Valparaiso University’s Master of Social Work Program Welcomes New Faculty

Valparaiso University is pleased to announce that Matthew C. Ringenberg, Ph.D. and Barbara Dahl, MSW, LCSW will join the Valparaiso University social work department in Summer 2024, serving as the inaugural faculty for the new Master of Social Work (MSW) program. The program, and these new faculty members, will help empower new social work professionals to act as beacons for those in need in their communities and across the nation.


Ringenberg is returning to Valparaiso University to assume his new responsibilities as the MSW program director. Ringenberg has 25 years of teaching experience at St. Olaf College, Valparaiso University, and most recently, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. He previously served as chair and program director of the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program at Valpo. 

“I am excited and grateful for the opportunity to serve the students of Valparaiso University once again,” Ringenberg says. “Because I already know the other members of the department, I can say with confidence that I look forward to a great work environment with terrific colleagues.”

Ringenberg is co-author of “The Education of Alice Hamilton.” Previously, he designed the Parent And School Survey and co-led the School Success Longitudinal Study. From 2013–2015, he served as the director of the Valparaiso University study center in Cambridge, England. He has successfully written multiple social service grants for agencies throughout Northwest Indiana. He also conducted a program evaluation of the Oshkosh (Wisconsin) Farmers Market. Ringenberg has served on the boards of a homeless shelter, farmers market, and the United Way. His grant-writing, evaluating, and supervision services have been provided to agencies ranging in focus from child abuse, afterschool programming, summer education services, and family reconciliation. 

During his career, Ringenberg has built relationships with a wide variety of people and looks forward to continuing to mentor students, who he has supported over the years in developing their own research projects and presenting the results in various conferences. He has taught a variety of topics including human behavior, counseling/interviewing skills, social policy, research methods, grant-writing, and spirituality in the helping professions. 


Barbara (Barb) Dahl, MSW LCSW is also returning to Valparaiso University after previously serving as a regular adjunct professor for the SOCW 260: Diverse Populations: Human Rights and Justice class. She will assume her new role as MSW Director of Practicum Education. 

“I am excited and privileged to be able to be part of a new program to grow in lifelong learning that is the hallmark of social work, while helping others begin their journey,” Dahl says. It is an indescribable blessing.” 

Dahl brings 30 years of clinical experience, and has served most recently as a university director of counseling services. Dahl is an Indiana University graduate from the IUPUI School of Social Work. Her experience in social work is varied, having spent time in hospital (dialysis) social work, discharge planning, rehabilitation, Employee Assistance Program (EAP) therapy, and teaching BSW and MSW students in the classroom and practicum experiences.  

Her training beyond the graduate level has involved mastering skills involving working with children, diversity and equity, leadership development, and conference presentations for professional development. Dahl has applied those skills in various employment and church and community milieus. Dahl’s clinical approach in therapeutic interventions is primarily solution-oriented, and strengths-based. However, the pedagogy of varied theories and their application leaves room for eclectic and client-centered work. The cornerstone of her work is the acknowledgement of where the client is and respect for the personhood of every human being.

As a program that will attract graduate students of varying ages and professional commitments, Valpo’s MSW degree program prides itself on having the flexibility to meet a diverse range of scheduling needs. Currently accepting applications for Fall 2024, the part-time online program, with limited summer residency, is now available. A full-time, in-person program option begins in Summer 2025. For students with their Bachelor of Social Work (BSW), an Advanced Standing option will start in Summer 2026. Learn more about the program here.