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How one MSU Denver department is innovating through the COVID-19 closure

The Department of Social Work strategically uses its resources to support students and grow enrollment.

By Lindsey Coulter

July 29, 2020

MSW students at pinning ceremony.Metropolitan State University of Denver’s mission to help students persist to graduation hasn’t changed with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the campus community has redoubled efforts to support students, resulting in the development of new best practices and techniques for weathering economic and higher-education uncertainty.

The Department of Social Work has been particularly motivated and proactive in helping students navigate the pandemic, and faculty and staff efforts have paid off in impressive enrollment increases. So how have they done it?

Invest intelligently

By redirecting unspent travel funds, the Department of Social Work distributed more than $12,000 in grocery-store gift cards to about 200 students and purchased 28 laptops for student use. This relieved students’ financial and technology worries and helped them stay in the program and focused on their studies.

Honor accomplishments

The department also continued its Pinning and Hooding Ceremony and Senior Celebration traditions by taking them online. Celebrating student accomplishments virtually and creating an honors webpage allowed the office to applaud students’ hard work and help them transition to connected and engaged alumni.

Create connections

The Office of Social Work Student Services, Finance and Administration hosted the department’s annual Reg-a-palooza registration event for incoming master’s students virtually, which was one way the team ensured that student employees serving as welcome-desk ambassadors and graduate assistants remained employed and busy. The OSWSS team has also been active in supporting enrollment campaigns and partnered with Social Work faculty to call newly admitted students and welcome them to the programs.

Additionally, the department coordinated and hosted Community Zoom Rooms soon after the campus closure to create a sense of community and belonging for students and to answer any questions students had about the changes. Fast-forward to today, and the department has launched new town-hall Community Zoom Rooms focused on retention and answering students’ questions about the fall semester.

Remain accessible

Creating a dedicated website gave Social Work students a one-stop shop for updates, news and FAQs.

“And we had a relatively easy shift with our advising services because we already offered flexible virtual solutions to all of our students,” said Amy Middleton, director, Office of Social Work Student Services, Finance and Administration.

As the department shifted its focus to the fall semester, the dedicated website was refreshed to focus on fall course-delivery information, flexible field-placement options and links to Canvas resources.

These efforts and others have paid off. As of this week, fall enrollment is up 5% in the undergraduate program and 9% in the graduate program. Summer enrollment also increased by 14% in the undergraduate program and 23% in the graduate program.

Share your department’s student-success and enrollment ideas, best practices and innovations by commenting below.

Topics: Excellence, Social Work, Student Success

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