UW Oshkosh announced its Human Services Leadership program has maintained its accreditation through the Council for Standards in Human Services Education for its 12th consecutive year on April 4.
According to UW Oshkosh Today, UWO is the only school in Wisconsin to offer both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in HSL and to achieve the CSHSE accreditation. The program’s current enrollment includes 263 undergraduate students and more than 17 graduate students.
According to the National Organization for Human Services, CSHSE is a national board that aims to ensure quality, consistency and relevance of human service education programs by providing accreditation to institutions that adhere to a set of research-based standards set forth by the council.
According to HSL program chair Janet Hagen, the program, which has been accredited through CSHSE since the early 1990s, is known for its versatility.
“They call it the generalist, which might have a bad connotation, but really we teach you how to work with people, programs, organizations and communities,” Hagen said. “Our students graduate, and instead of providing direct service, they’re really often the leaders in community organizations. So they develop programs, write grants, do strategic planning.”
Human Services Field Placement Director Annette Larie said being accredited is important because it confirms that what students in the program are being taught is up-to-date and relevant to their future careers.
“It sort of confirms that the program is a quality educational program that adheres to industry standards, the industry being human services,” Larie said. “I mean, the reason why we do this is, overall bottom line of all of it, is it provides value to our students and it really demonstrates that we have a rigorous and meaningful program that will hopefully start them on their professional journeys.”
Hagen said in order to be reaccredited, the program has to have 22 standards set by CSHSE incorporated into its curriculum.
“If you look at our syllabi, if you look at the intro, it’ll say this meets these program goals and it meets these particular standards,” Hagen said. “So you can imagine that with 22 standards, each class might meet a piece of several standards. So, even when it’s not tied to being reaccredited, we’re always thinking about the accreditation, and if we add a class or change your class, how does that fit into this overall.”
Hagen said this course information is reviewed by CSHSE every five years, with a visit from the company’s personnel taking place every 10 years.
“It’s a very lengthy process,” Hagen said. “And then we have to document all of that, and we have to write it all up. And then it’s sent off to people who read it and review it. And then every 10 years two people come to actually visit us on campus and basically see if everything we said is true. That just happened in the fall.”
Larie said keeping the program’s curriculum up-to-date is a constant and data-fueled effort.
“This is not something that we just kind of shoot from the hip and respond to,” Larie said. “We are collecting data and analyzing and assessing our program on an ongoing basis, and we are assuring that the standards are represented in our curriculum. So it’s something that we’re very cognizant of all the time. It isn’t just something we do because now it’s time to be reaccredited. We practice this throughout so that when we actually do the accreditation, we have the data to provide the evidence of how we meet the standards.”
Senior human services leadership student Ireland Andrews said the program covers a vast range of topics to help each student discover and navigate their own unique career path.
“It is such a broad field that anyone could find a career in,” Andrews said. “We also have really great classes that are focused on teaching us about our fields and guide us in what we want to do. We also have very diverse classes from legal to interpersonal relationship.”
Hagen said people get HSL confused with social work, but they are distinct areas of study.
“We’re really very different,” Hagen said. “Human services is an interdisciplinary field, so we do share some of the philosophies of social work just like we do with sociology, psychology, but the way that we practice is very different.
We’re really about building community resilience and addressing unmet needs on a programmatic level rather than on an individual level.”
Andrews said she was not at all surprised the program was able to maintain its accreditation.
“We have a strong program, and we provide internships to help students narrow down the field they want to go into and make good connections,” Andrews said. “I do think there are some things that can always be improved upon, but overall it is a great program.”