In an email to faculty and staff, Dean Nina Heller said “I am delighted to announce that Dr. Joanne Corbin has accepted our offer as the next Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. She is completing her work at Smith College where she is serving as the Director of their PhD Program and will join our faculty in August.”
Dr. Corbin’s current research and practice at Smith College School for Social Work focuses on the experiences of children and families affected by armed conflict in Northern Uganda. She also examines the systemic work of school social workers in public schools. Her scholarship focuses on two areas: the effect of armed conflict and displacement on children, families, and communities in northern Uganda, and the role of social workers in educational decision-making in public schools. In 2010, Corbin was appointed to the Council on Social Work Education’s (CSWE) Council on Global Learning and Practice, she was appointed as chair of the council in 2013. Corbin came to Smith College School for Social Work in 2000 from the Yale Child Study Center’s School Development Program where she was the director of the Child and Adolescent Development Unit. Her work aided educators in integrating developmental theory into educational practice. She has also conducted research on parent involvement in public schools.
Here is what Dr. Corbin said in a recent interview.
1. What drew you to the UConn School of Social Work?
The UConn School of Social Work is a national leader in social work education and preparation and continues to examine how the school can address the needs of families and children in its community, throughout the state, nationally and internationally. The school has dynamic and diverse faculty members that are in the midst of research and study that focuses on improving the lives of families and communities. The school is enriched by students who are energized by the learning opportunities to contribute to the communities and organizations in which they work. The areas of focus for the school are ones in which I have a strong interest. The Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work, the Center for International Social Work Studies and the Puerto Rican and Latin@ Studies Project move the knowledge and skills of faculty and students towards collaborative action with communities. As a result, the school exemplifies the social work mission of attending to the person-in-environment. I felt that the school’s Just Community work that engages with the community to increase anti-oppressive practices throughout the educational experience connected with my commitment to a school-community partnership. There were many aspects of the school that are important to me but I think it comes down to feeling that I was aligned with the school’s mission.
2. In your role as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, how will you support faculty, students, and staff?
The COVID-19 pandemic and the recent racial violence that has affected all aspects of society calls for leadership to attend to the needs of the students, staff and faculty of the schools as well as to address the larger societal concerns. I look forward to working with Dean Heller and the leadership team to attend to the safety of the students, faculty, and staff while continuing to advance the mission of the school. I will focus on ensuring the curriculum prepares students to enter the field with a strong foundation in coursework and field internship experience. Such curriculum must prepare students to work with populations experiencing increasing social and economic need while we are all experiencing the pandemics of COVID-19 and racial injustice. The boundary between the field of practice and the classroom is not as clear as it was 9 months ago. It is important for faculty and staff to think about what this means in terms of curriculum and preparation of students.
3. How will you contribute to the academic programs offered at the School of Social Work?
The school is in the beginning phases of a strategic planning process. This is a good place to understand the evaluation of the explicit and implicit academic programs and to work with the school to develop the vision for the next 5-10 years. The contexts of COVID-19 and racial injustice and violence are ones in which educators at all levels are examining what aspects of the academic program support all students. They expose the weaker areas in the educational system, allowing us to make corrections so that structural inequalities are reduced.
My guiding principles as I come into this position will be:
• Developing interventions that address the needs of the populations with whom we are working.
• Generating the knowledge from the development of these interventions that inform our preparation of social workers.
• Holding the voices of the marginalized central in our work and preparation of social workers.
4. What will you do first upon arriving at the School of Social Work in August?
I will begin by meeting faculty and staff individually, most likely via video conferencing. As a starting point for these conversations I’d like to know what they value about the School of Social Work. I want to gain a deep understanding of each of the programs, their work, their strengths, their concerns and their challenges. I will ensure that students, faculty members and staff are engaged in the school’s processes of communication, information sharing and decision-making. Creating processes for participation is important.
I will also learn more about the students, their learning needs and goals and then collaboratively work with programs to identify appropriate goals for student success, ensure that the curriculum is aligned with those goals, support faculty and staff development to achieve those goals, and monitor and evaluate program processes and outcomes.
The contexts of COVID-19 and the racial violence in this country affect all students, staff and faculty. I must hear how students, staff and faculty are affected and we must think together to develop a shared plan forward. I will work with Dean Heller to develop a plan inclusive of the voices of students, faculty and students.