Interview with Dr. Pamela A. Yankeelov – Associate Dean of Student Services at the Univ. of Louisville, Kent School of Social Work

About Dr. Pamela A. Yankeelov, Ph.D.: Dr. Yankeelov is a Professor and the Associate Dean of Student Services at the University of Louisville, Kent School of Social Work. During her past 10 years as the Associate Dean, she has played a significant role in the recruitment, admission, and orientation protocols for the on campus and online MSSW programs.

She is the chair of the Advanced Research Sequence at the Kent School and has been teaching in this sequence for over 18 years. Several years ago, she co-led a revitalization of the research sequence curriculum from educating MSSW students to be producers of research to teaching students how to identify, evaluate and synthesize the best evidence related to a particular practice and how to translate the best evidence into practice. Check her and her fellow Kent School colleagues out at: Kent School Faculty . Dr. Pamela A. Yankeelov was compensated to participate in this interview.

[] Currently, there are less than 20 universities that offer online MSW programs. How are the programs at the University of Louisville structured?

[Dr. Yankeelov] Kent School has offered online courses to our MSSW students since 2008. We launched our fully online MSSW program in the Fall of 2012 with 25 students in our 60 hour regular program for students without a Bachelor in Social Work (BSW) degree. Three and four year plans were available at that time. Now, we have expanded our offerings to include a 2 year, 60 hour program, as well as, a 2, 3, 4 or 5 semester advanced standing program for students with a BSW degree. We are also offering four specializations including Gerontology, Mental Health, Alcohol and Drug Counseling and Psychosocial Oncology in the Fall of 2014. Curriculum plans for the various programs can be found on Kent’s website at: Kent MSSW Online Program .

The majority of the instruction is asynchronous with weekly readings, reflections, discussion boards, and paper expectations. Weekly interaction with fellow colleagues and the instructor is expected. I have received numerous emails from our online students indicating they have received more attention from their online instructors at Kent than they received in their undergraduate on campus and online programs. Most faculty members have two to three synchronous sessions each semester scheduled in advance. Faculty members are sensitive to the time zone issues when scheduling the sessions.

Students receive the same instruction regardless of whether they are in the online or on campus program. The faculty who teach in the online program also teach our on campus students. Our initial outcomes indicated students in both the online and on campus program express similarly positive views of their instructors and instruction, and their rubric scores on their assignments demonstrate similar quality.

The requirements for practicum remain the same for students participating in the fully online program just as for the students in the on campus program. Students will be placed in a human service organization in a location close to where the student lives. The student will collaborate with the Director of Field Education in identifying potential practicum settings near the student’s residence. The student, the agency practicum supervisor and the practicum faculty will meet for all the same scheduled sessions (initial visit, mid-term and final evaluations for each semester) as for the on campus students, except the meetings will be conducted via videoconferencing through Blackboard Collaborate. The student and supervisor will need to arrange for use of a computer with a camera, mic, and internet connection for those scheduled videoconferences. The practicum orientation for online students will be made available via the internet by their practicum faculty and the practicum orientation for agency supervisors of online students will be made available via the internet by the Director of Field Education.

[] The University of Louisville’s online MSW program is a Generalist program with the option to take electives in specialized topics. For students who are just starting to research online MSW programs, can you briefly describe what it means to be a Generalist program? Does the program prepare students for a career in direct-service social work, clinical social work or both?

[Dr. Yankeelov] Generalist social work practice requires a wide range of skills that are based on current science and the knowledge, ethics, and values unique to the social work profession. Generalist social workers are equipped to address problems that impact individuals, families, and communities and provide evidence-based interventions at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels. The generalist social worker is skilled to intervene in clinical and non-clinical settings, and prepared to collaborate and participate in decision-making in numerous organizational environments. Their leadership skills are utilized in systems of any size, including local, state, and federal government, as well as, global contexts.

Our MSSW Online students will do the same readings, watch the same videos, hear the same lectures as our on campus students. They will also regularly record and submit role plays where their clinical skills can be practiced and evaluated. Combined with the practicum experience, students are well-positioned for direct practice positions.

[] For students who want to become licensed clinical social workers, licensing requirements vary by state. What advice do you have for students in terms of researching the requirements in their state of residence and how does the University of Louisville help with the process?

[Dr. Yankeelov] Kent School strongly encourages all of their prospective students to review the state’s licensing board requirements for the state of their desired residence. (View list of licensing boards.)

Some states may not allow students with an online degree from a different state to apply for licensure. The University of Louisville maintains a list of states in which we are authorized, licensed, exempt or not subject to seek approval to offer online programs. Please know that state regulations are constantly evolving so for the most up-to-date information, refer to Online Accreditation and State Authorization.

