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Wednesday, October 28, 1998
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 47

About the Cougar

By Michelle Norton
Campus Editor 

David wakes up every morning and throws on some jeans and a neutral-colored T-shirt. After eating breakfast, he heads down to the basketball court at the community center where a local gang hangs out.

Sometimes David sits in the stands and watches them play. Other times he'll go up to a gang member and carry on a conversation. In the past few weeks, it seems he has started to make some real breakthroughs, gaining the membersi trust and becoming a part of their family.

Just down the street, Stephanie knocks on the door of a one-bedroom shack in the poorest ward of the city. A thin, aging woman hastily opens the door and, upon seeing Stephanie, bursts into tears of ecstasy. Stephanie rationally explains to the woman who she is and why she is there. She then proceeds to carry the woman's two young children away.

While these people seem to have different lives with varied interests in their community, they do have one thing in common -- they are both trained social workers.

Social work as a profession is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and the Graduate School of Social Work at UH is celebrating 30 years of serving the community.

Love thy neighbor

Throughout history, people have shown a willingness to help neighbors in trouble. Social work had its beginnings in this concern for the well-being of neighbors. In earlier days, social workers helped the poor through simple acts of charity, but as the number of the needy increased, this was not enough.

As a result, institutions slowly arose to provide care for dependent children, the aged, the handicapped and the sick. Too often in the past it was thought that being in trouble was a person's own fault, and therefore little attention was paid to the real causes of distress.

By the 20th century, new knowledge from psychiatry and the other social sciences brought a greater understanding of the forces that prevent people from being useful and happy. Social work changed from a program of "doing for" people to a program of "working with" people to help them achieve fuller and more satisfying lives.

And so it began

The rise in significance of social work took place in the 60s during the time of John F. Kennedy's "New Frontier" and Lyndon B. Johnson's "Great Society" programs, which increased federal participation in social welfare.

Meanwhile, civil rights, womenis rights and the rights of minorities were hotly defended and debated on college campuses, in courts and in legislative bodies.

The 1962 Social Security amendments and the 1963 Comprehensive Mental Health Planning Act provided for re-organization of social welfare services, including new educational requirements to upgrade both front-line and administrative personnel in child welfare and other crucial services.

Alumni of the Graduate School of Social Work re-connect at last week's anniversary celebration in the University Hilton.

Mason Rankin/The Daily Cougar

Closer to home

In 1967, the Texas Legislature authorized the Graduate School of Social Work at UH, with an initial funding of $150,000. 

Daniel O'Keefe became the first dean of the school, assuming his duties in September 1967. The school officially opened in Fall 1968, housed in a temporary residence (called "The Quonset Hut") located in the North Office Annex on the Elgin Street side of campus.

At that time, the school had seven full-time faculty members and 20 students enrolled.

Today, the North Office Annex no longer exists and the GSSW is housed in its own Social Work Building in the middle of campus.

It has also expanded from its meager beginnings to a widely recognized two-year graduate program with approximately 150 students enrolled each semester. To date, the GSSW has graduated over 2,000 alumni.

As the only Texas graduate school specializing in social work, the GSSW offers students five concentrations: health care, mental health, children and families, gerontology and political social work.

More than meets the eye

In addition to the established curriculum, the GSSW also offers a variety of programs designed to further social work education.

For example, the Office of Community Projects and the Center for Organizational Research and Effectiveness look beyond the college campus by helping in the Houston community.

"When you look at the field of social work, you see activities and agencies that enhance the quality of life," said Stephanie Foy, the GSSWis director of organizational services.

The GSSW also helps organizations with funding and youth services with the Funding Source and the Centers for Youth Serving Professionals.

What is a social worker?

When students talk to counselors at schools or hear about people in the Peace Corps, they often wonder to what extent such persons are qualified.

Starting at the university level, a student chooses one of the five concentrations and is required to serve two internships totaling 900 clock hours.

"Students make a huge contribution to the community," Foy said.

Paula Canada, a GSSW student and program coordinator of CORE, said she became involved with social work because she finds it rewarding to help other people. "I believe that my forte in life is to help homeless people," she said.

Once students graduate, they have a variety of career options from which to choose. Some students work with families and individuals through family services agencies, public assistance bureaus and schools.

Others work in general or mental hospitals as part of teams that include doctors and nurses. Social workers often work with groups within the community at centers, youth organizations and centers for the elderly.

Diamonds and pearls

The UH GSSW celebrated its anniversary and the anniversary of social work as a profession with "A celebration of Social Work: Past, Present and Future" Oct. 21 at the University Hilton.

Michael Reisch, professor at the school of social work at the University of Pennsylvania, was guest speaker, and Debra Duncan, host of Channel 13is Debra Duncan show, hosted the event.


KTRK-TV Channel 13's Debra Duncan addresses guests at the Graduate School of Social Work's anniversary celebration last week.

Mason Rankin/The Daily Cougar

At the event, students networked with area social workers and alumni re-connected with former classmates. 

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