Letter from Dean Linda Burton

May 16, 2020

Linda BurtonI felt a powerful calling to Berkeley's School of Social Welfare the first time I entered Haviland Hall. Berkeley's historic commitment to social justice was in the air and punctuated the vibrancy of the School's mission, programs, faculty, students, staff, and alum. I knew almost instantly that becoming the Dean of the School of Social Welfare was the opportunity I had been waiting for. After decades of studying the impact of poverty and inequality on the lives of America's most marginalized families, including the policies that create and perpetuate disadvantage in their lives, finally, here I was with a golden opportunity to contribute to the training of "first responders" who address the needs of families like those I had come to know and care about in my research.

My first few months at Berkeley revealed in rapid pace what my initial instincts about our School foreshadowed: strength and resolve in the pursuit of producing knowledge and training to address the situations of those most in need, regardless of the challenges that might interfere with achieving those goals. The wildfires and power outages we experienced in the fall illuminated the strengths of our School for me. I came to know a faculty dedicated to delivering quality instruction and research no matter what. I experienced the gift of engaging with passionate students, many of whom have inspiring stories about why they want to pursue social work as a profession. I have the honor of working with a caring staff who "make things happen." And, I have met hundreds of alums who are out there fighting the good fight and making a difference in our communities. We embrace the legacies of our alums by continuing to build ties with policy-makers and community leaders to expand our partnerships and be in dialogue with the communities around us.

Spring brought us an additional challenge in the form of the pandemic which has been a real-time test of our ability to adapt. Our strengths remain steadfast as the work we do is more important and relevant than ever. Our faculty continue to be thought leaders and caring teachers. Our students' passion for learning and helping grows stronger every day. Our staff keeps things moving so that we don't miss a beat in working to achieve our collective mission. And, our alums are connected, engaged, and supporting our community. We are a resourceful and resilient crew and it shows.As the pandemic heightens awareness of inequities and suffering, our School of Social Welfare community contributes to relevant national conversations on the most pressing issues families are currently facing and to continuing to build a well-trained social welfare workforce to meet the needs of those families.

Everyone in our (now virtual) Haviland community has shown resilience, kindness, and compassion as we navigate these times together. We have all found new strengths, and I could not be more proud or more grateful to be here during this time.


Linda Burton