Winter 2021
School Updates

Dean's Message

Greetings from the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work as we embark on a new year!

Dear alumni, 

Greetings from the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work as we embark on a new year! 2020 was a year that was clearly unlike any other. It was a year of overwhelming challenges and devastating loss. It was a year of creative adaptations as we figured out how to come together and support each other when we couldn’t physically be together. And it was a time to appreciate and value how fortunate we are to be part of a school of social work and a profession that is so crucial to the solutions that lie ahead. 

Within the school, it was amazing to see how quickly we could pivot when the world moved to remote learning last spring. Challenging as it was, I was incredibly impressed with how our faculty, staff, students, and community partners pulled together to make sure that we could continue doing all that we needed to do. And as summer dawned and the nation was wracked by unconscionable brutality and racism, we came together to figure out how to support each other; what role we could play in creating a more just society; and how to ensure that our school moves forward to become a truly anti-racist, anti-oppressive, welcoming, and inclusive environment. It was clearly a year in which our recently developed vision statement—Transforming our world, our future, ourselves—took on new meaning and guided our actions. 

Throughout the challenges and efforts of the past year, I’ve been repeatedly struck by the truly essential and wonderful work of our alumni. Within the Pittsburgh area, across the country, and around the world, connections with alumni and stories of their projects, programs, leadership, activism, interventions, and bold innovations have helped us to stay focused on what we need to do and on what a difference we can make. 

You may notice some changes in this issue of Bridges. We want to make sure that we’re connecting with our alumni— helping you all to stay connected with what’s happening at the school and highlighting some of what our alumni are doing. We hope that this revised format is engaging; helps you to connect with and remember faculty, classmates, and fellow Pitt alums; and conveys the scope and impact of all that our school embodies. 

As we move into 2021, I am continuing my work with a renewed energy and commitment to the potential opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. We are still in the midst of a devastating pandemic, yet there is light on the horizon, and our collective action and commitment will determine how and when we get there. The long-standing structural racism and systemic violence and inequities that captivated so much attention in 2020 are far from resolved— more than 400 years of history will not be changed in a season or a year. It is our responsibility to continue to fight for change, to demand accountability, and to ensure that racism and oppression are addressed at every level and in every context. A new year brings the promise of a new future, and this year it is exciting to think about what we can become! It also is critical to remember what we must all do if we are to create this world that we want to share. It is an excellent time to be surrounded and inspired by social workers who are overcoming obstacles, figuring out creative solutions, and imagining a better future—all of the things that social workers bring to the table are what we need to create the new normal. 

Thanks so much for being a part of our school and community, and please be in touch. 

Onward to a brighter 2021! 


Elizabeth M.Z. “Betsy” Farmer 

Dean, School of Social Work University of Pittsburgh