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School of Social Work centennial celebration to span two years

UNC School of Social Work has announced plans to span its centennial celebration over two years, beginning with the School’s 100th birthday in September 2020.

“We were planning centennial events throughout this academic year, but due to COVID-19,  we can’t bring everyone together for an in-person celebration right now,” explained Mary Beth Hernandez, associate dean for advancement.

Instead, the School will host a series of virtual activities and events during the 2020-2021 academic year. School officials are optimistic that pandemic restrictions will ease and the School will be able to add in-person events during the 2021-2022 academic year.

“It’s important that we celebrate as an academic community — students, alumni, current and former faculty and staff, donors and friends,” said Gary Bowen, dean of the School. “This is a major milestone, not just in our School history but in our state’s history.
“We are the top-ranked school of social work in our state, the first school of social work in North Carolina and the first school to offer a doctoral degree in social work in our state,” he noted. “The first Black faculty member at UNC and the first Black dean of a professional school at the University were both from our School.

“We have more than 5,000 alumni, and the story of social work in North Carolina has its beginnings right here,” Bowen added. “Our School has a tremendous record of service and accomplishment. Our centennial celebration will highlight our history and look forward to our future with a ‘Ready for Next’ theme.”

Centennial Speaker Series
The School will launch its centennial celebration with the new Centennial Speaker Series, focusing on social justice and anti-racism. The first speaker in the series is the Rev. Dr. William Barber, who will speak via livestream on Sept. 24, 2020. Barber has led numerous Moral Monday protests at the North Carolina General Assembly. He is a visiting professor of public theology and activism at Union Theological Seminary, an author of four books and a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and the North Carolina Award. (Registration is already open for this event.)

The series continues on Oct. 28, 2020, with Ibram X. Kendi, author of three New York Times best-selling books, including “How To Be An Antiracist.” He is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities and the founding director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research. He is a contributing writer for The Atlantic and a CBS News correspondent.

The series will also include Eddie Glaude Jr., who is confirmed to speak on Jan. 20, 2021. He is the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, an author of seven books, a columnist for Time Magazine and a regular commentator for radio and TV news programs.

Service Project: Voter Awareness Campaign
The School will also celebrate its legacy of service to North Carolina with a special service project in fall 2020: a voter awareness campaign, C-SWAV (Carolina Social Workers Action for Voting), which will include voter registration drives and other activities. Students, faculty and community partners are already working together on this nonpartisan effort to ensure that eligible voters are registered and are able to cast their ballots in 2020.

The centennial celebration will also include opportunities for School alumni to network at special continuing education events, publication of a School history and other activities. Information on all aspects of the centennial celebration will be shared on the School’s website and social media.

UNC School of Social Work was founded in 1920 as the School of Public Welfare, under the direction of Howard W. Odum, Ph.D. Initially, the School trained superintendents and staff members for county departments of public welfare, with the first students entering the School in September 1920.

“A consistency during our first 100 years has been our work to improve the lives of families and individuals,” Bowen emphasized. “Social workers stand with, support and work in partnership with the most disenfranchised, underserved and marginalized people in society.

“This is our deepest commitment, and it carries us into schools and prisons and hospitals and homes, across North Carolina and around the world.”