About the School
of Social Work
History of Social Work Education at Howard University
Howard University School of Social Work (HUSSW) was established as an
autonomous unit in l935, although instruction was offered in social services
as early as 1914. There were strong advocates within the ranks of the
University for social work education, most notably: Lucy Diggs Slowe,
the first Dean of Women at Howard, and Dr. E. Franklin Frazier, Chairman of
the Department of Sociology. The first “basic curriculum” was offered in
the Department of Sociology and was directed by Dr. Frazier, who had
previously served as Director of the Atlanta University School of Social
Work. He was a pioneer in advocating standards for social workers and
insisting that they be properly trained. The “basic curriculum” conformed
to the 1932 accreditation standards of the American Association of Schools
of Social Work, the predecessor accrediting body of the
Council on Social Work
(CSWE). Dr. Frazier was initially assisted by one full-time instructor and
in 1937, by an additional full-time instructor, Dr. Inabel Burns Lindsay,
who later became the first Dean of the School of Social Work at Howard
establishment of formal instruction in social work education at Howard
University emerged during a critical period in American history. It
coincided with the Great Depression of the 1930s, the enactment of the
Social Security Act of 1935, the emergence of large-scale public social
services and the onset of World War II. These historic developments
provided a strong impetus for the development of social work education at
Howard. Additionally, there was a strong appeal for social work education
at Howard from African Americans employed in the District of Columbia’s New
Deal programs. Few of the recognized schools of social work in America -
and none in Washington - D.C. were open to qualified African American
applicants. A 1932 study undertaken at the request of the Washington
Council of Social Workers revealed that of 69 persons newly employed as
social workers only five were graduates of schools of social work, 10 had
completed one course in “social work training” and the rest were completely
“untrained.” The lack of training was largely attributable to the lack of
educational opportunities for Blacks, who constituted the largest number of
persons seeking social work education among the emerging social welfare
workforce in Washington.
1942, Howard University’s social work program became a division of the
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. It remained in the Graduate School
until an autonomous professional school was established within the
University at the beginning of l945-l946 academic year. Dr. Lindsay was
appointed the first dean of the newly established School of Social Work.
Early accreditation (l930-1940) of the one-year Certificate Program of the
Division of Social Work in the Graduate School was superseded by full
accreditation of the new two-year Master of Social Work degree program by
the time the first graduates received their degrees in June 1946.
the 1970s, social work at Howard expanded to include baccalaureate and
doctoral level education. In the 1990-1991 academic year, the dean and
faculty recommended to the Board of Trustees that the School’s Bachelor of
Social Work degree program be discontinued. The decision was based on three
factors: (1) interest in strengthening graduate and post-doctoral
education, and research at the master’s and doctoral levels; (2) limited
resources; and (3) low enrollment in the baccalaureate program.
Additionally, the School placed a strong emphasis on scholarly publications
School received its most recent reaffirmation of accreditation of the
master’s degree program in 2012 for the maximum 8 years. We are accredited
influences which led to the development of social work education at Howard
University were both internal and external. The intellectual impulse to
provide the best education possible for those working in the public social
services continues as a dominant theme in the School’s mission, objectives
and outcomes for students. The School remains concerned about the welfare
and well-being of African American people and others who are poor,
oppressed and disadvantaged in society. The Black perspective, which
includes the Black Diaspora, serves as a base for a set of guiding
principles, undergirding our curriculum and informing our knowledge
development and research activities and social policy initiatives.
the years as the social work profession and social welfare institutions have
evolved in response to changes in American society and throughout the world,
the Howard University School of Social Work has progressed as well.
2010, The School of Social work instituted its Alternative Spring Break and
International Student Learning partnership in Cape Town, South Africa. To
date almost 70 students have attended this program along with faculty. The
program emphasizes human rights.
2011, the School of Social Work celebrated 75 years of social work
education. During this year long celebration, Alumna John Jacob presented
the school with the John and Barbara Jacob endowed professorship. The
celebration also included a conference that highlighted alumni and faculty
who have invested in our legacy (http://www.howard.edu/alumni/socialwork/schedule.html).
the School of Social Work is a more complex institution than ever before.
The curriculum is richer and enhanced by new courses, electives and
concentrations. We have a number of course offered online. The student body
is more diverse in terms of family background, geographic origin, nationally
and internationally, age and persons with disabilities. Teaching remains
the core faculty activity, however, research, knowledge development,
training and technical assistance have become important areas of faculty
activity. Research, knowledge development and funded projects are major
aspects of the life of the School. The Presidential Commission on Academic
Renewal (PCAR) ranked both the MSW and PhD as top programs at the University
In 2012, the U.S. News and World Report ranked our school in the top 20% of
social work programs (http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-health-schools/social-work-rankings/page+2)
goals of the School are to continue on the pathway of excellence as defined
by our history and mission, and build upon past and present achievements.
Our vision of linking practice, policy and action with research is being
pursued through the E. Franklin Frazier Center for Social Work Research and
the Multidisciplinary Gerontology Center. Long-range planning and capital
development are underway to further the goals of building endowments to
support the core academic programs, faculty and students, doctoral and
post-doctoral education, international programs, continuing education,
distance learning and enhanced learning resource facilities.
In accordance with the
mission of Howard University and that of the School of Social Work, the
educational philosophy of our program reflects the importance and complexity
of transactions between people and their environment. Both the MSW and Ph.
D. programs are rooted in the knowledge, values and skills necessary for
professional practice that promote and sustain social justice and the
quality of life for individuals, families, groups, communities, and
organizations. The educational philosophy recognizes the multiple roles,
functions and arenas of social work practice as well as the
interdisciplinary knowledge base upon which professional practice is based.
The educational philosophy of the School of Social Work recognizes the need
to produce graduates who are educated for competent professional practice
with all client groups, but with a special sensitivity and concern for
people in Black communities. Therefore, the educational programs require
careful consideration of the range of theories and approaches used to
prepare students for competency. While the knowledge base of the MSW and Ph.
D. programs is flexible, both share the person-in-situation framework.
Varied theories and approaches, e.g., systems and developmental theories,
and the psychosocial and problem-solving approaches that can be accommodated
within this framework, as well as by the Black Perspective are used to
prepare students for effective social work practice.
Our faculty is engaged in curriculum renewal activities on an ongoing basis,
revisiting our mission and the vision we have for the future. We are engaged
in long-range and strategic planning as we position the School to maintain
its excellence and enhance its knowledge development and research
activities. The faculty has reaffirmed our mission statement and our vision
to establish a strong program of research and knowledge development for
social work practice and social policy. Knowledge development efforts will
contribute to the empirical base of practice, add to the social work
knowledge base and lead to the improvement and quality of life for Black
people, the poor, other minorities and the whole society.
The mission and history of Howard University and the School of Social Work
serve as the central foundation for the overall objectives of the School.