March 1, 2006

Contact:
Jeannie Yip
Columbia University School of Social Work
212-851-2327 or jy2223@columbia.edu

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New York, NY – In 1898, the first training course in philanthropy was established under the Charity Organization Society (COS) in New York City. With a mission to train men and women for social service in professional or volunteer work, the social work profession was born. Today, the School, which is now known as the Columbia University School of Social Work (CUSSW), continues its rich heritage as it joins the nation in celebrating National Social Work Month.

“For more than 100 years, CUSSW has been on the forefront of shaping the social work profession. We are proud of our distinguished history and committed to our mission to enhance the welfare of the citizens and communities of New York City, the nation, and around the world,” says Dean Jeanette Takamura. “As leaders, we also recognize the importance of anticipating and responding to changing global conditions, human and community concerns, and evolving academic professional standards. With great pride we recognize the contributions of our colleagues, past and present, who have found their passion in building awareness, community and understanding of global social issues.”

The roots of CUSSW, and thus of the social work profession, developed at a time when charity and philanthropy work was encouraged. The first formal courses in social work were aimed at dedicated volunteers who sought to strengthen their knowledge and skills to better serve the impoverished. Offered by COS initially as a six-week summer course, the program was extended to a one-year program in 1903 and to a two-year program in 1910. While the School was originally known as New York School of Philanthropy, it was renamed the New York School of Social Work in 1917. Throughout its history, the School maintained continuous academic ties with Columbia University. It formally affiliated with Columbia University in 1940, and was officially named the Columbia University School of Social Work in 1963. While the School had started with only a class of 27 students, today CUSSW enrolls nearly 900 students and has graduated over 16,000 men and women.

Throughout the last century, social work pioneers have helped to pave the way to establish civil rights liberties and laws to protect the American people. Their work has been instrumental in the formation of legislation such as the Social Security Act to the development of public assistance programs. Today, the social work profession is more relevant and valuable in serving people in various communities. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, social work is one of the fastest growing professions. There are approximately 600,000 social workers nationally and the employment of social work professionals is expected to increase up to 26% faster than all occupations through 2014.

With the profession taking an interdisciplinary focus in response to a growing global society, social work professionals today are not only comprised of those working at shelters, hospitals or school settings. They also include photographers who bring to life dark human conditions that would otherwise go unnoticed; corporate professionals counseling employees on bridging cultural differences; government officials seeking social policy changes; filmmakers who document real-life testimonies; lawyers advocating issues pertaining to social injustice, and others.

As CUSSW embarks into the next century of social work education and professional practice, the School will continue its commitment to excellence through exemplary and cutting edge curriculum, resources and programs.

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