Columbia University School of Social Work

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Columbia University School of Social Work
Columbia School of Social Work golden crown.svg
Former names
Summer School of Philanthropic Work
Type Private
Established 1898
Dean Jeanette Takamura
Postgraduates 900+
Location New York, New York, USA
Coordinates: 40°48′36.91″N 73°57′30.07″W / 40.8102528°N 73.9583528°W / 40.8102528; -73.9583528
Columbia University School of Social Work Logo.gif

The Columbia University School of Social Work is affiliated with Columbia University as one of its graduate schools and began awarding the Master of Science (MS) degree since 1940. With an enrollment of over 900, it is one of the largest social work programs in the United States. It is also the nation’s oldest, with roots extending back to 1898, when the New York Charity Organization Society’s first summer course was announced in The New York Times. The combination of its age and size has led to the School becoming a repository for much of the reference literature in the social work field.


In 1898, the Charity Organization Society established the first Summer School in Philanthropic Work at 105 East 22nd Street in New York. Twenty-five men and women attended the first classes. The Summer School continued as the primary training source until 1904. That year, it expanded the coursework as the first full-time course of graduate study at the newly renamed New York School of Philanthropy.

The name of the School was changed in 1917 to the New York School of Social Work. The Landmark Bureau of Children's Guidance was established in 1922. In 1931 the School moved into the Russell Sage Building at 122 East 22nd Street.

In 1940, the School was affiliated with Columbia University as one of its graduate schools and began awarding the Master of Science (MS) degree. The first doctoral degree was awarded in 1952, raising the academic level of social work. In 1949, the School moved to the Andrew Carnegie Mansion at 2 East 91st Street, and later to McVickar Hall on 113th Street near Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus. In 1963 the name of the school was formally changed to Columbia University School of Social Work. In 1966, building on its pioneering work with children, the school launched a major longitudinal study of foster children, their families and the agencies serving them.

The first fully endowed professorship was set up in 1991, followed by the full endowment of the Kenworthy Chair and nine additional endowed professorships. In 1997 an agreement was concluded with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to provide new program support and a fellowship. In that year, the school’s endowment surpassed $40 million.

In 1992 students of the school organized protests and teach-ins as part of a nationwide effort to protest welfare cuts. The organizers of the school's events called the welfare cuts an example of the demonization of people on welfare.[1]

In 2002 construction of the current School of Social Work building began on Amsterdam Avenue near Columbia’s campus. The building was completed in 2004 and first used by students and faculty during the Fall semester of the 2004-2005 academic year.


Entrance to the Columbia University School of Social Work

The Columbia University School of Social Work has played a significant role in advancing the profession of social work and raising public consciousness of social services, both in the U.S. and beyond. In addition to being the oldest and largest school of social work in the United States, the School has had many notable achievements in developing social security policy, furthering advances in social work education and fostering social change. CUSSW is ranked fourth best in the country, according to US News & World Report rankings of "America's Best Graduate Schools in 2008".[2]

The Columbia University School of Social Work's mission focuses on:

  1. the development of leaders in social work practice and research;
  2. the advancement of the social work profession, professional values, knowledge, and skills; and
  3. the enhancement of well-being and the promotion of human rights and

social justice at the local, national, and global level through the creation of responsive social programs and policies. In the field of national social security policy, members of the School faculty assisted Roosevelt's Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins to write and implement the Social Security Act. During and after World War II, the School staff helped to extend the social work role into the military. The School's 1966 study on foster children and their parents has also had a major impact on national policy.

The School has initiated many advances in social work education:

  • requiring fieldwork instruction in social work education;
  • pioneering psychiatric social work; and
  • introducing the first curriculum on social work in the workplace.
  • In 2003, the School began publishing the Journal of Student Social Work [1] The Journal is a scholarly publication featuring articles related to all aspects of the social work profession, including clinical practice, public policy, and administration. In 2010 The Journal was renamed the Columbia Social Work Review [2] and the Review launched its Volume I in the Spring of 2010. The Review is a yearly publication for students in the field of social work to share their research, experiences and views with faculty, fellow students, and the wider scholarly community.

Over the years, the School has contributed numerous leaders in social work education. Its graduates hold thirty-nine deanships in schools of social work around the world. The School has been an active force in social change. It has been instrumental in forming coalitions to lead national movements for change, such as the Urban League and the White House Conferences on Children. The School was one of the first to develop an ecological approach to social work.

Notable alumni and faculty[edit]


  1. ^ THE NATION; Campuses Buck Clinton On Welfare New York Times, 25 Oct 1992
  2. ^ "Best Social Work Programs - Top Health Schools - US News Best Graduate Schools". Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  3. ^ "Our Founder Winona C. Alexander", Delta Sigma Theta: Jacksonville Florida Alumnae Chapter, Retrieved December 1, 2007
  4. ^ Grimes, William. "Alfred J. Kahn, Specialist in Child Welfare Issues, Dies at 90", The New York Times, February 21, 2009. Accessed February 21, 2009.

External links[edit]