Newly appointed Clinical Assistant Professor Jacoba Rock brings a thirst for knowledge and passion for creating social change to Boise State University’s Master of Social Work online program.
“One of the best commitments you can make — the best investment in yourself and others in your community — is to commit to learn more and do better,” Rock said.
Forensic Social Work and Working with Incarcerated Populations
Creating social change goes beyond academia for Rock. “I have a lot of compassion for people who are involved in systems. This is partly because my family is very system-involved. My dad’s in a nursing home; my daughters came from the foster care system; I grew up with an incarcerated family member,” she said.
Rock has long worked within systems as a forensic social work practitioner and scholar focused on needs, strengths, pathways and treatment opportunities for incarcerated juveniles and young adults. She has provided consultation and testimony as a legal expert on over 50 cases of Juvenile Life Without Parole and other cases of juvenile sentencing in adult court.
Rock is also a leader in state- and national-level policy initiatives and program development opportunities that initiate or enhance trauma-informed care, mental health service access, family involvement and re-entry opportunities for incarcerated populations.
Social Work and Systemic Change
During her undergraduate career, Dr. Rock studied sociology at the University of Colorado at Boulder and became interested in applied sociology and how this information could be used to change systems. She also completed an honors thesis on the use of restorative justice with young adults offenders. “I had a great advisor,” she said. “She suggested I look into social work as opposed to sociology because I was really invested in system change — not just understanding how broken systems were, but really trying to change those systems to be more effective and ethical.”
She ended up applying to the University of Denver for social work, where she eventually earned her Master of Social Work in 2010 and also earned a graduate certificate in alternative dispute resolution, continuing research on restorative practices.
“One of the best commitments you can make — the best investment in yourself and others in your community — is to commit to learn more and do better.”
In 2021, Rock received her doctoral degree in human development and family studies with a doctoral minor in criminology from The Pennsylvania State University. The focus of her dissertation was on assessing trauma-related needs and cognitive strengths of young adults in a prison treatment program, as well as the important role of families in their resilience process.
Teaching Across the Social Work Curriculum
“My research is applied and involves evaluating processes in the criminal legal and carceral systems. However, my primary responsibility is teaching and learning. I especially love to work with our graduate students,” Rock explained.
“Social work courses fall in different categories. Practice classes teach skills knowledge and values for working with people. Policy and macro-level classes help you understand how systems work and how to create system change. We also offer research classes, which teach our graduate students to use evidence to create change and to develop research that will inform work with vulnerable populations. I like teaching across the curriculum; I’ve used all of it in my work and value all of it.”
Boise State Online’s Master of Social Work helps meet the needs of all graduate students. The program offers a regular Master of Social Work for students with baccalaureate degrees in other disciplines and the advanced standing pathway, designed for students who have earned a baccalaureate degree from an undergraduate social work program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and met other requirements.
Creating Accessible Social Work Education
Rock is proud to work for a fully online program and sees its value for the social work field. “One thing that makes me passionate about online social work education is that it creates equity and accessibility within our field and academia. For example, I have students joining from reservations and rural communities like my own, where there are no graduate social work programs,” she said.
“One of the best investments we can make personally and collectively is to provide an education system that helps to create change.”
Learn More About the Master of Social Work Online at Boise State University
Boise State Online’s Master of Social Work is designed to prepare students for advanced social work practice with individuals and families. Students learn clinical, organizational and policy skills necessary for promoting social justice and equality and enhancing the quality of life for all people. With no out-of-state tuition and 100% online coursework, our program provides you the flexibility to get your master’s degree.