Welcome from the Dean

Welcome to the Columbia School of Social Work. For over 120 years, our students, alumni, and faculty have been at the crossroads of science and social justice. In 1898, the Charity Organization in New York City offered the first formal classes in “social philanthropy.” They advocated for fighting poverty and defending the rights of immigrants. To this day, our School remains at the forefront of social work research, pedagogy, and practice.

Our faculty’s scholarship changes the direction of society. Their research has redefined how poverty should be measured and has deepened the world’s understanding of grief, addiction, HIV/AIDS, and economic, racial and ethnic health care disparities. Our faculty lead the social work field in funded research from public health agencies, including NIH. Their research is often the result of creative collaborations with other Columbia faculty at the Data Science Institute, the School of Public Health, Teacher’s College, and the Departments of Economics and Sociology, among others.

We offer a professional education for the twenty-first century. Our curriculum, with its 28 specializations and nine joint degree opportunities, reflects the broadening of the field of social work. The School’s electives are updated frequently to cover emerging areas of social work. Current topics include social entrepreneurship, global health, implementation science, restorative justice, human trafficking, mass incarceration, and the criminal justice system. Social workers continue to provide the majority of mental health services in the United States. Here, too, the School has been innovative, offering the only graduate-level program in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).

Our commitment to social justice transcends borders. While Columbia benefits from residing in New York City, one of the most diverse environments in the world, two-thirds of our faculty also engage in global research and education. Many of our students, 10 percent of whom come from outside the United States, pursue professional opportunities in other countries. With the recent addition of the China Center for Social Policy, the Columbia School of Social Work has become a hub for innovation and action in the world’s fastest-developing social work community.

Our alumni push the boundaries of the profession. After they graduate, Columbia social workers create positive change within and beyond traditional settings. They practice in hospitals and classrooms in the Bronx, advocate in Washington D.C. on behalf of vulnerable constituents, conduct policy analyses for local, state, and the federal governments, provide services to refugees in Rwanda and Jordan, and manage major philanthropies, nonprofits, and NGOs around the world.

We are a supportive and diverse community of scholars, practitioners, and students. I invite you to explore the School on our website and in person, and to learn more about our longstanding commitment to science in the pursuit of social justice. Join us in making waves, moving mountains, and changing lives.


Irwin Garfinkel
Mitchell I. Ginsberg Professor of Contemporary Urban Problems
Interim Dean