Charles E. Lewis
CSSW connection: While pursuing an MSW in clinical counseling at Clark Atlanta University, Charles Lewis realized he had an affinity for policy research and decided he would need a PhD to be an effective participant in the policy arena. He applied and was accepted to the doctoral program at CSSW, with Professor Irwin Garfinkel as his dissertation chair. He further credits CSSW professors Sheila Kamerman, Alfred Kahn, Steven Schinke, and Ron Mincy for enriching his Columbia experience. Lewis received his PhD from Columbia in 2002. He served as the School’s commencement speaker in 2018.
Path to political involvement: After graduating from Columbia, Lewis went to work for Congressman Ed Towns, a social worker, whom he had known for years when living in Brooklyn. Together, they created the Congressional Social Work Caucus. When Towns retired in January 2013, they created a nonprofit—the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy. CRISP—as it is commonly known—works to connect social work research with federal legislation, assist social work organizations and schools in their efforts to engage Congress, and expand opportunities for social work students to do field placements in Congressional offices.
In a video interview with CSSW Communications, Lewis said:
All social workers, regardless of whether they are policy or micro or direct services, should be politically engaged.
In his commencement address to the CSSW Class of 2018, Lewis said:
I rarely agree with much that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says, but he has at least one thing right. He said in Congress, ‘Winners make policy, and losers go home.’ Who holds office matters. It’s not about the party so much; it’s about the policies. When social workers engage in the political arena, we engage not just to win, but to be a force for good. We bring passion for the poor, hope to the disillusioned, and commitment to economic and social equity. Imagine what our world would be without social workers. Politics is Social Work with Power!”