UM-DHS Partnership Helps State Employees Earn Master’s Degrees

OXFORD, Miss. – In response to the demand for highly qualified, skilled social work professionals, a new partnership between the University of Mississippi and the Mississippi Department of Human Services is providing social workers with needed education and training.


The university’s Department of Social Work and the MDHS Division of Family and Children Services are working together to help participants earn their master’s degrees in the field. Under the Master of Social Work Partnership, 19 social work field supervisors from across north Mississippi are attending daylong classes every other Monday for three years. Upon completion of the curriculum in 2012, trainees get the equivalent of a master’s degree in social work.

We’re very pleased to accept the State Department of Human Services’ offer to assist them in their training needs,” said Carol Boyd, professor and chair of the social work department and principal investigator for the program in the UM School of Applied Sciences. “Collaborative partnerships such as this are beneficial for all involved.”

DHS was mandated to increase the number, hiring standards and training of social workers in the 2007 settlement of the Olivia Y. et al. vs Haley Barbour, et al. lawsuit, said Linda Millsap, director of the Division of Family and Children Services. Other terms of the settlement include DHS becoming accredited by the Council on Accreditation, increasing educational and therapeutic services for foster parents and children, and adding a 24-hour hot line for reporting abuse and maltreatment of children throughout the state.

“The University of Mississippi is the latest institution to assist MDHS-DFCS is its compliance requirements,” Millsap said. “With the assistance being given, we expect to see some major improvements in the services provided by those in the social work profession.”
The initiative is an example of how the university is helping meet the state’s critical needs, UM Chancellor Dan Jones said.

“The University of Mississippi is working hard every day to move our state forward,” Jones said. “Mississippi needs more master’s-prepared social workers, and the University’s Department of Social Work is responding by providing innovative programs to meet this need.”

The program’s participants are enthusiastic about the collaboration.

“Being a parent, working full time and going to school have been a real adjustment,” said Wendy Bryant of Falkner. “The university has been great about accommodating coursework to my busy schedule.”

“As a student in this program, I’m taking an online class for the first time ever,” said Wade Williams of Nettleton. “I’m finding it challenging but enjoyable. I’ve been learning a lot.”

Gina Hairston of Hernando said she is excited to be learning more about her profession. “I’m somewhat amazed by the amount of new information I’m learning about a field I thought I knew so well.”

Applying theory to actual tasks done on her job is “challenging yet rewarding,” said Sandra Panzo of Ashland. “The greatest reward comes when I am able to go to that next level for the greater good of the people I serve.”

For more information about UM’s Department of Social Work, visit or call 662-915-7336.