The work of Kansas University's School of Social Welfare isn't limited to the classroom.
Social Welfare Dean Ann Weick says the school has a commitment to helping society and improving social services and it practices what it preaches.
Weick, who has been with the school since 1976, said the school teaches the importance of enhancing individual and community well-being through its cooperation with state social service agencies.
"We have a real commitment to improve social services," she said.
The school is proving that commitment with its students' participation in programs such as the project in Kansas City's Chouteau Courts housing development.
In that program, the tenants of the development sit on a board and make decisions that will affect their neighborhood. The students help the board produce tangible results.
WEICK SAID the Chouteau Courts work also reflects the school's commitment to providing its students with hands-on experience not available in the classroom.
The Kansas City project is just one of many ways that students get real-world experience. Starting in their junior and senior years of undergraduate studies, students give time and effort to many social service agencies.
She estimated that over the course of a year, the 250 to 300 students who participate weekly in practicums put in about 330,000 hours of volunteer social service.
The Chouteau Courts program is privately funded, which reflects the community support the school has and the financial strains faced by the state, she said.
But while state funding is becoming less plentiful, Weick observed, applications for admission to the school have been steadily increasing.
To manage in a time when resources are declining, the school has decided not to increase its enrollments this year, she said.
"WE SIMPLY can't increase class size and maintain the same level of quality," Weick said.
She attributed the increase in applications to two trends in the nation.
First, more people are choosing social welfare as a clinical profession because it's "more efficient" than practicing psychology, which requires a higher level of training for a license to practice, she said.
And secondly, "people are realizing that the Reagan years left a bitter harvest," she said. "And they would like to see that change."
Weick said social workers, by the very definition of their profession, are on the "cutting edge" of social issues. And with a profession in that position, the school has to be able to adapt to change, she said.
Weick said the school can respond in two ways to the changing needs of society. It can create an elective course addressing the issue at hand, and/or place students in practicums that deal directly with the problem.
She also said that while students sometimes become discouraged when they come face-to-face with the reality of social problems, "the only way those problems can be solved is if people care enough to fix them."