Dear alumni and friends,
It’s hard to believe that I am already finishing my first term as dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work. Over the past few months, I have had the privilege of meeting many of you at one of our school- or center-sponsored lectures or events, at our Distinguished Alumni event, at a social work conference, over lunch or coffee, or as I have been visiting local community agencies. It’s been truly wonderful getting to know everyone here—the students, faculty, and staff within the school as well as our rich network of alumni, partners, and collaborators within Pitt, Pittsburgh, and the broader world. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to interact with folks within the Cathedral of Learning and have especially enjoyed the opportunities to begin getting a sense of our connections and opportunities in the broader community. It has been fabulous to see all that is happening around us and how connected the school is to so much of it! This issue of Bridges highlights some of the wonderful work that is going on.
One of the factors that drew me to Pitt was its strong investment and involvement in the community. This term showed us the strength of Pittsburgh and the wonderful connections between the city and the University. In mid-October, we celebrated the grand opening of Pitt’s first Community Engagement Center in Homewood. The opening itself was an example of all that is wonderful about being intertwined with the community around us—a highly diverse group of people coming together to celebrate new possibilities, to enjoy learning from each other, and to just have fun (it’s hard not to have fun when you’re wearing virtual reality goggles to learn about cat anatomy, dancing together to drums, admiring paintings by local artists, or watching children giggle as they squeeze “rubber” frogs cast from seaweed). For those of you who live or work in the Pittsburgh area, the center is open to all, so please feel free to stop by.
On the research side, we recently launched the school’s latest center, the Center for Interventions to Enhance Community Health (CiTECH), an ambitious interdisciplinary effort between the School of Social Work and the Department of Psychiatry led by James and Noel Browne Endowed Chair Shaun Eack. CiTECH addresses a core challenge for social work in the 21st century: translating research- and evidence-based interventions into real-world practice to improve treatments and interventions with those who need them most.
I am not the only new addition to the school this year. We also welcomed new Assistant Professor Brianna Lombardi, whose work examines the impact of childhood victimization and adversity on children’s mental health outcomes. The MSW program at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown also welcomed a new program coordinator, James Andrews, who brings more than 30 years of experience as a clinical/forensic social worker, therapist, administrator, risk manager, consultant, and educator.
As most of you are quite aware, we also experienced tragedy this fall with the antiSemitic attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill. As we came together to support each other, our students, and the broader community, I was awed by the passion, devotion, expertise, generosity, and genuine goodness of our school. I am particularly grateful for our faculty, staff, and students who took the lead in providing counseling services, organizing rallies, reaching out in every direction, and working unfailingly together. In the face of the hate, division, and violence that seem much too common in our society, I am so glad to be part of a school and community grounded in social justice, human dignity, social connections, and the importance of doing all we can to make the world a better place. Thanks to all of you for being part of this extended community and bearers of this set of values and beliefs.
As we come to the end of 2018, I wish you all a new year filled with passion, hope, purpose, and joy.
Please stay in touch: Follow us on social media, visit our Web site, or join us for an event on campus. And you can always reach us at socialwork.pitt.edu. We welcome your input and support!