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USD's Social Work Department celebrates graduation of first Master of Social Work cohort

VERMILLION, S.D. -- The Department of Social Work at the University of South Dakota celebrated the graduation of its first class of Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) students July 22 when a pinning ceremony recognizing the 23 graduates was held at Hope Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls. Speakers at the ceremony included Michael Lawler, Ph.D., dean of USD’s School of Health Sciences, Charles Schwartz, Ph.D., professor emeritus and the retired chair of USD’s Department of Social Work, and Joan McMillian, retired executive director of the South Dakota chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

“This significant milestone will move forward social services in South Dakota and fill a void in the workforce,” said Elizabeth Talbot, Ph.D., associate professor of social work and director of the M.S.W. program. “Many agencies have been waiting for our graduates and are anxious to hire them for positions that have remained vacant for a long time.”

According to Talbot, the graduates’ employment outlook is strong due to the demand for highly trained experts in social work fields. Graduates of USD’s M.S.W. program, the only one in South Dakota, will be eligible to become licensed for clinical services, move into leadership positions in various agencies or pursue private practice. Agencies who employ M.S.W. graduates can receive third-party reimbursements, Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements and other insurance reimbursements, which bring Federal dollars to the state.

“Many of our recent graduates have already been hired by agencies,” said Talbot.

For more information about the program, please visit


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 78 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.

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Hanna DeLange
USD News