Susan Hickman explains in an article for alumni/school
It was 65 years ago last June that Carleton University’s School of Social Work, renowned for its approach to social casework training, first opened its doors to 17 students as St. Patrick’s School of Social Welfare.
One of the oldest programs of its kind in the country, it has trained three or four generations of social workers, says Prof. Allan Moscovitch who, with colleague Colleen Lundy, is writing a history of the school.
Research has covered a wide range of topics, including structural social work, the history of the profession, Canadian social welfare policy, Aboriginal social welfare, immigration, women and violence, the history of psychoanalysis, and the evaluation of social services. Some faculty are involved in joint projects with social service agencies, as well as professional or community-based organizations.
The school began under the leadership of Swithun Bowers, a dynamic and eloquent orator chosen by the Oblate Catholic Order to develop a program. Bowers, who completed a master’s program at Columbia University, inspired social work students through his teaching and as director of the school until his retirement in the early 1970s.
His 1949 article, The Nature and Definition of Social Casework, was the touchstone for scholars and practitioners for years.
From the outset, graduates were placed in agencies that believed in their approach, which initially included the fundamental principles of Christian thought in religion and philosophy. In the 1950s, non-Catholics began to attend the school, which changed its name to the School of Social Work and moved to Carleton University in 1967.
The school went through some turmoil in the 1970s and turned in a new direction under S. James Albert and several left-leaning faculty members.
“We were witnessing the rise of the civil rights and anti-poverty movements, the women’s movement and student militancy,” Lundy notes, “followed by severe cutbacks in social welfare institutions and heavy criticism of the function and effectiveness of social work practice.”
The “structural approach” was developed at this time, says Lundy, who published Social Work, Social Justice & Human Rights: A Structural Approach to Practice in 2011.
Carleton faculty, including Moscovitch, Helen Levine and Roland Lecomte, contributed to Columbia student Maurice Moreau’s formulation of the new structural approach to social work. Rejecting the status quo, it has since contributed greatly to progressive social work practice in Canada. Rooted in social justice and social change, Moreau’s method moved away from a blame-the-victim perspective to one that looked more closely at the social conditions in which clients found themselves.
In 1981, Levine introduced the course Women and Welfare, bringing feminism into the school, as well as campaigns against sexism. A decade later, Rashmi Luther joined the school as a race equity co-ordinator after six students formed a race advisory committee on campus to promote race awareness.
Today, the school offers an undergraduate Bachelor of Social Work program, a Master’s and a PhD, the latter welcoming its first students in September 2012.
Moscovitch and Lundy began writing the history of the school for its 60th anniversary and have been updating it ever since.
“We’ve graduated a lot of people who have gone on and done very important things,” says Lundy. Civil rights activist Minnijean Brown Trickey, one of the Little Rock Nine African American teenagers who helped desegregate her high school in 1957, earned a Master’s of Social Work at Carleton. And Cassie Doyle, consul general of Canada in San Francisco, completed her Master’s degree in Social Policy and Administration here.
A large number of energetic and enthusiastic graduates have developed innovative programs or gone on to head local community resource centres, says Moscovitch.
“We’re still known as a School of Social Work with a social activist component focusing on social change, social justice and human rights,” adds Lundy, “making changes in the community and in the world.”
More information about the graduate programs in Social Work are available on the School of Social Work website.