School of Social Work commemorates 60 years

By Emily Sokolik

The University School of Social Work celebrated its 60th anniversary this weekend with a series of events commemorating the school’s history and accomplishments.

The school, exclusively a graduate and Ph. D. program, was first approved as a professional degree program at the University in 1945.

“We are tied to our history,” said Jan Carter-Black, School of Social Work assistant professor. “There are significant firsts that occurred at UIUC.”

Marietta Stevenson served as the first dean of the school from 1945 until 1961. Today the school enrolls around 300 students, which has increased from fewer than 30 students in the school’s first graduating class.

US News and World Report ranks the University’s School of Social Work in the top 20 social work programs in the nation.

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A gala banquet at the Illini Union Ballroom Friday, kicked off the anniversary celebration.

“The gala on Friday was a huge event,” said Barry Ackerson, associate dean and master’s degree program director. “Our theme was honoring the past, celebrating the present and educating for the future.”

Close to 200 alumni, faculty, students and members of community organizations attended the event, including former dean Paula Allen-Meares, who currently serves as the School of Social Work dean at the University of Michigan.

Carter-Black, who is a graduate of the School of Social Work, said the event served as a commemoration of both the school’s beginnings and its present accomplishments.

“I think the thing that made it so impressive was the theme and being able to see the number of former faculty and alumni that returned to celebrate with the school,” Carter-Black said.

Celebrations continued with the Illinois Doctoral Alumni/Student Forum at the University Saturday. The event included presentations on research conducted by current students and alumni. Wendy Haight, director of the Ph. D. program and featured forum speaker, said she is particularly impressed with the school’s graduates and others connected with the program.

“(The forum) involved multiple generations of scholars connected with the school,” Haight said. “Some of the first people who developed the Ph. D. program, and the first graduate of the Ph. D. program were in attendance. It was wonderful to hear the stories and get a sense of the history of the program and the community.”

Melissa Scholten, graduate student in the program, found unique study opportunities when she came to the University from San Diego.

“The program was exactly what I was looking for,” she said. “Not many programs have a concentration in health care.”

The 15th annual Dan Sanders Peace and Social Justice Lecture concluded the weekend’s anniversary celebrations. Aruna Roy, internationally acclaimed community activist from India, delivered the lecture, “Speaking Truth to Power” at the Union Monday.