The world is becoming much smaller and more connected. Globalization in the economy and advances in technology have contributed to unprecedented interconnectivity across borders. Problems of the most fundamental concern to the profession of social work—social exclusion, growing inequities, access to essential resources, even problems we most visibly address as “clinical” ones, like interpersonal violence or substance abuse—all have cross-national elements and repercussions. Though we remain steadfastly committed to addressing needs at home, SSA is increasingly focusing on upstream causes and downstream trends that may ripple outward beyond family and community, to the global aspects of social welfare. This approach offers new challenges and opportunities to re-examine and rescale responses.
SSA’s place on this global stage is increasing in prominence and impact. One notable example: SSA is a lead school in the China Collaborative, a U.S.-China effort to promote the development of China’s social work education system (see page 12). SSA faculty organized presentations in Beijing about social work curricula and SSA’s approach to master’s-level education to social work faculty in virtually all the newly developing master’s programs throughout China. As a follow-up, we hosted a delegation of Chinese faculty, introducing them to SSA’s robust educational fieldwork-classroom integration.
One outgrowth of our growing visibility on the global stage is that our international student enrollment reached an all-time high this year. To support this global student cohort, SSA held its first week-long boot camp for international students before the formal start of the fall quarter to ease the academic and cultural transition, share information about SSA and UChicago resources, and provide networking opportunities.
SSA’s Deputy Dean for Strategic Initiatives Professor Rob Chaskin has led the rollout of a new master’s program concentration in international social welfare and new study abroad programs in partnership with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, India; the Hong Kong Polytechnic University; and universities in China, including Peking University. This year, SSA students also successfully competed for eight human rights internships (sponsored by the University’s Pozen Family Center for Human Rights)—more than any other department or school at the Connection and Collaboration University of Chicago. Our feature story Expanding the Boarders spotlights several alums who have taken their SSA training to work around the world.
Closer to home are deepening collaborations with SSA’s long-standing partner, Chapin Hall, arguably the world’s leading child and family policy research center. We had the great privilege of launching the joint SSA-Chapin Hall Harold Richman Postdoctoral Fellowship program, named in honor of the former SSA dean, founder of the Harris School of Public Policy Studies, and chief architect of Chapin Hall as a foremost child research center. Inaugural Harold Richman Postdoctoral Fellow Yafit Sulimani-Aidan is extending her important research from Israel on the challenges facing youth leaving the child welfare system under the mentorship of SSA Professor Mark Courtney and Chapin Hall Research Fellow Amy Dworsky.
Violence prevention remains a rallying issue for SSA’s collaborative community engagement and research. During the winter quarter, I again taught my violence prevention seminar as part of the Beatrice Cummings Mayer Program in Violence Prevention, and the early results of Professor Deborah Gorman-Smith’s violence prevention work in Humboldt Park are exciting and potentially pivotal in helping drive down urban violent crime. In fact, the Chicago Tribune recently selected Deborah’s work as a model for its article, “12 Ways to Heal the City.” Deborah is now expanding the program to the Little Village neighborhood, home to one of our many remarkable SSA alums, Mike Rodríguez, executive director of Enlace Chicago, who recently received the School’s prestigious Elizabeth Butler Award.
I want to pay special tribute here to several people who have made lasting contributions to SSA. Bernece Kern Simon, an SSA giant and pioneering figure in social work, who died in May 2014, served on the SSA faculty for 35 years and was instrumental in shaping the social work curriculum at SSA and at schools across the country. Michael Sosin, the Emily Gidwitz Klein Professor at SSA, passed away in November 2014. On the faculty for 26 years and the longtime editor of the Social Service Review, Mike will be remembered for his probing intellect, high standards and deep commitment to the disadvantaged.
We also will miss two stalwart administrative members of the SSA community: Eileen Libby retired in July 2014 after serving at the University libraries for half a century, including 40 years at SSA. Her knowledge will be greatly missed. Sorely missed as well is Associate Dean of Administration Keith Madderom, who retired in January 2015 after having served at the University and SSA for 45 years, just like his aunt and grandfather, marking over a century of his family’s continuous service to the University of Chicago! Keith leaves with us his deep commitment to service, his grace and generosity.
Finally, I would like to highlight one critically important point of collaboration and connection through SSA’s role in the University of Chicago Campaign: Inquiry and Impact, an ambitious fundraising initiative launched this fall. The SSA campaign offers key opportunities for philanthropic investment to support our groundbreaking research that forges advances on such seemingly intractable concerns as crime and violence, poverty or health disparities. Likewise, SSA’s rigorous education develops and launches eminent careers of service to those most vulnerable. No other place serves others through science and education in this way. We invite you to become involved in our campaign, to connect and collaborate with us as we carry this tradition forward to new heights.
Neil Guterman, MSW, PhD, is the Dean and Mose & Sylvia Firestone Professor in the School of Social Service Administration.