The School of Social Work at The University of Southern Mississippi has introduced the state’s only disaster management certificate program option for students in its master of social work program.
Following Hurricane Katrina, Southern Miss faculty members in the School of Social Work, along with members of the local community, believed a human element was needed when responding to major disasters. In response, Southern Miss has provided master’s level social work students an elective program to earn a certificate in disaster management.
“Professional social workers have the skills and ability to appropriately and effectively respond to individuals and communities that have experienced disasters,” said Dr. Tom Osowski, assistant professor in the School of Social Work. “As social workers we deal with individual and community-wide disasters every day, in good weather and in bad.”
The certificate program, designed by three university faculty members, consists of four required courses and a field placement course in a disaster-focused agency. All disaster management courses will be offered at the Southern Miss Gulf Park campus.
Osowski presented the disaster management certificate program for review to a panel of international disaster and social development professionals in Mexico this summer. He said it was well received because of its ability to relate professional social work education to future disaster response needs.
Currently, the certificate is only available to master’s level social work students. In the future, the School of Social Work plans to provide CEU training opportunities to practicing, professional social workers as part of the school’s ongoing commitment to respond to the educational needs of social workers across the state and in the Gulf South.
Deborah Hatcher of Hurley, Miss. is a student in the bachelor of social work program and a case manager for Mississippi United Methodist Disaster Response. After she completes her bachelor’s degree, she plans to continue her education in the master of social work education program and acquire its disaster management certificate.
“This program deals with people in all aspects of disasters,” said Hatcher. “It is imperative with future disasters that we have case managers certified through this program. As social workers, we know the community, the resources and how to advocate, and this knowledge will enable us to better help disaster victims.”
For more information on the Southern Miss School of Social Work, call 228.214.3262 or visit www.usm.edu/gc/health.
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu/gulfcoast .