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History

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The Ethelyn R. Strong School of Social Work has a robust history devoted to developing social workers who are advocates, practitioners and change agents. The social work program became a formal major in 1960, under the direction of Dr. Ethelyn Ratcliff Strong, who was the founding Dean of the School of Social Work.

Dr. Strong was a native of Portsmouth, Virginia, and a graduate of Virginia Union University, Norfolk division. She earned her MSW from Columbia University and a DSW from Catholic University of America.  Dr. Strong was the first African American child welfare worker and supervisor with Norfolk Department of Social Services. She was a leader in child welfare advocacy and services.

In 1960, Dr. Ethelyn R. Strong was instrumental in the development of the undergraduate social work program.  At the time, Norfolk State University had the only social work program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education in Virginia.

Norfolk State University’s past President Dr. Lyman Beecher Brooks, Dr. Strong, and others lobbied and testified before a select committee of the Virginia General Assembly, to advocate for the 1972 legislation which authorized graduate degree programs at Norfolk State.

Dr. Strong’s involvement in the Norfolk State University’s Deans Council, the National Association of Social Workers, local agencies in Virginia, and other institutional systems created an outpouring of regional and national support for the Master of Social Work Program. The Master of Social Work Program was established in 1974 at Norfolk State University.

Dean Strong retired in 1983 and was awarded Emerita Status. She continued to be active in the social work profession as a speaker and guest lecturer until her untimely death in 1986. The Faculty and Board of Visitors voted unanimously to re-name the School after Dr. Ethelyn R. Strong. 

Dr. Moses NewEthelyn-R-Strong-02.jpgsome, nationally known as a Social Work scholar, succeeded Dr. Strong as Dean of the School in 1984. Under his leadership, the School of Social Work continued to progress and established a Doctoral program in Social Work in 1995. The emphasis of the Ph.D. program is on family-centered social work research and practice. The School of Social Work continued to offer continuing education courses and Title III programs.

Following Dr. Newsome's tenure as Dean of the School of Social Work, Dr. Marvin Feit assumed the Deanship of the school from 2000-2007. He provided leadership in building local, state, national and international partnerships with Schools of Social Work in Virginia, the Virgin Islands, Costa Rica and others. There were intermittent years that faculty served as Interim Dean: Dr. Joseph Dancy, Jr (1999-2000), Dr. Sheila Miller (2007-2008) and Professor Carrie B. Waites (2008-2009). Dr. Dorothy Browne who served as Dean from 2009-2012, instituted a public health perspective to the strength-based focus of the School of Social Work. Dr. Rowena Wilson, who is a child welfare expert and trainer, is the current Dean of the School of Social Work.

Today, the Ethelyn R. Strong School of Social Work continues to provide a comprehensive social work education, including nationally accredited Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) and Master of Social Work (MSW) programs, and Ph.D. in Social Work program designed for advanced practitioners. The School of Social Work is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), with the last affirmation in 2014.