Technical standards and essential functions for the VCU School of Social Work
At the School of Social Work, we uphold a collective responsibility to ensure the safety of both our students who are actively engaged in our academic programs and the clients and community members with whom students interact. Our commitment extends to graduating students who not only meet but exceed the standards of practice and competence as outlined in the NASW Code of Ethics and CSWE's Practice Competencies, embodying the values and principles of professional social work.
The technical standards provided below delineate the essential functions required to thrive within the social work academic programs at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work. These standards are applicable across our spectrum of programs, including the Bachelor's in Social Work (B.S.W.), Master's in Social Work (M.S.W.), and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs. They establish a baseline of capacity necessary to perform key functions in social work, safeguarding the well-being of all individuals involved in our academic pursuits. It is important to note that these standards are not prerequisites for admission to our programs. Instead, they serve as a guide for potential applicants to gain a comprehensive understanding of the physical, cognitive, and behavioral attributes required to successfully complete our programs.
To actively engage in any academic program at the School of Social Work, students play a vital role in understanding and striving to meet these technical standards. We fully acknowledge that each student is unique, and we are committed to providing the necessary resources and support to help you succeed, including reasonable accommodations when needed. However, it's equally important for each student to take responsibility for their own academic journey.
We encourage and expect students to proactively familiarize themselves with these standards on an ongoing basis, ensuring they are on the path to meet them. It's a collaborative effort where students, with the guidance and assistance of our dedicated faculty and staff, should progressively align with these standards as they progress through their academic journey. Additionally, students are also responsible for adhering to the specific standards outlined in course syllabi.
We want to emphasize that resources and support are readily available to assist you in overcoming any barriers or challenges you may encounter while striving to meet these standards. Your proactive engagement and utilization of these resources will be essential in ensuring your success in our academic programs. Your commitment to your own growth, coupled with our unwavering support, will help you achieve your academic and professional goals.
We understand that individuals may have unique needs and circumstances. Therefore, students seeking reasonable accommodations based on disability to meet technical and academic standards are encouraged to reach out to our Student Accessibility and Educational Opportunity (SAEO) office.
Demonstrated behaviors that are not congruent with our professional standards and the essential functions outlined below will prompt a review by the School. There are three levels of review in our operational procedures (provided below the essential functions) that may disrupt a student’s continuance in their chosen program.
In essence, the School of Social Work at Virginia Commonwealth University is dedicated to collaboratively ensuring that every student, regardless of their individual circumstances, has the opportunity to thrive and excel within our academic programs while upholding the highest standards of professionalism and ethical conduct in the social work profession.
Our commitment to fostering a supportive and inclusive learning environment is paramount. The technical standards encompass vital functions that encompass interactions with various stakeholders, including faculty, staff, fellow students, field instructors, agency staff, interdisciplinary teams, clients, and other individuals involved in academic programs, such as classes and field placements. Technical standards include essential functions in the following six domains:
- Attend and participate in class and field activities consistently in compliance with any specific attendance and participation requirements set forth by instructors.
- Demonstrate ability to assess nonverbal communication, including affect, for example, by interpreting facial expression and body positioning
- Demonstrate effective use of nonverbal communication appropriate to client interaction
- Demonstrate ability to assess environmental safety and risk factors, such as when making home visits, intervening in cases of child and elderly maltreatment, domestic or any other type of interpersonal violence situations
- Apply principles of logic, sequential reasoning, and understand causal relationships
- Perform basic mathematical functions
- Read and obtain information from texts, articles and other educational aids, including client records and other documents
- Collect, organize, and critically analyze and interpret objective and subjective information
- Synthesize information for effective problem solving needed in the completion of psychosocial or community and organizational assessments, intervention planning, and evaluation of practice
- Demonstrate proficient written and oral language skills for communicating with School, local agencies, and clients
- Understand and manage nonverbal communication (including behavioral, emotional, and affective communication)
- Demonstrate professional interpersonal communication and interactions
- Demonstrate ability to use methods, technology, and resources needed to complete assignments and communicate professionally
- Demonstrate professional use of technology related to the academic program (including, but not limited to telephone calls, email, social media, and texting)
- Demonstrate the interpersonal skills necessary to relate effectively and empathically in accordance with the NASW Code of Ethics
- Demonstrate ability to engage with others with appropriate respect for diversity and difference
- Receive constructive feedback in a professional manner and take steps to incorporate it into practice to further growth as a social worker, which includes developing personal awareness and growth
- Demonstrate ability to engage in constructive problem solving and avoid bullying behaviors
- Be punctual and dependable with attendance and deadlines
- Prioritize responsibilities to meet the demands of personal and professional expectations and obligations.
