Fall 2017
School Updates

Dean's Message

Dean Larry Davis discusses the recent mass shootings along with the past 100 years of the School of Social Work's history.

Greetings, alumni and friends,

Once again, another school year is underway. We welcome back our students and look forward to another exciting year.

Unfortunately, our school, like the rest of the country, finds itself humbled by the recent mass shootings and environmental disasters as well as the country’s long-standing racial problems. In many respects, our students will face a society that is experiencing very serious difficulties. It is my belief that social workers will increasingly be called upon to help our nation solve (or at least ameliorate) its present social ills. To this end, our school has even more steadfastly addressed these problems in teaching, problem solving, practice, and policy methods. Society needs the skills we teach now more than ever.

Still, we remain optimistic about the future while not forgetting our past. Almost a century ago, in 1918, our very first social work students were starting on their journey to make a difference in the world. In their courses, they studied subjects such as race and social problems, labor problems and immigration, and child welfare. One hundred years later, we as a country are still grappling with these thorny issues.

The school would not be celebrating 100 years of people, policy, and practice without our excellent students, alumni, staff, and faculty. It is due to their commitment to the school and the profession that the School of Social Work is a top-10 school.

Our dedicated faculty members have played a large role in achieving that ranking, bringing in record numbers of grants to train and provide research findings to the next generation of social workers. This is especially timely given the topic of this issue’s cover story, America’s opioid epidemic.

This is such a pervasive problem that there are probably many of you who are dealing with this issue, in either a professional or personal manner, every day. Social workers are on the front lines of this fight, and the compassion, insight, and training we provide can help to bring new perspectives to this public health crisis. Gerald Cochran, who was recently appointed associate dean for research, is leading much of the school’s work on the opioid crisis.

In addition to the 100th anniversary of the school, this year we also are celebrating 15 years of the Center on Race and Social Problems. What started as America’s first race research center housed in a school of social work has now grown into one of the country’s most well-respected sources of race-related research and information. As I frequently say, having an idea is one thing, but having someone to back it is another. The University of Pittsburgh has been that backer for the center. By supporting a center with “race” in its title, the University was ahead of its time. With the University’s unwavering support, and the support of law firms and foundations, the center has been able to provide the community with lectures and reports that impact regional policies.

Additionally, this year we also are marking 60 years of the Community, Organization, and Social Action (COSA) program. COSA has led the way on issues from grassroots movements in cities to advocacy in government, and our alumni are leading nonprofits across the country. Tracy Soska has done a marvelous job of leading this program. We began the celebration of our centennial year earlier this fall, and we hope you will join us for our speaker series and alumni events throughout the year. You can share your memories and photos and view a complete school timeline at socialwork.pitt.edu/100th.

Best wishes,

Larry E. Davis

Dean and Donald M. Henderson Professor, University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work

Director, Center on Race and Social Problems