University of Pittsburgh
October 25, 2017

Accomplishments of Pitt School of Social Work Dean Praised


Sharon Blake


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PITTSBURGHLarry E. Davis, the University of Pittsburgh’s dean of the School of Social Work, Donald M. Henderson Professor and founding director of its Center on Race and Social Problems, will step down as dean at the end of the 2017-18 academic year. He intends to remain active, including writing, teaching and advocating for social causes.Larry E. Davis

Under his leadership since 2001, the school has advanced to be ranked among the nation’s top 10 social work schools by U.S. News and World Report. has ranked the Bachelor of Arts in Social Work program fourth in the country, as the school marks its 100th anniversary in 2018.

As the founding director of Pitt’s race center, established in 2002, Davis has worked to advance applied social science research on race, ethnicity and color.

“Larry has transformed Pitt into one of the nation’s top destinations to study social work,” said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “At the same time, he has dedicated his career to issues of race, civil rights and social justice and inspired countless others to follow in his footsteps. Our University community is grateful for his many contributions, and our world is a better, fairer place because of his efforts.”

Patricia E. Beeson, provost and senior vice chancellor, said: “Larry has driven the School of Social Work along a dynamic path of growth and transformation, positioning it for continued recognition and success. He has also provided University-wide leadership on a number of issues, including in his role as director of the Center on Race and Social Problems. His impact on the school and the University will be felt for years to come.”

Davis’ Accomplishments

Davis’ scholarly accomplishments as a pioneer in his field have been recognized through numerous awards such as the 2018 Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) Distinguished Career Achievement Award. He also is the first person to ever receive both the SSWR honor and the Council on Social Work Education Career Achievement Award, which was presented to him in 2016.

Under his direction, the Center on Race and Social Problems issued two comprehensive reports, one in 2007 and another in 2015, titled “Pittsburgh’s Racial Demographics: Differences and Disparities.” These studies have been used by government leaders in the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County to plot strategies and make policy decisions on issues such as affordable housing.

Davis has written, edited or co-authored a number of books, the most recent being “Why Are They Angry With Us? Essays on Race” (Lyceum Books, 2015), which addresses race in relationship to incarceration, immigration, individual identity and other topics.

Other examples of his leadership include:

  • Development of a new Study Abroad course for social work graduate students called Cuban Social Policy Issues. Every spring term, 8-10 students travel to the historically rich city of Havana to study social conditions and meet with community leaders and staff at public health agencies and other institutions.
  • Refashioning of the school’s doctoral program for the 21st century, while the Master of Social Work degree program now requires students to go into the region’s neighborhoods earlier to fulfill practicum requirements.
  • Increased research funding fourfold since 2003 along with a large increase in the number of published articles by faculty members.
  • Founding of the journal Race and Social Problems, a multidisciplinary forum for issues germane to race and its relationship to psychological, socioeconomic, political and cultural problems.
  • Development of the school’s Browne Leadership Program, a cross-disciplinary initiative. Pitt undergraduates in non-social work majors attend monthly symposia and complete a service project to implement the values and ethics in social work training into their own fields. An art major, for example, could experience the rewards of spearheading a community mural project.
  • Hosting of a four-day conference in 2010 called Race in America. Scholars, students, national experts, leaders of industry and keynote speaker Julian Bond all convened on the Pitt campus to discuss ways to promote a more racially equitable society.

Davis earned his Bachelor of Science degree in psychology at Michigan State University along with master’s degrees in social work and psychology plus a PhD degree in both social work and psychology at the University of Michigan. He received the 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award from Michigan’s School of Social Work and in 2015 was inducted into the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare.

A search committee will be formed to identify his successor.