- Keep appointments or make alternative arrangements in a timely fashion
- Communicate in a timely manner when circumstances arise that impact ability to participate in academic activities, including classroom or field placements activities
- Comply with the uniform or dress policy of their field agency in the classroom and practical setting
- Demonstrate the knowledge that one’s own values, beliefs, emotions, past experiences, and attitudes may affect thinking, behavior, and relationships
- Examine one’s own behavior and adapt as appropriate to develop professional social work relationships with others
- Apply self-awareness and emotional self-regulation to manage the influence of personal biases and values
- Manage response to situations or stimuli that may interfere with performance of social work functions
- Manage personal problems and situations that may negatively impact performance including medical, interpersonal, mental, emotional or behavioral problems or challenges
- Proactively seek assistance from appropriate professionals for medical, interpersonal, mental, emotional or behavioral problems and challenges that may interfere with performance. (Faculty, instructors, and fellow students are not responsible for providing such assistance to students.)
- Manage life stressors through the use of appropriate coping mechanisms and self-care
Your success and well-being are our top priorities, and we are here to support you every step of the way. It's crucial that you take the time to carefully read and fully understand the technical standards and essential functions outlined above. Our goal is to ensure that you can satisfy each of these standards, whether or not you require reasonable accommodations.
If, for any reason, you find yourself facing challenges in meeting these standards or performing the specified essential functions, please know that you are not alone. We encourage you to reach out to the relevant school representative, whether it be your student success adviser, instructor, director of field education, or academic program director, whenever you have questions or concerns. They are here to assist you, provide guidance, and explore potential solutions tailored to your unique needs.
At the School of Social Work at Virginia Commonwealth University, we believe in your potential and are committed to helping you overcome any obstacles you may encounter along your academic journey. Please do not hesitate to seek support and clarification whenever needed, as your success is of utmost importance to us.
At the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work, our technical standards serve as a framework to ensure that all students, regardless of their unique circumstances, have the support and resources they need to succeed in our academic programs. These standards define the essential functions required for engagement in our programs, including the Bachelor's in Social Work (B.S.W.), Master's in Social Work (M.S.W.), and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs. Our aim is not just to establish minimum capacity levels but also to create an environment that safeguards the well-being of all individuals involved in our academic community.
We understand that navigating these standards can sometimes be challenging, and we want to emphasize our commitment to collaboration and support throughout your academic journey. In the event that a behavior is observed that is not in alignment with our technical standards, we have established a multi-level review process to ensure that you receive the assistance and guidance you need to succeed. Depending on the severity of the situation, this process is designed to be equitable and considerate of your unique circumstances:
In the spirit of collaboration, if you are observed to demonstrate behaviors that are not congruent with our technical standards, you will receive an email about this behavior. This email communication will call attention to the specific standard that was out of alignment and will follow a verbal conversation to ensure that you understand the situation. This communication may come from various members of our community, including course instructors, advisers, administrators, or staff members. The Office of Student Success will also be copied on this email to provide additional support.
If you experience a second instance where there is a continued lack of congruence with the technical standards, whether it's the same standard or a different one, or if the situation is more significant, you will receive written communication outlining the circumstances. You will be required to meet with your student success adviser, the appropriate program and/or office director[s], and/or the relevant instructor. During this meeting, a collaborative course of action will be determined. This may include developing a written plan to help you achieve congruence with the technical standard, establishing a timeline for compliance, and providing formal guidelines for your continued participation in the program. Your Student Success Advisor will be there to support you in adhering to the plan.
Upon encountering a third instance where there is a continued lack of congruence with the technical standards, or facing a more significant challenge in adhering to a technical standard, you will be asked to appear before a faculty panel consisting of three faculty members. This panel's role is to make a recommendation to the dean regarding your ability to remain in your program. It's important to note that the Director of Student Success will also be present to oversee the panel, though they are not a voting member. This level of review is designed to be thorough and equitable with your best interests in mind.
In the event of a termination due to incongruence with a technical standard, you may appeal this decision to the termination appeals panel.
Our commitment to your success and well-being remains steadfast throughout this process. We are here to collaborate with you, provide the necessary support, and ensure that you have every opportunity to excel in your academic journey at the School of Social Work. Please know that we value your contributions to our community, and we are dedicated to helping you achieve your goals.
Created in 2017. Revised 20223