If you have questions, please feel free to email us at

[] Field Education is a major component of MSW programs and requires a significant time commitment from students. Many online programs are geared towards working professionals, how do you recommend students balance field education with other responsibilities?

[Dr. Yankeelov] Think of the social work practicum as you would a medical resident’s internship; you must study under the guidance of someone with the credentials you are seeking. Thus, you must be supervised in your practicum by a social worker with a master’s degree in social work from an accredited program, and a minimum of two years of post-masters experience. Most social workers work Monday through Friday, 8am-5pm. You may need to flex your work schedule to adapt some time for the practicum during the weekdays. On occasion, a social worker may have an evening or weekend program, such as a group counseling session or an educational program, but this may be only once a week or even once a month for maybe two hours.

You may want to explore with your employer the possibilities of moving some of your work activities into the evenings and weekends, so you will have some day hours reserved for the practicum. You may also explore the option of shifting to 80% time, keeping your full employee benefits, but working only four days a week and saving the fifth day for the practicum. Additionally, you may want to consider shifting to part-time work during the period you are taking your practicum. Remember that practicum is designed for working 16 hours weekly at the placement site. Because most MSSW students work, the majority choose 3 or 4 year curriculum plans that reduce their graduate course load when completing practicum placements. For other questions related to practicum at Kent School, please visit MSSW Practicum .

[] What advice do you have for professionals who are considering earning a MSW (and possibly entering the field of social work for the first time)?

[Dr. Yankeelov] We would suggest that you read through an Introduction to Social Work text book (e.g. Segal, 2013), visit the National Association of Social Workers  website to read the NASW Code of Ethics, and review the Bureau of Labor Statistics report  on the social work profession. We would also suggest that you attend a virtual MSSW Prospective Student Session which Kent will soon be offering. The Kent School also has brief student mentors who can answer a prospective student’s questions about the program. Email us at for access to a mentor who has similar characteristics as yourself. We would also suggest that you visit professional sites related to a particular specialization of interest to you. (View complete list of professional organizations). You might also want to check out this website .

We also want students to know that there is no difference between the MSSW and MSW degrees. You just want to attend a school that has been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. Kent School has been accredited since 1937.

[] For students who have already decided they want to pursue a MSW, but are unsure about online education, can you briefly explain the pros and cons to pursuing a MSW online?

[Dr. Yankeelov] Online programs allow students to personalize their education by seeking out programs that have their preferred specialized curriculum. Programs offering asynchronous course delivery methods afford the students’ greater flexibility in managing their assignment deadlines and competing responsibilities such as full-time work, and care for children or aging relatives (Ross-Gordon, 2011). As a result of having greater access to these diverse populations, the virtual classroom experience can be enriched for all. Additionally, students in remote areas such as rural areas and students with high mobility risk including active duty military service personnel or the spouse of active duty personnel can receive a high quality education (Parsad & Lewish, 2008).

Online students must have adequate technology and technological skill to fully participate in their coursework (Sahin & Shelley, 2008). There also needs to be ample opportunity to develop their social work professional identity and practice skill level through coursework, interaction with faculty and practicum opportunities, advisement, conferences and connection to their colleagues. Kent School’s interactive curriculum, monthly online advising sessions and practicum hours in an agency in your state (900 hours for a 60 hour student, 450 hours for an advanced standing student) provides ample opportunity to develop your identity as a social worker.

The University of Louisville’s Delphi Center for Teaching and Learning states a successful online learner:

  • Is self-directed and mature.
  • Is honest and possesses integrity.
  • Checks his/her course web site on a daily basis.
  • Is an effective reader and writer because he/she will have to communicate often in writing with colleagues and instructors.
  • Is eager to participate in on-line discussions.
  • Is a good time manager and can balance work, family, school and other obligations.
  • Is methodical in doing assignments and submitting assignments on or before the due dates.
  • Is an effective problem solver.
  • Is comfortable doing research on the internet.
  • Has a back-up plan in case he/she experiences a computer malfunction in order to complete assignments in a timely manner.

[] Online education requires discipline from students to stay on track and keep up with coursework and assignments. What systems are in place to ensure that online students do not fall behind? Do you have any recommendations for online students in terms of staying on track with coursework?

[Dr. Yankeelov] Our online MSSW students should expect to spend at least as much time studying in an online class as they would in an on-campus class. Most of Kent School students say that online courses require even more time than traditional classes. During the admissions process, students are asked to sign a personal commitment statement which outlines the programmatic expectations. If accepted into the online program at Kent School, students are also required to write out a plan for how you will incorporate online education into their life circumstances. This ensures that they have spent time reflecting on the how they are going to set aside time for studying each week. It will not be possible for students to do all of their work for a week in one study period. They will be expected to log into their courses on a regular basis—at least once per day—to check for updates from the instructor, communication from classmates, and more.

