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Rebecca Brigham retires after nearly 40 years of service

Rebecca Brigham, a clinical associate professor and assistant dean of field education at UNC School of Social Work, retired in February 2023, after nearly 40 years of service to children, families and to the state of North Carolina.

Brigham, whom colleagues described as a “visionary who positioned the field education program to be a national leader in student advising, community collaboration and preparation for the future,” joined the School of Social Work as a clinical assistant director and director of field education in 2004. She was named an assistant dean in 2016.

“Rebecca has dedicated herself to our students’ professional growth and development,” said Dean Ramona Denby-Brinson in a recent announcement about Brigham’s retirement. “Her work will have lasting impact.”

Prior to joining the School of Social Work faculty, Brigham worked for more than 20 years in public child welfare services, both in the county and state levels and in private, not-for-profit agencies, focusing primarily on foster care and adoption services.

Over the course of her career, Brigham focused her research interests on the pedagogy of social work field education and in creating affirming field education settings for all students. Her influence in social work education extended far beyond the University’s stone walls, said Amy Levine, clinical assistant professor and a member of the School’s field education team.

“Through her leadership and scholarship at state and national levels, she elevated the importance of field education as the signature pedagogy of social work,” Levine said. “She also was very open in examining the complexities of field education, where our academic environment intersects with real-world social work practice and all of the challenges that come with it. She was generous in sharing resources and ideas with field education colleagues across the country and always remained committed to understanding how field education could evolve to best meet the needs of students, universities, and community agencies.”

A previous chair of the Council on Social Work Education’s Council on Field Education and a previous secretary of the North American Network of Field Educators and Directors, Brigham also served as a member of the North Carolina Field Education Consortium.

During her tenure with the School, she co-led a global immersion study abroad course to India and managed the UNC-Australian Catholic University (ACU), Social Work student exchange program.

Although most of Brigham’s work was behind the scenes, her commitment to the success of all MSW students was visible throughout her academic career, added Meryl Kanfer, coordinator for UNC-PrimeCare.

“She has had an indelible impact on most graduates of our MSW program,” Kanfer said.