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Dear Social Work Alumni,

I am writing to update you on some very important developments at the University. There will be additional communication from the University with more specifics, but I did not want to wait any longer than necessary to get this news to you. After much prayer and deliberation, the University will be eliminating the School of Social Work and all programs offered through it, effective Fall 2021. At its spring meeting this week, the Board of Trustees approved a recommendation from the administration to this effect. The rationale for this decision and what you can expect during this transition are outlined below. 

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) released the latest draft of their required institutional criteria for accreditation. This draft has not yet been finalized, but it indicates the trajectory the council is on. The draft includes significant changes built upon theoretical and philosophical assumptions that require instructional and curricular commitments inconsistent with our own institutional commitments. It also embraces a social and cultural agenda that now includes the acceptance of a view of human sexuality, gender identity, and gender expression that is inconsistent with the University’s biblical position on human sexuality. In addition, previous CSWE guidelines have permitted institutions to interpret the guidelines in a way that aligns with their university mission; that language has been removed in the most recent draft, so, if approved, institutions will be required to align with the values and purposes of the profession that are outlined in the document as being built upon a set of critical theory and intersectionality assumptions and values inconsistent with our biblical view of humanity, human nature, and the world. Considering this information in tandem with the School of Social Work’s pre-existing issues of sustainability and enrollment, the Board of Trustees and I believe that this is the time to make the difficult but necessary decision to close the School of Social Work and reallocate university resources to other strategic needs and opportunities. 

The dilemma with our position regarding the social work programs is that unlike other programs, social work in the United States has only one accrediting body, and students cannot pursue licensure or a career in social work without a CSWE-accredited social work education. This means that our affiliation with CSWE is required in order to prepare students for licensure in the workplace. Cairn University is committed to addressing human need and human suffering, to being the hands and feet of Jesus in a world that desperately needs the love of Christ, and to sharing the good news of His gospel. We will be striving to find additional ways to do that and additional ways to carry out the mission of this University despite the elimination of this specific professional preparation program. We are obligated to do so as followers of Christ in obedience to His Word and according to His example. I look forward to sharing with you exactly how we will do that in the future. Our current programs in psychology, counseling, criminal justice, and youth and family ministry remain intact and will be integral to our development of new opportunities that send students into the world as servants of Christ. Additionally, all academic programs will be discussing how they can address the critical issues faced by human beings made in the image and likeness of God in our current day.  

This decision was not easy to make. Social work at the University has a rich heritage of over 50 years. We have sent generations of graduates into some of the most challenging and difficult contexts where human suffering is the most pronounced. We have had faculty and staff members whose tireless commitment to the Lord and to their profession has had a significant and eternal impact not only on their students but on the region and the world. Our institution was a pioneer of training social workers from an explicitly biblical worldview. That is something we will always be proud of, and we praise God for giving us the opportunity to do it for so long. We also recognize that everything has a season, and that even the best things, which have shaped us and given us joy, must sometimes come to an end. This is a sad development, and we grieve, but we must trust the Lord. We must also celebrate and affirm you, the graduates of the social work program, in the important calling you have been given, and encourage you all we can to keep pursuing excellence as social workers. 

To clarify, the accreditation attributed to your BSW is not affected by the closure of the School of Social Work. And while we will not be accepting any new social work students, the University is committed to a teach-out program that will allow our current students to finish their biblical social work education at Cairn and graduate with a CSWE-accredited BSW degree. Dr. Juliet Campbell-Farrell will be leading a transition team that includes Dr. Lawrence Ressler and Mrs. Meghan Krouse. These individuals have the trust and confidence of colleagues; the administration; the students; and you, the alumni. I am sure that you may take some time to process this news, and know that Nate Wambold (alumni@cairn.edu) will be available for any questions or conversations about this change. There are also some initial alumni FAQs outlined for you below.

I understand this decision is a hard one to bear and that you may be angry, confused, hurt, and disappointed. It is a decision I hoped we would never have to make. I have been a proponent of social work going back to my days as the undergraduate dean in the mid-1990s. I taught many social work majors over the years, including many of you who are studying here now, and I trust you know we will do all we can to care for you as we make this transition. We have a faithful God, and I pray that you will continue to walk a different path with us as we continue to follow Him where He leads us.

Yours,

President Williams 

FAQs for Social Work Alumni

Does this affect my status as an alum of Cairn? Not at all. You are one of ours, and always will be. All alumni benefits and opportunities are still available to you.

With which school will I now be associated? There are many programs and concentrations in the past which are no longer offered at Cairn. These are all rolled under the School of Divinity; therefore, all School of Social Work alumni will be grafted into the School of Divinity specific school communication. All broad, regular alumni communications will come to you unchanged.

Will there ever be any opportunity to gather with fellow social work alumni? While not in the immediate future, if in the future, social work alumni look to organize a reunion, the Alumni Office will be here to support you like every other alum.

Will School of Social Work alumni still be featured, honored as such, and even awarded as they have in the past? Absolutely. Our social work alumni have been heavily featured, honored, and awarded. In the regular flow of broad communication and alumni activity, this will certainly continue.

Does this change how I refer to the school I attended? It does not. You are a graduate of Cairn University with a degree in social work. This has not and will not change.

How does Cairn view its history with social work? As mentioned above, we give great thanks to God for His hand on the social work program over many years, its accomplishments, its historicity, and you—our alumni. We honor the history of our social work program and its alumni.  

To whom should I address questions at Cairn about my field, certifications, professional recommendations, etc? The Office at the Provost will currently answer any and all questions related to and around the above. They can be reached at provost@cairn.edu.

To whom do I direct any general thoughts, questions, concerns around this news? You may forward any communication to Nate Wambold, vice president for alumni and community affairs, at alumni@cairn.edu. Be assured that your feedback will be shared with all key leaders at the University and answered if a response is required, necessary, and fitting. Our goal is to keep communication channels open and freely flowing.

I have financially supported the social work program and MSW. What will that money now be used for? Designated gifts made in the 2020 fiscal year were and will be utilized for their intended purposes. Starting in 2021, we encourage you to redirect your giving. Our development team is available, at request, to meet and discuss your specific support goals. Send an email to alumni@cairn.edu with any questions. 

Copyright © 2021 Cairn University, All rights reserved.


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