Winter 2022
School Updates

Anti-racism Efforts

The University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work has a long legacy of fighting for racial and social justice.

The University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work has a long legacy of fighting for racial and social justice. The events of 2020 saw conversations about equity, fairness, and what it means to be a person of color in this country come to the forefront. Pitt Social Work staff, faculty, and students felt the call to reflect on their school community and the role they could play in dismantling systemic racism.

To address these topics, the school brought together faculty, staff, and students to craft the Pitt School of Social Work Commitment to Anti-racism, a document that affirms the school’s collective belief that the “legacy of slavery and racist policies undermine the espoused values of our country and create undeniable harm and disproportionate hardship for people of color.” The commitment further asserts that the school’s vision to “transform our world, our future, [and] ourselves” cannot be accomplished without centering anti-racism in all our work. 

Pitt Social Work has committed itself to tackling issues of racism in the school and in the broader community through teaching, research, service, and education. The school also has established guiding principles that commit us to taking actions to become an “anti-racist, anti-oppressive, inclusive, and welcoming school.” Those guiding principles are as follows:

  1. Anti-racism is central to all we do: We will advance anti-racism in all business, education, and research operations, policies, and practices.
  2. Anti-racism starts with us: We must acknowledge that our country’s and the profession of social work’s racist histories have enabled our society to practice de facto White supremacy while claiming the opposite.
  3. Anti-racism is a continual work in progress: We commit to an ongoing process of individual and collective education, discussion, and action.
  4. Anti-racism is intersectional: We will center racism in our attention to all forms of oppression.
  5. Anti-racism demands accountability: We will develop rigorous tools to evaluate and assess our progress.

The Inclusion, Equity, and Diversity Committee, led by Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion James Huguley and Payroll and Personnel Coordinator Michael Jasek, is coordinating efforts to put this commitment intoAliya Durham teaching a class action. The committee is spearheading many critical activities to advance anti-racism, including creating curricular review guidelines to support the review of all courses at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral level; hosting a biweekly anti-racism learning collaborative for faculty, staff, and students with a wide range of guest speakers; and leading the creation of an anti-racism action plan to ensure that proactive steps are taken to build a more inclusive school.

The action plan offers a blueprint “to do the work well in the world and to do right by our students,” says Huguley. “We had to make sure our faculty and staff were acting in an anti-racist way. It’s a balancing act of retaining what works but not stagnating in our actions.” The action plan was approved by a vote by faculty and staff in spring 2021 after various levels of input and review.

Inspired by the efforts at the schoolwide level, faculty, staff, and programs throughout the school have begun their own initiatives to embed anti-racism in their work. The Child Welfare Resource Center has convened an internal race equity working group, created educational opportunities on race for its staff in counties throughout the state, and made anti-racism discussion a standing agenda item at its monthly staff meetings. Director of Community Engagement Aliya Durham and University of Pittsburgh at Bradford MSW Program Coordinator Stephanie Eckstrom represented Pitt Social Work at a national training for Intergroup Dialogue to learn restorative practices and dialogue techniques; explore topics such as racism, power, and privilege in higher education; practice active listening in difficult conversations; and manage tense moments in interpersonal communication. Other faculty and staff have prioritized educating and challenging themselves to think differently about the role race plays in our work in order to become more anti-racist and inclusive in their daily lives.

This is just the start of the school’s anti-racism work, with many actions and efforts still to begin. We invite all our community members—students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community partners—to join us in helping Pitt Social Work to become a model of anti-racism, anti-oppression, and inclusion for all.


2020-21 Inclusion, Equity, and Diversity Committee

Kess Ballentine

Jaime Booth

Emma Bowe-Shulman

Rachel Gartner

Summer-Rae Hastings

James Huguley (cochair)

Michael Jasek (cochair)

Alyssa Lyle

Blair Mickels

Penny Miller

Riley A. Riley

Darren Whitfield