U's School of Social Work turns 100: "You change with the times, but always with empathy and courage."

Saturday, October 7, 2017

President Kaler's remarks to the celebration of the School of Social Work's 100th anniversary. 

Good evening everyone, and congratulations to our School of Social Work for 100 years of remarkable scholarship, teaching and public engagement. 

To Dean Quam, thank you for your extraordinary service to the University over the past nearly 40 years, your leadership of CEHD, and, of course, your groundbreaking years as director of this School of Social Work. Thank you to Jim Reinardy for your leadership as director before recently stepping down. And to John Bricout, welcome to our community and best of luck in keeping the traditions here alive and well. Finally, welcome to Tavis Smiley and our panelists, and thanks for joining us.
It’s difficult to avoid history when celebrating some one or some thing that’s observing a 100th anniversary. Let’s return to the era in which this School was born, 1917. It was born amid economic insecurity and amid dramatic changes in the nation’s industrial landscape. Our military was engaged in a great war on foreign lands. There was a rise in, and fear of, immigration and immigrants. Economic disparity was growing. Tensions were high as rural America and Greater Minnesota began to see a move to urbanization and the power of cities.

Sound a little familiar?

I guess you could argue that the more things change, the more they stay the same. But in the case of our School of Social Work, that’s not true. While the issues surrounding the needs for progressive social services in Minnesota and the nation may sound similar, this School has not stayed the same. You have not stood still. Our School of Social Work evolved as the Civil Rights movement and the women’s movement created new challenges for our social environment.  Yes, child welfare remains a focus, but so does research into social policy, community organizing and community mental health. Today, youth development, people with disabilities, and aging are also on your agenda.

You change with the times, but always with empathy and courage. You are the oldest public school of Social Work in the United States and your mission has been unwavering. Your mission is about scholarship, leadership, and — I quote — “a commitment to the public good, social justice, and the empowerment of oppressed peoples.” You guys don’t mince your words, and you lead the way for the entire University.

Because we talk a lot here at the U about being the state’s leading convener, bringing together people, communities and ideas to advance the quality of our lives. We also talk a lot about grand challenges and our role in facing them. 

Your faculty, your students, your staff and your amazing alumni tackle and live those grand challenges every day. Challenges like those associated with poverty, with health and economic disparities, and with the wellbeing of children, youth and families. Every day you confront those challenges, and you have been for a century, making our University proud and fully engaged with Minnesotans, Native and new, young and old. 

On behalf of the entire University of Minnesota community — dare I say, the citizens of our state — I thank you for your important work.

Happy Birthday, School of Social Work. For 100, you look pretty darn good to me.