Social Work



Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

Type of Paper/Work

Banded Dissertation


Laurel N. Bidwell


Students of color remain underrepresented in social work education programs. According to the Council on Social Work Education (2016), only 37.4% of the 19,596 BSW degrees awarded during the 2014-2015 academic year, were awarded to students from historically underrepresented groups (CSWE, 2016). The first product of this banded dissertation presents a conceptual framework, through the lens of empowerment theory, for understanding the varied and nuanced influencing factors contributing to BSW students’ intent to persist. This paper explored ways in which social work programs are and are not providing opportunities for students to demonstrate that they are motivated and competent learners to the degree that they intend to persist in their social work education endeavors.

The second product of this banded dissertation is an empirical paper that seeks to expand the understanding of how BSW students from different racial/ethnic groupings differ in terms of their intent to persist through completion of their degrees. Additionally, the study explores ways in which student views concerning the presence of certain domains of implicit curriculum differed between ethnic groups. This study responds to the lack of such research by conducting a cross-sectional survey of 247 BSW students at a mid-size Midwestern university in the United States. T-tests were used to explore whether the intent to persist differed by ethnic group. With the exception of the frequency with which students across racial groups interacted with social work faculty outside of the classroom, responses through independent-samples-t-tests were similar across ethnic groups. Ninety-seven percent of students across all ethnic groups surveyed reported an intent to persist through the completion of their degree. Additionally, students from all ethnic groups reported positive implicit curriculum experiences through their participation in this social work education program. Regarding student/faculty interaction, Caucasian students reported descriptively on average, interaction with social work faculty at a greater frequency than did students of color.

The third and final product of this banded dissertation is a peer-reviewed national conference presentation. In a workshop format, using elements of Empowerment Theory and focusing on implicit curriculum as a methodology through which retention can be addressed, this presentation focused on identifying ways to increase retention rates of BSW students of color. After identifying factors that can interfere with retaining students of color, presentation participants engaged in a presenter-facilitated small-group activity, and a large-group discussion during which attendees identified elements of their BSW programs that currently address this issue, and selected ways in which they could modify current practices, through components of implicit curriculum, in order to increase retention of BSW students of color.

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Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.