“A central imperative for social work, policy, and practice is the fundamental need to think inclusively about the individuals, groups, and communities these disciplines will affect most. We are resolute in our intention to educate students of social policy and practice to embrace diversity and intersectionality in all its dimensions, and to create cutting-edge scholarship that enables our field to more effectively promote social justice.”

– Sara S. Bachman, PhD, Dean

Throughout its history, the School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2) at the University of Pennsylvania has been committed to understanding and embracing diversity in its countless forms. With our Master of Social Work (MSW) program, the first program of its kind to organize its curriculum around the construct of institutional racism, two other expanding and ambitious masters programs (in Social Policy and Nonprofit Leadership) that organically complement and extend our MSW offering, and two exciting doctoral programs (a clinical Doctorate in Social Work and a PhD in Social Welfare) that produce some of the most sought-after thought leaders in our fields, SP2’s mission is to think critically, thoroughly, and holistically about the many factors that impact people’s everyday lives and life chances.

As SP2 has evolved, so too has the understanding of diversity that grounds and enlivens its work. Our historic commitment to racial and economic justice has in recent years intersected in vital ways with emerging commitments individuals and communities marginalized along other axes of oppression. Individuals and organizations across SP2 have mobilized to create curricular, interpersonal, and structural space for the consideration of LGBTQ+ needs and experiences and the elevation of LGBTQ+ voices both within and beyond the School. This understanding and this commitment is about striving to consciously honor the complex and multifaceted experiences of self and community that shape our lives together.

SP2 strives to be a space of principled inclusivity, valuing differences of opinion and attempting to foster an institutional environment where we all think openly, honestly, reflectively, and deeply about the questions and concerns that both unite and divide us. For our faculty, students, and staff, diversity is a multifaceted and intersectional concept that includes careful treatment of questions about how differences linked to race, sexuality, gender identity, religion, ideology, mental illness, ethnicity, class, age, and so much more systematically privilege some and marginalize others. The issues that we grapple with—from homelessness and racism to prisoner re-entry and poverty, from responsible philanthropy and economic mobility to aging and child welfare—are some of the biggest in the academy and in society, and many seem intractable. But we also recognize that we have the best chance of doing justice to these social issues by embodying a truly diverse and inclusive space from which we can attempt to re-imagine our social world.

In many ways, SP2 is among the most diverse Schools at the University of Pennsylvania in terms of the demographic composition of its alumni, staff, students, and faculty.  Moreover, our graduates have occupied and continue to fill key administrative positions at the University of Pennsylvania that have diversity-related portfolios, including:

  • Director and Associate Director of the African American Resource Center
  • Assistant Vice President of Community Relations for the Office of Government and Community Affairs
  • former Director of the LGBT Center

Promoting social justice and working against forces of oppression have been central to SP2’s efforts since the founding of the MSW program over a century ago; they ground our work to this day, challenging us all—faculty and students, alumni, staff, and community—to grow together into new knowledge and to grapple with ever – evolving examples of injustice and inequity. Understanding, respecting, and celebrating diversity is essential to SP2’s educational mission and values, and we are committed to helping students learn how to have difficult conversations, listening without pre – judgement, and addressing social problems from diverse perspectives. It is a commitment that we take seriously and one that we hope to nurture in our students as they become empowered to work for a more just, equitable, and compassionate world.

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