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School of Social Work | Special Collections & University Archives

Name: School of Social Work

Historical Note:

Founded in 1963, the San Diego State University School of Social Work was the first of its kind in what is now the 23 campus Cal-State University system. The program emerged in response to a need for more professionally educated workers in the public welfare sector, focusing mostly on diversity, civil rights, and education. Former and current faculty include leading authorities in a broad range of disciplines and focus areas related to substance abuse, domestic violence, child welfare, mental health and aging, HIV/AIDS, human trafficking, and immigration.

In 1960, Governor Jerry Brown hired Dr. Ernest Witte to assess the need for additional social work programs in the state. By 1963, Witte was appointed the first dean of the School of Social Work at San Diego State College.

In order to achieve “University” status, the San Diego College administration decided to create a new entity called the College of Social and Health Services.  The college housed a vast array of clinical programs including the School of Nursing, Department of Speech Pathology, the School of Social Work, the Department of Health Services, a Center on Aging, and a School of Public Health. The new programs worked closely with the School of Social Work in curriculum development.

By the mid-1980’s the Conference of International Programs approached the School of Social Work and invited it to join other Schools of Social work in the county in hosting international social workers. It was during this time that the School received several child welfare teaching grants from the Children’s Bureau of the Department of Health to establish teaching and training programs promoting child wellness. In 1987, the School created a Center on Substance Abuse and was later renamed the Center for Alcohol and Other Drugs Studies and Services. 

Collaboration among the Schools of Social Work, University of California San Diego, California Western School of Law, and the Center for Child Protection at Children’s Hospital and Health Center established a Child Abuse Interdisciplinary Training (CAIT) project in 1988. The purpose of the program was to develop core curriculum and deliver training to social workers employed in public child welfare agencies throughout the state.

Between 1992 and 1995 the School was engaged in another inter-departmental collaborative effort at SDSU entitled the Urban Community Service Program. The program was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, and was intended to make university resources and talents available to the surrounding urban community.

In 2003 the School received an award from the California Social Work Education Center for the development of a baccalaureate-level child welfare stipend training program.

After a prolonged separation from the School, the Center on Aging once again became part of the School of Social work in the fall of 2010. The center, along with the Department of Gerontology, was transferred to the School.

The school is currently in the process of negotiations with the University of California, San Diego’s School of Family medicine to offer a joint Ph.D. program in International Health with an emphasis on alcohol and other drug studies.

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