Adelphi School of Social Work commemorates its seventh decade
When mask-clad Nassau County Executive Laura Curran presented a citation to Adelphi School of Social Work Dean Manoj Pardasani in recognition of the school’s 70th anniversary, it was a milestone marked amid the turmoil of COVID-19.
As an institution of higher learning dedicated to train and educate professional social workers for the future, the school’s role has never been more important given the myriad issues communities are dealing with in the face of a raging pandemic. It’s a moral obligation Pardasani feels the school’s staff and faculty take very seriously.
“While our primary purpose as a school is to create social workers that are skilled, knowledgeable, ethical and passionate, I think our secondary purpose is that we don’t want to be an ivory tower,” Pardasani said. “We really want to be engaged in the communities that we serve and actually collaborate with community, whether it’s residents, social work agencies, nonprofit or healthcare organizations. We want to be partners with them in helping make a community a better community for all residents.”
It’s a view shared by Dr. Carol Cohen, who has been an associate professor at the School of Social Work since 2002.
“With social work, we come with a number of different perspectives and work from case to cause—from the individual problem to the cause—the reason for it,” Cohen said. “We also look at micro, mezzo and macro. Everyone gets a foundation base in individuals, families, groups, communities and organizations. We tend to focus even more on direct process in an organizational environment. Our students work everywhere, whether it’s in HR [human resources] in a profit-making company to being a community organizer anywhere. At the root of it, the fundamental values of acceptance and well-being really implicates all of what we do.”
In The Beginning
Adelphi’s School of Social Work was founded in 1949, offering a two-year graduate professional program whereby students earned a Masters of Social Service degree. The program’s roots date back to 1941, when the college first offered an extensive curriculum in social work to meet the needs of practicing social workers.
Over the next two decades, the school’s evolution saw the Masters of Social Service degree changed to Masters of Social Work in 1964, and a Pre-Professional Undergraduate Social Work Program concentrating in social welfare was also added that year for sociology students. In 1967, the School of Social Work began offering a Bachelor of Science in social welfare, and a Doctor of Social Welfare degree was established in the 1974 to 1975 academic year.
Today, the school has 24 full-time faculty members educating 720 students—135 BSW students, 438 MSW students and 57 PhD students.
For retired social worker Carmen Pollack who graduated with her MSW (Master’s in Social Work) in 1973 before going on to work for the State of Connecticut, the school gave her immeasurable grounding in a profession tasked with helping individual and families improve the outcomes in their lives, often during a time of crisis when an optimal outcome is far from guaranteed.
“[Through the School of Social Work], I got to meet other people and see other aspects of the field,” Pollack recalled. “I had a couple of field placements and I do remember working at a girls group home. You got the exposure with different types of experiences and when you knocked on someone’s door, you never knew what you were going to get or what was facing you.”
The School’s Legacy
While Pardasani was hired for his position in July of this year and Cohen is nearly two decades at Adelphi, both were well aware of the school’s renown in the world of social work.
“In my prior position as an associate provost for graduate and professional education at Hunter College, I really missed being directly in social work education,” Pardasani said.
“I’m from New York and knew about Adelphi University’s reputation and the caliber of the school and its faculty. So I jumped at the opportunity to apply for the open position.”
Cohen echoed Pardasani’s sentiment.
“In addition to being known for training excellent practitioners, the school also had very strong bonds with community,” she said. “They are very social justice oriented as well as focused on community building which makes sense, since they’ve always had great group workers of world renown.”
This commitment to the larger community outside of Adelphi is reflected by the Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline & Support Program. Founded in 1980, it grew out of a post-mastectomy support group that came out of the Adelphi School of Social Work.
This need to serve a community’s needs echoes in the work of Larissa Singh, a project coordinator with the Massapequa Takes Action Coalition (MTAC), a nonprofit focused on addressing underage drinking and opioid addiction. Singh is a year and half removed from earning her MSW at Adelphi.
“I knew I wanted to do social work to make a difference and I always wanted to work with youth, because I feel that they are our future,” Singh said. “I chose addiction as my specialty because more and more I noticed that addiction impacts everyone. The community piece of it was what locked me into prevention work.”
For Pardasani, this community-driven model continues to frame the School of Social Work’s mission statement, particularly in the era of COVID-19 and into the future.
“Despite [what we’re going through with the pandemic], social work is not just about helping the individual but bettering the world,” Pardasani said. “What we do at the school is the prime example of people living that mission of social work.”