants should submit their best academic writing, follow APA format, and focus on addressing the required statement prompts. Applicants should stay focused and concise with their thoughts while meeting requirements. Applicants should also choose references who can highlight their skills related to the field and emphasize strengths and growth showing their ability to succeed in graduate school. Applicants interested in the Advanced Program need to have a BSW from an accredited social work program with minimum 3.0 GPA. The application is the same for all program locations.

[] What have been some of your most rewarding experiences as the Director of the MSW program at OLLU? What are you looking forward to most as you continue in this role to develop and expand the MSW program, mentor students, and more?

[Ms. Garcia] Being part of Worden has been a blessing. I am grateful to have seen so many students accomplish their goal of becoming a social worker. Some of my most rewarding experiences have been witnessing students overcome obstacles and push their limits to earn their master’s degree, whether that be taking the steps to apply, return or complete a class. This is not an easy program or field and the drive, determination and passion within Worden students is apparent and inspiring.

What I look forward to is the ability to help the program grow to meet the needs of our students and communities. Worden faculty members continue to evaluate courses and develop curriculum that is necessary in our current climate. Being a part of that process and knowing I have ‘left my mark’ to help society by forming strong, competent, compassionate, and well-equipped social workers who will change the world is what drives me. I look forward to each graduation and welcoming each person as peers in the field.

Thank you, Ms. Garcia, for your excellent insight into Our Lady of the Lake University’s Master of Social Work program!