Message from the Dean

Dean Sara Bachman

Welcome to the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2) website, a virtual hub of information, and one of the many vehicles we use to remain in touch with our constituents and community.

I would like to tell you all about how our School cultivates effective, humane social practices, but I first must acknowledge this uncertain and unsettling time, a juncture shrouded in inequity, racial tension, white supremacy, heightened social unrest, and the lingering effects of a public health crisis. More than this, pre-existing inequities have been sadly and unsurprisingly exacerbated. Like many communities, SP2 has been recalibrating and reimagining our place as educators and advocates in this crucial period.

As the Dean of SP2, I can say with utmost certainty that our place is where it has always been—advancing the pursuit of social innovation, justice, and policy; fueling and fostering a better future for all.

The landscape of society, education, and the ways in which we conduct our lives swiftly evolve each week; as an institution, we continue to evolve in tandem. But, one constant remains: our steadfast commitment to educate and empower social change leaders and to tackle society’s most intractable problems through rigorous research, engagement, and collaboration.

As you read on, you will find information about how SP2 is training maximally effective social work, social policy, and nonprofit leaders while advancing our values of impact, innovation, equity, and inclusion. I encourage you to browse and learn more about the ways SP2 continues to pursue our more than century-long commitment to promoting social justice and reform.

Our website provides information about our five rigorous degree programs: Master of Social Work (MSW)Master of Science in Social Policy (MSSP)Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership (NPL)Doctorate in Clinical Social Work (DSW), and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Social Welfare. Our Masters programs can be earned as dual degrees within SP2 as well as through our collaborations with Penn’s Schools of MedicineLawEducationArts & SciencesWeitzman School of Design, Annenberg School for Communication, and Wharton. Students can also pursue specialized certificate programs within SP2, in collaboration with other Penn Schools, as well as through partnerships with local and globally based institutions.

While at SP2, students have spent a combined 250,000 hours each year to foster positive, lasting change and to advocate for marginalized and vulnerable communities through field placementsinternships, and practicum experiences. As well, we require all members of the SP2 community to think critically about, and actively address, pressing issues surrounding institutional racism via task forces, School-wide initiatives, readings, and open dialogue within safe spaces.

Our commitment to social justice must include a commitment to racial equity. Among our undertakings, we have actively recruited more Black, Indigenous and People of Color to SP2’s faculty and staff, including new full-time faculty members. We have also increased fundraising for financial aid, resulting in opportunities such as the SP2 Social Justice Scholars Program, which awards full-tuition scholarships and creates uniquely-focused academic programing for incoming students who identify as Black, Indigenous and People of Color, preferably those graduating from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and minority-serving institutions (MSIs).

Other initiatives that have been recently completed or are underway at SP2 include:

  • Implemented an Action Plan created by our Task Force on Race and Social Justice (comprised of faculty, administrators, staff, and student representatives from each of SP2’s five degree programs)
  • Created a standing committee on Race and Social Justice
  • Provided training on inclusive teaching for faculty
  • Enacted curriculum changes in the MSW American Racism and Social Change and HBSE courses
  • Created a new position for Associate Dean of Inclusion
  • New, required pre-matriculation online modules on Engaging Difference and Promoting Equity for incoming master’s students
  • Restructured courses to incorporate intersectional and anti-racist frameworks
  • Creating more opportunities for us to heal together, virtually and safely in person
  • Exploring ways to enhance our community engagement and partnership efforts

Our faculty are renowned practitioners, inspirational instructors, and world-class scholars. As groundbreaking researchers and experts in their fields, they offer a transformative educational approach, providing leadership and mentorship for the next generation of social change agents.

Our premier research centers and special projects help us expand the knowledge base for more effective, efficient, and humane human services through interdisciplinary education, inquiry, and civic engagement.

Finally, our School’s staff and administration are here to fully support you, whether you are a prospective or current student, one of our amazing alumni, or a member of our greater community looking to forge new partnerships. We are here to help!

My hope is that you will be challenged and inspired during your tenure at SP2. We are committed to equipping you with the skills needed to tackle the many complex social policy and practice issues around us and to ensuring that you thrive academically and socially, as you become a social change agent.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office with any questions that you may have about our School. We look forward to meeting you.

Sara S. Bachman, PhD

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