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From the Dean: A time for gratefulness

Dean Gary Bowen
Dean Gary Bowen

Dear Faculty, Staff, Students, Alumni, Members of our Board of Advisors and Friends of the UNC School of Social Work,

If you are like me, it is hard to remember having a year anything like what we have experienced this year. As individuals, families and communities, we have been challenged in every possible way, but here we are still standing and standing together as one UNC School of Social Work community in the context of our centennial year.

Resilience is the term that social work scholars use to describe individuals, families and communities that are able to successfully manage and adapt in situations of adversity and positive challenge. They may bend but they don’t break; they may even grow and thrive in the most difficult of circumstances. And, this is the term that I apply when I think about our School and our profession and how we have met the challenges and associated uncertainties from the last year head on.

As we approach the holidays, I have a thankful heart. I am thankful for the way in which professionals in our field have worked especially hard during this pandemic to ensure our most vulnerable populations have access to health, mental health and social services. I am grateful that so many of our social work researchers are also continuing to ask important questions about the impact of COVID-19 and the intersecting pandemic of systemic racism on our Black and Brown communities.

Furthermore, I am thankful for the ways in which you have all risen to the occasion and stepped up to keep the School’s fires burning to meet our teaching, research and service responsibilities. And, I am thankful that I have the distinct privilege and pleasure of knowing and working with such a kind, generous, and thoughtful group of people. Despite our lack of physical contact, I have never felt closer to you.

I have seen so many acts of mutual support and random kindness by members of our School Community since the onset of the pandemic. I have total confidence in you and our ability as a School collective to transcend any challenge that we may face to stay true to our social work values and our School’s mission to advance equity, transform systems, and improve lives. For we are trustworthy, inclusive, compassionate, rigorous, courageous, and persistent—the values stated in our strategic plan that inform how we interact and how we work.

Working from the framework of our School’s mission and stated values, let’s re-commit ourselves as we approach the new year to continue our efforts to build a better world—one in which the playing field is fair and just for all. Please know that I am here for you; I know in my heart that you are there for me as well, for which I am most thankful and appreciative.

As the theme for our centennial year reflects, we are truly “Ready for Next” in 2021.

Happy Holidays!