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Celebrating Our 90th Anniversary with Advocacy and Dialogue

Starting this November, the School of Social Work begins a year-long anniversary celebration of our 90 years of promoting social change and social justice through excellence in research, education, and practice. What began in 1921 as part of a bachelor’s degree offered in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts has grown into one of the world’s preeminent schools of social work, leading the profession in training, teaching, research, innovation, scholarship, collaboration, and service.

The 90th Anniversary of the School of Social Work is a singular event for many reasons. It makes us one of the older schools in the U.S. and allows us to emphasize and celebrate our rich tradition of knowledge development, professional training, and service to those in need, with special focus on vulnerable, oppressed, disdained, or excluded populations.

 It is this latter focus that led the 90th Anniversary committee to choose the theme of “Reach Out, Raise Hope, Change Society.” This theme was already in use by the School, and has resonated with faculty, students, staff, and alumni and our many community partners alike. As such, it is both reflective of the School’s focus and an emblem of our mission. Each portion of that phrase connects to (and interconnects with) the School’s values. We reach out to help clients, to try new ideas, to enhance school diversity, and connect with the social work community around the world. We seek to raise hope by offering new approaches, new solutions, as well as improvements and enhancements in the best practices already under way. We seek to change those cultural and societal structures that act as strictures on the aspirations and accomplishments of all citizens. This work goes on at national and local levels, and within organizations and communities as well. 

The 90th Anniversary is an appropriate time to reflect and look ahead because it is only 10 years to the School’s 100th Anniversary. We are using this 90th celebration as a way to plan programs which imagine the futures of social work—future students, future faculty, future interventions foci, future methods, future problems. 

For our 90th Anniversary celebration we’re continuing our commitment to social justice with alumniand student-lead volunteer efforts, and with scholarship and dialogue from the leading social work thinkers in the profession. Our story is your story, and we invite you to participate and to join us in the celebration. Since your personal story is such a vital component of the School, we invite alumni and current students to submit their memories and photos by visiting

The 90th Anniversary celebration kicks off on November 19th and 20th with a day of events at the School and a Worldwide Day of Service. Other events will continue throughout the year—all in keeping with the School’s theme: Reach Out, Raise Hope, Change Society.

Kick-Off Celebration 

The celebration begins November 19, 2010 at 9:00am with a performance by the Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit. They will perform a candid play about race and hope, Speak for Yourself! Young Detroiters Talk about Race. This play presents an array of different voices—Arab-, Asian-, African-, and LatinAmerican teenagers—engaged in an honest dialogue with the audience about racial stereotypes in Detroit. The play imagines a future where people accept one another, not on the basis of race, but on the strength of understanding, tolerance, and mutual respect. 

At 10:45am, Richard H. Axsom, curator of collections for the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, and past curator of the U-M School of Social Work’s art collection will present on the School’s art work and how it represents the School’s vision of social justice. Following a brief lunch, Michael Sherraden, a U-M School of Social Work alumnus and one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2010, will deliver a keynote address on the use of asset-based policy to fight poverty in the U.S. His presentation will be followed by a panel of discussants led by director of the Michigan Department of Human Services Ismael Ahmed and Assistant Professor of Social Work Trina Shanks. 

Worldwide Day of Service 

The following day, Saturday, November 20, 2010, the School will launch a Worldwide Day of Service. As a part of the School’s 90th Anniversary, we’re calling on all members of the U-M School of Social Work community across the globe to participate. The day of service should reflect the School’s mission of social justice and will be a great way to join us for the kick-off, even if you can’t be at the School. We recognize that we could not commemorate these milestones without our dedicated and talented alumni, students, faculty, and staff. We hope you’ll embark on the celebration with us. Projects will take place across Michigan, the United States, and the globe. Toolkits are available to help you coordinate an activity in your town and to answer any questions you may have. To request a toolkit, contact

History Timeline

1921- In 1921 the regents of the university approved a formal Curriculum in Social Work which was offered by the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. 

1921 - University students who enrolled in the program in 1921, and were residents of the state, paid a $10 matriculation fee plus an annual fee of $82 for men and $77 for women. For a resident MSW student to enroll in two semesters today their tuition and fees would come to $21,534.

1935 - In 1935 graduate level social work education began at U-M within the Institute of the Health and Health Sciences. Only sixteen students completed the Master of Arts in social work degree offered by the institute. 

1936 - In 1936 the first master’s of social work degree (MSW) was offered by the Institute of Public and Social Administration From 1936 to 1951 a total of 348 MSW degrees were granted.

1946 - In 1946 the social work program in Detroit was changed from the Institute of Public and Social Administration to an independent unit, the Institute of Social Work. 

1951 - Fedele F. Fauri, Dean of the School of Social Work, 1951–70. 

1951- In 1951 the School of Social Work was established, and the program moved from Detroit to Ann Arbor. The School was first located in a small house on Washington and Thayer, before moving into the Frieze Building. There it remained until 1998 when the school moved to a new dedicated building on the corner of South and East University. 

1951 - In 1951 the School had 9 faculty members. Today the School has 57 faculty and 47 l

1952 - In 1952 the CSWE was formed, then in 1955, the NASW. 

1953 - In 1953 the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) was established .

1957- In 1957 the Joint Doctoral Program in Social Work and Social Science was created . The first entering class consisted of six students. today Approximately 11 doctoral candidates are admitted each year into the program.

1960 - During the School of Social Work’s first year 91 full-time and 96 part-time students were enrolled. Today the School averages around 650 enrolled MSW students and 80 enrolled doctoral students.

1965 - In 1965, Congress enacted Medicare and Medicaid, and established the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

1970 - Robert D. Vinter, Acting Dean of the School of Social Work, 1970–71.

1971 - Phillip A. Fellin, Dean of the School of Social Work, 1971–81.

1980 - By the 1980s, the School had placed hundreds of students in agencies throughout the Detroit metropolitan area.

1980s - Ranked either the #1 or #2 school of social work for the past 15 years by U.S. News & World Report.

1980s - Ranked in the top three schools of social work for the past 30 years.

1981 - Harold R. Johnson, Dean of the School of Social Work, 1981–93.

1990s - The School has over 14,000 alumni who span the globe and have dedicated their lives to Reaching Out, Raising Hope, and Changing Society. 

1990s -The School’s endowment now totals over $37 million.

1993 - Paula Allen-Meares, Dean of the School of Social WORK, 1993–2008.

2008 - John E. Tropman, Acting Dean of the School of Social Work, 2008.

2009 - Laura Lein, Dean of the School of Social Work, 2009– Present

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