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From the Dean: We’re grateful for you

Dear School of Social Work Community,

This Thanksgiving season, I am holding family and friends close. I will treasure time to both express gratitude for all that we have and pray for peace and safety for those around the world and at home who are suffering.

This semester has tested us in unimaginable ways. The past few months bring to light so clearly who we are as a community of social workers and why our work is so important.

Social workers around the world are calling for “peace and safety, and against terrorism and the intentional and atrocious violation of human harm,” as the American Academy of Social Work & Social Welfare put in its joint statement on peace for Israel and Palestine.

My thoughts are with our social work colleagues in the Middle East and other war-torn parts of the globe who, as the International Federation of Social Workers wrote, “Encounter similar challenges while assisting affected people, which are going through the same experience of trauma. Their selfless actions are an inspiration to us all and exemplify the core principles of social work — upholding human dignity, promoting well-being and sustaining peace.”

I have heard from many students, staff, faculty, colleagues and from you, our treasured alumni and friends, during this time. As the Israel-Hamas War evolves and weighs heavily on all that we do, I am grateful for the many windows into a very complex region of the world that your insights have provided. Today, I pray for the success of a temporary ceasefire and all that entails.

Our Muslim and Jewish students, staff and faculty — some of whom have direct ties to the ongoing suffering — especially deserve our support. Now more than ever, we must fight to keep antisemitism and Islamophobia off our campus. I am reminded of our charge as a University community. We owe it to our colleagues and our future selves to show how people of different backgrounds and perspectives can listen to and learn from one another in a safe environment. 

We take seriously our responsibility to care for and support our entire School community, comprising more than 260 faculty and staff and more than 340 graduate students who hold diverse political viewpoints, values, experiences and opinions. Our diversity is what makes us special. More importantly, the ways in which we care for and respect one another and the communities we serve is what defines us and sets us apart from others.

Thanks to our Wellness Committee led by Director Robin Sansing, we have held listening sessions and provided space on a regular basis since early October. As change agents and those who believe in the power of healing, we commit to constantly seeking ways to respond to the needs of our students. Our students have shown a level of passion, leadership and concern for local and global communities this semester. Their actions make us especially hopeful about the future.

We will convene with members of our faculty and staff to learn more about their perspectives; review what we can continue to do within our academic community as we educate future social workers of the world; and work to make the world a more peaceful place while upholding human dignity and promoting well-being.

We will continue the outreach to members of our community who are struggling and encourage people who need support to connect with resources at Students may contact Counseling and Psychological Services at 919-966-3658, the Dean of Students team at 919-966-4045, or Student Wellness at 919-962-9355. Faculty and staff may contact our Employee Assistance Program 24 hours a day at 877-314-5841.

I am thankful for each of you. We are emerging through this semester together and connected in who we are as a school community. I feel so blessed to be part of a community where all that we do is rooted in a value perspective of care, compassion and respect. I extend gratitude for all that you do on behalf of so many.

All the best to you and your family during this season of thanksgiving,

Dean Ramona Denby-Brinson