SP2 History

The School is a driving force and the catalyst in supporting the University’s goal of achieving eminence, defined by Penn President Amy Gutmann in the Penn Compact 2020. For more than 100 years, the School (formerly the School of Social Work) has maintained its core values of promoting social justice and working toward the elimination of oppression. Our faculty are leaders in their chosen fields and have contributed extensively to research, practice, and publications on social problems that impact society on a local, national and global level.

Faculty Areas of Eminence:

  • Child Abuse & Neglect
  • Criminal Justice & Mental Illness
  • Domestic Violence
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Gerontology
  • Homelessness
  • Mental Health
  • Social Impact of the Arts
  • Welfare to Work

Our graduates are known for their leadership skills, problem solving expertise, and ability to impact change at the individual, community, policy, national and global level.

About the School of Social Policy & Practice

The University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice, formerly Penn Social Work, is noted for its commitment to social justice and to educating students that will take an active role in the struggle against oppression. The School has articulated a social philosophy that shapes the educational programs it offers, the research it undertakes, and the leadership it provides to the profession. This statement of social philosophy – Penn Approach - is first and foremost an evolving philosophy. It reflects the faculty’s commitment to introduce students to a variety of perspectives related to social work practice, nonprofit leadership, social policy, research, racism and oppression, and the nature of human behavior in the social environment.

The Penn Approach to the education of future social workers includes at least two major perspectives:

  • a clear understanding and respect for the past; a realistic interpretation of current professional issues;
  • a vision of the future that reflects a commitment to social change based on the values and philosophy of the School.

The School offers a curriculum that integrates the development of practice skills with research, the study of specific social problems and social policies, theories and methods of social change, knowledge about human relationships, and individual and societal responses to institutional racism and other “-isms.”

The University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice is educating tomorrow’s leaders to confront societal problems in a time of diminishing resources, to provide leadership to non-profit organizations, to design and facilitate real-world solutions while fostering meaningful societal change. Students can also learn about the integration of innovative technology to enhance the delivery of social services, research on welfare to work initiatives, faith-based services, and other ground-breaking faculty research.

For more information about the history of the Penn School of Social Policy & Practice, read 100 Years: A Centennial History of the School of Social Policy & Practice by Mark Frazier Lloyd. This book is dedicated to the generations of Penn Social Work faculty, staff, and students who advanced the field of Social Work and made Philadelphia, the nation, and the world a better place to live. We are thankful to Susan Molofsky Todres, a former Overseer of the School, who generously supported the production of this book. Her commitment to the School and the University is greatly appreciated. And finally our gratitude to Ram A. Cnaan, Professor and Director of the Program for Religion and Social Policy Research at our School, for his patience and persistence in the planning, supervising and coordinating the details of this volume of institutional history.