Majoring in social work at Norfolk State University, is to be nurtured in a School with a robust history devoted to developing advocates, direct practitioners and institution builders. Social Work became a major in 1960. However, when Dr. Ethelyn Ratcliff Strong became Dean, the School would become a flagship entity of the University. A native of Portsmouth, Virginia, Dr. Strong was a graduate of Virginia Union University, Norfolk division. She earned her MSW from Columbia University and the DSW from Catholic University of America. As the first African American child welfare worker and supervisor with Norfolk Department of Social Services, she became a leader in child welfare advocacy and services. In 1960, Strong was the pulse in the development of the undergraduate program in social work, which became the only Council on Social Work Education approved program in Virginia at that time.
Norfolk State President Lyman Beecher Brooks, Dr. Strong and others, lobbied and testified before a special committee of the Virginia General Assembly, to push for the 1972 legislation which authorized graduate degree programs at Norfolk State. This legislation was a struggle of political and academic maneuvering, for the University had to demonstrate their ability to administer graduate programs, and demonstrate the unique need for NSU to attain graduate status. Dr. Strong’s national involvement in the Dean’s Council, the National Association of Social workers, area agencies and other institutional constituents created a groundswell of regional and national support for the Master of Social Work degree program, which would be established in 1974. She retired in 1983 and was awarded Emerita Status. Dr. Strong continued to be active as a speaker and a guest lecturer until her untimely death in 1986. The Faculty and Board of Visitors voted unanimously to re-name the School after Dr. Strong.
Dr. Moses Newsome, nationally known as a social work scholar succeeded Dr. Strong in 1984. Under his leadership, the School would continue to progress by creating a doctoral program in Social Work, in 1995 with theoretical and empirical emphasis on family-centered social work research and practice. Also, the faculty would welcome the addition of Continuing Education and Title III programs. Dr. Marvin Feit’s tenure as Dean from 2000-2007, would provide oversight in this new century by augmenting our School through long distance and international social work programs in the state of Virginia, at New College Institute in Martinsville, VA, the Virgin Islands, and Costa Rica, would expand the scope of the School, as technology has added another dimension to the academic endeavor of mastering the art of Social Work. There were intermittent years that our School was carefully guarded by faculty who 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 served as Dean from 2009-2012, bringing a public health perspective to the strengths-based foci of the School. Dr. Rowena Wilson, child welfare and community training expert currently serves as Interim Dean.
The Ethelyn R. Strong School of Social Work has always been fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), with our last affirmation in 2006. The School is also accredited and approved by the Southern Association of College and Schools (SACS) in 2008, meeting many educational standards.