Wilmington College received a $400,000 Behavioral Health Workforce Development grant designed to enhance academic efforts in the social work field with the goal of eventually seeking formal program accreditation.

The grant, which was issued by the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE), will assist in establishing a regional partnership hub among Wilmington College, Southern State Community College, and Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. This new collaborative model will allow for WC to seek accreditation for its Bachelor of Science degree in social work through the Council on Social Work Education.

Interim President Corey Cockerill is thrilled the College has the opportunity “to expand and enhance” its educational offerings in social work, which is a growing field that can profoundly affect the lives of fellow citizens. “We are so grateful to our partner institutions and the Ohio Dept. of Higher Education for this incredible opportunity.”

She said the initiative is a response to a statewide healthcare challenge, preparing a new generation of professionals equipped and committed to addressing mental and behavioral health needs in their communities.

ODHE Chancellor Randy Gardner stressed the “tremendous need” for strengthening and growing behavioral workforce programs at the state’s academic institutions. “The health and success of Ohio’s families and communities depend on effective strategies to recruit and retain behavioral health professionals.”

WC’s proposed Accredited Social Work Pathway Program is an ambitious rural-urban hub model, harmonizing the strengths of each participating institution to forge a pathway from foundational studies to advanced, licensure-ready education, consistent with the Council on Social Work Education standards. This approach emphasizes community-engaged learning, capacity building within the local healthcare workforce, and proactive recruitment strategies. It prioritizes service to high-risk and underserved communities in southern Ohio.

The plan involves hiring additional faculty and enhancing academic support and resources, as well as fostering community engagement and outreach, high school partnerships, financial incentives, career development opportunities, alumni engagement and D+I initiatives

J. Wynn Alexander, interim vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty, cited Cockerill’s leadership and the contributions of those he worked with in preparing the grant application, including Dr. Sylvia Stevens, vice president for community and business development; Dr. Audrey Wagstaff, professor of social sciences and communication arts; and Wendy Grab, assistant professor of social work.