Online MSW meets needs


Courtney Duer

Courtney Duer is already using frameworks gleaned from her MSW classes as she works with clients at Westwood Behavioral Health.

Bluffton alumnus returns to alma mater

When Courtney Duer, a 2017 Bluffton University graduate from Convoy, Ohio, chose to major in social work following high school, her goal was to make an impact in her community and the families who live within it. 

Today, she is doing just that as a therapist and parent skills support person at Westwood Behavioral Health, a community, mental health facility in Van Wert, Ohio. She’s also gaining additional experience and knowledge in the field as a member of Bluffton’s first Master of Social Work class. 

“The discussions in class, whether they’re with the professors or the other students, are so beneficial to helping solidify the material we are reading and learning,” said Duer. “We’re not physically together, but we are still interacting and getting to know each other. That student interaction and collaboration is super helpful.” 

Bluffton’s MSW is offered in conjunction with Goshen College. The program features a mental health specialization, preparation to sit for licensure in any state, and self-directed learning through weekly Zoom classes and in-person field work. Students meet one night a week for each class they take.

Before choosing Bluffton’s programs, she researched several online MSW programs. 

“Working, being a mom, having a family, it’s just easier to navigate being online rather than going in person,” explained Duer. “When I started looking, I didn’t know Bluffton had an online master’s in social work so when I came across it, I was super excited to have the opportunity to learn at Bluffton again.”

The program also led to a career change. Duer began her career in child welfare and continued in the area for several years. However, after starting the MSW program, the professors encouraged her to find a mentor. So, she reached out to Westwood to see if anyone would be available. When they responded, they also shared a few career opportunities and information about paid internship/field work opportunities.

“I didn’t apply right away, but I kept it in mind,” said Duer, who works at Westwood part time and plans to complete her field work there as well. “It was a big decision to change jobs in the middle of getting my master’s, but I’m super excited to have this opportunity. I think it falls more in line with what I want to do after I graduate.”

Bluffton’s MSW features a mental health specialization, and Duer said she’s already using some of the therapeutic frameworks discussed in class with her clients. Other unique aspects of the program include the integration of spirituality into the program and the focus on anti-racism/anti-oppression practices. 

“I really enjoy that because whether we recognize it or not, we all experience spirituality in some way,” said Duer. “It encompasses who you are and your values and your beliefs and how those impact your thoughts and feelings and decisions.”

While she admits juggling all of her responsibilities has been a challenge, Duer is excited to continue the program and is on track to complete her studies in summer 2025. Overall, she explained, “it’s all falling into place.”

Helping people work to the best of their abilities

Online MSW

Master of Social Work program is designed to equip students with advanced knowledge and skills to meet the mental health needs of our communities.