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School Launches Series on the Grand Challenges in Social Work

Fall panel presentations examine important issues affecting the future of the profession

On October 22nd and November 26th, the School of Social Welfare sponsored the first two events in a series of presentations that aim to examine the “Grand Challenges in Social Work.”

Initiated by Dean Jeffrey Edleson [Faculty and Staff/Faculty/Jeffrey Edleson] as part of a national effort being led by the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, the purpose of the Grand Challenges events are to facilitate a dialogue among social welfare scholars in identifying the pressing issues facing the social work profession and the larger community in the coming decade and beyond. The determination of these challenges will help schools of social work throughout the country in shaping curriculum and scholarship to meet the emerging demands of the field.

Dean Edleson moderated the first Grand Challenges event, titled “Promoting the Nation's Health and Mental Health.” Held in Haviland Hall's Social Welfare Library, the presentation focused on the context of social work practice in the changing landscape of the nation’s health systems. The speakers included California Association of Deans and Directors (CADD) of Schools of Social Work President Dr. David Cherin; longtime social worker and the founder and director of Oakland-based non-governmental organization Prevention Institute Larry Cohen; Marin County Department of Health and Human Services Director Dr. Larry Meredith; and Mack Distinguished Professor in Mental Health and Social Conflict Dr. Steven Segal [Faculty and Staff/Faculty/Steven Segal].

The second Grand Challenges event was hosted by Assistant Professor Adrian Aguilera. Entitled "Harnessing Technology to Enhance Behavioral Interventions and Improve Service Delivery," the panel explored the impact of emerging technologies — such as the Internet, social media and text messaging — in client outcomes, particularly among underserved communities, and how those vehicles are shaping social service delivery.

The panel was comprised of leading thinkers and innovators in this area, including Esther Crawford, the founder of Lifebook, a website that assists teams, such as families caring for elderly loved ones and child welfare agencies, coordinate care efforts; Margaret Laws, MPP, the director of the California Healthcare Foundation’s Innovations for the Underserved program; and Ricardo Munoz, PhD, UCSF Professor Emeritus and Palo Alto University Professor, whose research interests include evidence-based Internet interventions for health in Spanish and English as well as prevention and treatment of depression.

“I know that our School's faculty, staff, students, alumni and partners can play a major role in helping define the grand challenges for our profession nationally and, more importantly, provide the big and bold ideas to solve them as well as the social work leaders and scholars to help us reach these solutions,” notes Dean Edleson.

Dean Edleson's Grand Challenges: Health and Mental Health presentation (PDF).

Professor Aguilera's Grand Challenges: Harnessing Technology presentation (PDF).