From modest beginnings in a warehouse to its present status among the nation's top 20 schools of social work, the University of Maryland School of Social Work (SSW) has reached its 50th anniversary and will hold the first in a series of celebratory events on Sept. 24.
A unifying theme for the activities is the School's vision to help bring "Peace and Justice for All," through teaching, research, and practice. The series opens with Saturday's daylong symposium, "Bending the Arc toward Justice," featuring remarks by Benjamin Jealous, MSc, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Jesse J. Harris PhD, MSW, MA, professor and former dean of the School, will introduce him.
The keynote speech will be followed by a panel discussion to be moderated by Michael Reisch, PhD, MSW, MA, the SSW Daniel Thursz Distinguished Professor of Social Justice.
Luncheon speakers will be SSW Dean Richard P. Barth, PhD, MSW, and Dan Rodricks, host of Midday Live on WYPR-FM and a columnist for The Baltimore Sun.
In the afternoon, eight concurrent sessions will be held on topics ranging from Children and Family Well-Being to Healthy and Safe Communities. Registration for all those attending is required. The cost, $50, includes a reception to be held at the conclusion of the symposium, parking, and five continuing education units.
The anniversary will be marked by an additional five academic events of interest to the University community and to the School's more than 12,000 alumni. On Nov. 9, the Second Annual Modell Symposium on Domestic Violence will feature activist and actor Victor Rivera Rivers and Katie O'Malley, JD, Maryland's first lady and a Baltimore City District Court judge.
On Dec. 1, the 2011 Fall Thursz Lecture on Social Justice will address "Why Poverty Undermines Justice in America." That lecture will be delivered by Mark Rank, PhD, MSW, the Herbert S. Hadley Professor of Social Welfare at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis.
The series of events are intended to call attention to the contributions of the SSW over five decades within the mid-Atlantic region and more recently well beyond. The spring events culminate on April 28, 2012, with a celebration at the American Visionary Art Museum.
"The School has had a leadership role in child and family services for most of our history," says Barth. "It has educated more mental health providers than any other program in the state. We have been leaders in the development and delivery of community practice."
The SSW admitted its first class of 19 students in September 1961, at the start of a decade that would see local urban renewal and a federal War on poverty. A VISTA volunteer training center opened in 1965, the same year that a student named Barbara Mikulski earned a master's degree. She would go on to use her community-organizing skills to advance in Baltimore politics, eventually becoming Maryland's senior United States senator.
"We grew rapidly," says Professor Emeritus Harris Chaiklin, PhD, MA, MS, one of the first four faculty members, who recalls the close-knit nature of the early classes and the spirit of the founding dean, Verl Lewis, DSW. "He had a tremendous commitment to public welfare. Every student had to have a first-year placement with a public agency."
In later years, deans of the School included Daniel Thursz, DSW, ACSW; Ruth H. Young, DSW, MSW; and Ralph L. Dolgoff, DSW, MSW, MA.
In 1972, the doctoral program began. Its first graduate, Carlton Munson, PhD '75, MSW '69, is now a professor at the School. In 1983, a new building opened that would be dedicated to Louis L. Kaplan, a regent who was instrumental in having located the SSW in Baltimore.
The urban setting would prove valuable as students learned from members of the community while providing services to them. In 1992, the Social Work Community Outreach Service was established.
The Peace Corps Fellows program began in 2004, and in 2010, the School became one of the first to offer the Peace Corps Master's International program. In June, student Cristen Cravath became the nation's first social work student to go abroad as a Peace Corps Master's International volunteer.
"We are increasingly influential in developing and implementing evidence-based practices to solve tough problems," says Barth. Through grants, the SSW provides technical assistance in 20 states to improve children's services.