Our History


Niles Carpenter came to UB in 1924 as head of the Sociology Department. He wasn’t expecting additional responsibilities, but Carpenter went right to work when asked to start a school of social work.

Within two years, the university was offering social work courses. These curriculum additions were a precursor to the Association of Schools of Social Work (AASSW) approving of the School's first certificate program in 1934. Two years later, UB offered a second post-graduate year of social work education.

On this page:

Continued growth

The modern face of the school reflects its progressive creation and vision:

  • More than 700 graduate students now study in a broad array of programs, including full- and part-time MSW, DSW and PhD programs, as well as dual degree programs leading to JD/MSW, MBA/MSW, MPH/MSW or BA/MSW degrees.

Additional highlights:

  • In 2019, the UBSSW admitted its first cohort for the first all-online doctorate in social work (DSW) program within the school.  The DSW educates students to utilize implementation science strategies to translate research into best practice interventions while identifying barriers and enablers of effective treatment. 
  • In 2013, the MSW program began offering an all-online education and accepting online students, empowering more people from a wider geography to access our faculty and curriculum.
  • The JD/MSW program, established in 1987, is available to advanced-standing students.
  • The BA/MSW program is available to eligible UB undergraduates.
  • Since the creation of the PhD in Social Welfare program in 1994, it has averaged 25 students annually, with 90 percent of graduates attaining faculty research positions.

Community commitment

The comprehensive degree program offerings are reinforced by the school’s commitment to broaden community-based research. 

To achieve this, the school took several important steps. These include:

  • Formed the Buffalo Center for Social Research (BCSR) in 2005 — it was a merging of the previously existing Center for Research on Urban Social Work Practice and the Research Center for Children and Youth. BCSR is now located in the School’s future home, Parker Hall on UB’s South Campus.
  • In 2005, established the Program Evaluation Center (PEC).
  • 2007 saw the creation of the Center for the Study and Prevention of School Violence.
  • In 2009 and 2010, a cohort of UB SSW faculty visited Amrita University in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India, to explore creating a research partnership, with the goal of strengthening invaluable international research relationships.
    • As a result, in 2010, the UB/Amrita Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Institute (UBARI) was formalized to “initiate, encourage, support, and conduct interdisciplinary joint research in the social and behavioral sciences as it relates to identified areas of need, such as HIV/AIDS, trauma, extreme events and disaster management, community development, mental health and alcohol abuse.”

Trauma-informed human rights perspectives

In 2009, the school officially adopted a trauma-informed human rights perspectives in social work education, policy and practice. The School’s Institute on Trauma and Trauma-Informed Care (ITTIC), established in January 2012, has quickly become an integral part of studying and disseminating those perspectives.

By adding these lenses to current methods, social work students can:

  • increase their knowledge base
  • heighten their awareness of trauma-informed care
  • gain a deeper understanding of both issues and clients

In 2009, the school marked the 75th anniversary of its initial AASSW accreditation; as of 2021, we maintain our full accreditation status with the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

With ranking among the top 10 percent of social work programs in the nation, ever-expanding community outreach and real-world impact, the school is prepared for its next reaffirmation review by CSWE in 2026.