During orientation, there is an opportunity for new students to discuss strategies with a seasoned online student. When classes begin, faculty members will consult with an advisor, if concerns arise, who in turn will reach out to discuss strategies for success with the student. Kent School also offers monthly advising sessions to our online students.

[] Currently, the University of Louisville has both a regular program and an advanced standing program, what is the typical academic background of the students in the regular program?

[Dr. Yankeelov] We have students with all types of undergraduate degrees in our 60 hour program. We tend to have students with psychology, sociology, justice administration, anthropology and communication undergraduate degrees. Yet we also see students with business degrees, theater arts, and public health to name a few.

[] Online programs have really helped to open the door to higher education for more individuals, especially those who do not have access to a local university, does the University of Louisville accept students nationally or only from certain states?

[Dr. Yankeelov] Yes, the Kent School accepts students nationally. We currently have students in 20 states. As previously stated, the University of Louisville maintains a list of states in which we are authorized, licensed, exempt or not subject to seek approval to offer online programs. Please know that state regulations are constantly evolving so for the most up-to-date information, please refer to Online Accreditation and State Authorization .

Some states may not allow students with an online degree from a different state to apply for licensure. Kent School strongly encourages all of their prospective students to review the state’s licensing board requirements for the state of their desired residence. (View a list of licensing boards.)

If you have additional questions, please feel free to email us at

[] For students who are ready to apply to an Online MSW Program at the University of Louisville, what advice do you have in terms of preparing their application? I know the program requires a personal statement.

[Dr. Yankeelov] Here is a quick list to help students who are ready to apply:

  1. Review all of the materials offered for the online program at the MSSW Online website  including, but not limited to: the Application Checklist, Curriculum Plans/Deadlines and specialization content.
  2. If you have questions after reading the materials, please email your questions to UofL’s Online Enrollment Counselor at
  3. Attend a virtual prospective student session – coming soon!
  4. Faculty members will be reviewing your application and making a decision as to your preparedness for graduate study. Demonstrate your likelihood to succeed by turning in a strong personal statement communicating your understanding of the field of social work in which you emphasize your particular interests and skills you would bring to the MSSW program. Use citations and APA style.
  5. Encourage your recommenders to offer detailed information about your talents which might require a meeting with your recommenders in advance of the request for the recommendation.
  6. All experiences count in social work. Make sure your resume highlights both paid and unpaid, service oriented activities.
  7. Transcripts are closely reviewed for overall g.p.a., g.p.a. in major, C grades, and starts and stops. If you have some unfavorable experiences on your transcript, take the time to address them describing how life circumstances have changed or note actions you have taken to ensure success in your graduate program.
  8. Apply early. It is a competitive program and for Fall 2014, there are only 50 available spots for the 60 hour program (for non BSWs) and 25 spots for the online advanced standing program (for BSWs). If online students wish to choose a curriculum plan with a practicum placement in their first year at an agency that is not on Kent’s current Agency Rosters, they will need to apply by 1/30 as this can be a lengthy process.

[] Finally, with more universities starting to offer online MSW programs, why should students consider the University of Louisville?

[Dr. Yankeelov] The Kent School of Social Work prepares students to work in a society with complex social problems and needs. There are over 225 accredited graduate programs in the US, and the Kent School is ranked 37th by US News and World Report. We are also rated as the top social work program in Kentucky and rated 28th among all public university programs by US News and World Report. We are also rated 3rd among all social work programs in the US by Graduate Programs LLC, a website ranking based solely on student survey response. Our MSSW degrees are fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and we have numerous specialized course offerings and specializations. We are one of the fastest growing social work programs in the country in regards to federal funding for external research – $15 million in total research funding portfolio, with more than half from federal sources.

At University of Louisville Commencements, Kent School students have been honored with a disproportionately high number of graduation honors, often more than any other academic unit. Dean Terry Singer has been a dean longer than any other dean of social work in the country – presently in year 30, 17 of which have been at UofL (as of 2013-2014). Kent School Faculty serve on 50 to 75 community boards and committees each year. Our portfolio tells you we are a quality school but more importantly, we are known for caring about our students, and for having a strong interest in their success.

Students who are interested in getting more information about the University of Louisville’s online MSW programs can visit the University of Louisville’s website .

Thank you Dr. Yankeelov for your time and insight!

Last updated: April 2020