November 2023

Message to Admitted & Incoming Students from Dean Melissa Begg

Dear Incoming CSSW Students,

Welcome to Columbia! First, please allow me to congratulate you on your admission to the Columbia School of Social Work (CSSW), the oldest social work program in the nation, as we celebrate our 125th anniversary this year. We are proud to be the birthplace of social work education in the United States. You are an impressive group and we cannot wait to see all the different perspectives, experiences, and ideas you will bring to our community.

You are joining a community with a vibrant educational and research portfolio. Our researchers are pursuing some of the thorniest questions we face as a society regarding well-being and access to opportunity. A quick scan of our website demonstrates the wide array of relevant, ethical, and timely research and practice efforts underway, including promoting racial justice, advancing mental health and wellness, increasing access to care, supporting healthy children and families, exploring technology’s impact on our lives, reducing poverty, re-envisioning the criminal justice system, and enhancing educational opportunities, among many other exciting initiatives.

It is the mission of social work to promote social justice and racial justice in all we do, and to ensure equal access to opportunity for all in our society – especially the most vulnerable and marginalized. Given the damage wrought by multiple pandemics, there is much work ahead of us. You have the power to make change and we offer an education designed to make the most of your dedication and innate talents.

While much of the work ahead of us is outward-facing, we recognize that we have important work to do within our community. Like nearly every institution in our society, we recognize that our School has ongoing issues to confront. At the same time, we are committed to tackling our shortcomings, addressing concerns as they arise, accepting responsibility where appropriate, and making changes where needed – so that we emerge as a stronger, more equitable School. This is not the work of a day or a week or even a year, but an ongoing duty and a continuing work-in-progress. We look forward to partnering with you in that effort.

Please take advantage of all that CSSW and the wider University have to offer. During your time with us, you will be able to engage with others in a variety of ways and formats as you meet with faculty members and classmates, expand your professional networks, seek advice from your instructors, receive guidance from your advisors and practicum supervisors, and obtain support from our dedicated staff in student services. We are all eager to meet you!

Our program is rigorous and demanding, and we provide support to our students all the way through. We support and encourage honest dialogue. A key part of our curriculum requires students to directly address issues of power, racism, oppression and privilege – often referred to in our program as PROP. Our goal is to augment students’ awareness of these issues, and enhance their capacity to mitigate oppressive systems in social work practice. While discussions of racism and a wide range of systemic inequities are some of the most important we can have, these discussions can be very challenging and can make us feel uncomfortable and uncertain. Our goal is to help everyone work through this discomfort with a view to emerging as more aware, more compassionate, and more effective social workers.

Despite the myriad changes all around us, some things remain the same. CSSW is one of the best social work schools in the country. Our breadth of concentrations and specializations ensures that you are able to focus on the aspects of social work and social welfare that are most meaningful to you. Our faculty and staff are ready to offer you an excellent education this year. We are committed to providing you with a learning experience that is personal, engaging, and effective, enabling you to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to promote positive change throughout your career.

We know you are coming to social work to fight for a better world. There is no doubt that society needs you, and the demand for your contributions is urgent. We are grateful for your talent, your creativity, and your dedication to social justice. We cannot wait to start working with you towards those goals.

With best regards and enduring hope for the future,

Melissa D. Begg
Dean & Professor
Columbia School of Social Work