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November 2011

New social work chair immerses himself in securing accreditation

Since arriving on the Avila University campus in mid-August, new chair of the Department of Social Work Francis Origanti, Ph.D., has been largely preoccupied with one thing. The task at hand is making sure his department is fulfilling all the new standards necessary for it to keep the accreditation it already holds from the Council on Social Work Education.

In fact, Origanti just recently returned from Atlanta, where he was trained to be a site visitor. He'll travel to different schools to make sure their standards fit as well as his own.

"It's been busy, but it's been great," said Origanti, who arrived at Avila after seven years teaching at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. "We are going for accreditation in 2014. We need to get prepared for that. Lindee (Peterson Wilson, MSW) and I will be sharing the writing of that report."

That report, by the way, will be at least 100 pages in length.

"It's very important that we are accredited," Origanti said.

It was involvement with Rotary International in his native city of Chennai, India (fourth-largest city with a population of 7 million) that introduced and got Origanti interested in social work – a calling that isn't that popular in his homeland.

"Most in India go to school in engineering, computer science or medicine," he said. "My parents wanted me to go into statistics."

Undeterred, Origanti pursued his passion and earned his bachelor of arts in sociology from Loyola College in Chennai in 1996 and went on to graduate with his masters in social work from the same school in 1998.

However, when it came to wanting to pursue his Ph.D. in social work, Origanti found opportunities in India limited. He found what he needed at Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. He arrived in the U.S. in 2000 and graduated there in 2004.

"Catholic University gave me a good scholarship and also plenty of research opportunities," he said. "Being in Washington D.C., I was able to become involved in policy, which was good."

After seven years working at Creighton, which had about 7,000 students, he said the move to Avila, with fewer than 2,000, was agreeing with him.
"Here, there are lot more non-traditional students," he said. "It's forced me to change my teaching style. Non-traditional students have to be re-oriented to education. I have to slow down my pace and deliver content in a style relevant to the students in the classroom.

"That's what I've had to learn."

In addition to writing his department's self-study for accreditation, Origanti said he's resurrected the Community, Student and Faculty Advisory Committee. The purpose of the committee is to enlist the input, feedback and support of knowledgeable professional social workers to enhance the direction and quality of the social work program at Avila University.

He's also working with Jude Gonsalvez, Ph.D., fellow Chennai native and program director at Anna Maria College in Massachusetts toward putting together a group of students and traveling to his homeland to study social situations and institutions there.

Mostly, though, it's all about accreditation.

"At least, now, it's 100 pages," he said. "It used to be around 500." AU

Media Contact: Bob Luder, 816.501.2434