Cal U grant to help students move toward careers


Brittany Johnson, Contributor

A four-year, $1.9 million grant-funded project will help California University students prepare as they work towards their careers as school counselors, mental health counselors and social work practitioners.

Dr. Sheri Boyle, chair of the Social Work Department, and Dr. Elizabeth Gruber, a professor in the Counselor Education Department, will lead the four-year project.

The program is funded by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). According to HRSA’s website, their mission is: “To improve health and achieve health equity through access to quality services, a skilled health workforce and innovative programs.”

“Dr. Gruber and I are thrilled to receive this federal grant,” said Dr. Boyle. “It is a national grant, and competitive, so we were very excited to receive the good news.”

The grant will award $300,000 annually, or $1.2 million in all to the Counselor Education Department and the Social Work Department.

The project will aid graduate students working towards a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Counseling, a master’s of Education in School Counseling Pre-K-12, or a master’s of Social Work. It will also aid undergraduates working towards their bachelor’s degree in Social Work.

The grant will provide $10,000 stipends for 30 Cal U graduate students each year as they complete their field placements.

Students in Cal U’s accredited counselor education program must complete a 600-hour field placement, or internship. The accredited social work program requires students to complete 660 hours in their advanced practicum.

Dr. Boyle said she has had a few students take a leave of absence from the social work program in order to work or care for their family.

“Many of the students find a way to make it work for the semester, but with great financial and social sacrifice,” said Dr. Boyle.

In a Cal U press release, Dr. Gruber said, “These stipends will benefit our students and relieve the additional financial burden of field placements, such as lost income, childcare and transportation costs.”

In addition to aiding the students financially, the grant will also create at least two new field placement sites in areas where there are limited medical resources.

“It is our hope that the grant will help provide more services to medically underserved people, by increasing the workforce,” said Dr. Boyle.

The grant will also generate new coursework that focuses on treating people within medically underserved communities, as well as recruit new students for Cal U’s counseling and social work programs.

The HRSA program will first take effect with the students chosen during the Fall 2017 and Spring 2018 semesters. In years to come, students who are interested in working with medically underserved communities, will be selected through an application process.