Dean's Column

From Dean Keith A. Alford

Portrait of Keith A. Alford.

I am honored to address you as your new dean. I am eager to move further into my work here; to continue the effective work of my predecessor, Nancy J. Smyth, and our talented faculty, staff, and students. While I’ve spent my career as a social worker, academic leader, and researcher focused on culturally specific mental health service delivery to children and families, child welfare practice, and contemporary rites of passage programming for African American youth, now as your dean, and considering our current conditions and environment, my gaze continues to broaden by way of the macro humanitarian challenges of today.

Of social work’s core values—service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence—right now, the dignity and worth of the person resonates deeply with me. In fact, I often expand this notion to include the dignity and worth of humankind. Our focus needs to encompass a global connectivity.

As social workers, we continually address the value of life; work hard daily to promote the antithesis of violence, and to uplift humanity.

I refer to these times as a “pandemic trifecta,” since they combine multiple crises: a health pandemic, cultural trauma and injustices including racial, ethnic, and gender-based, and economic inequities. This point of reckoning calls for us to do the introspective work that must be done to elevate a more diverse, equitable, accessible, and inclusive world.

This is not a job I can or will do alone. I embrace collaborating to build on our strengths; we have too many to ignore. We will need to continue to co-create, dialogue, and listen to each other. There is an urgent need to understand and accept lived and felt experiences; it is necessary to move our world toward genuine transformation.

Questions, comments? You may contact the Dean's office via email.