School of Applied Sciences Welcomes New Chair in Social Work

Daphne Cain sets goals to boost department's visibility, strengthen experiences for students

Dr. Daphne Cain, chair and associate professor of social work

Dr. Daphne Cain, chair and associate professor of social work

OXFORD, Miss. – Out of the blue, Daphne Cain received an email from the University of Mississippi asking if she would consider serving as chair of the Department of Social Work.

“I was surprised to get the email,” Cain said, “and flattered.”

She was then serving as interim director and associate professor of social work at Louisiana State University, where she had been since 2001.

“I get a phone call from (UM) in November, and they were talking about expanding the social work program,” she said. “They wanted to grow their bachelor’s and master’s programs. They wanted to create a Ph.D. program. The University of Mississippi wanted to provide quality experiences for its students. I wanted to be a part of that.”

As new chair and associate professor, Cain brings a host of experiences to the department. After earning her M.S.W. from East Carolina University in 1995, Cain spent a few years in residential child treatment, providing services to abused and neglected youth, before becoming a trained marriage and family therapist.

She earned her doctorate in social work in 2002 at the University of Tennessee.

Velmer Burton, dean of the School of Applied Sciences, believes Cain’s knowledge and experience will greatly benefit the department.

“With a documented record as a teacher-scholar of social work, Dr. Cain brings both a vibrant and fresh perspective that will have a positive impact at Ole Miss and social work across the state,” Burton said. “We were able to recruit a nationally respected social work administrator and faculty member from LSU, a peer SEC institution. We see her appointment as a major win for the department, our students and the School of Applied Sciences.”

Cain’s vision for the department, which has nearly 400 undergraduate and graduate students, is simple: more regional and national visibility.

She wants Mississippi communities to understand that UM will be the flagship for a social work degree. It is the only institution in the state offering a child welfare training academy. And in 2016, the program is up for reaffirmation of accreditation.

“We’ve already implemented the 2008 educational policies and accreditation standards from the Council on Social Work Education, our accreditation body,” Cain said. “It is infused in the curriculum and syllabi. We’ve been capturing data for two years. We’re in such a good position for reaffirmation.”

In the fall semester, the department will launch a national search for three new faculty members, allowing the program to focus on other areas of social work, such as geriatric, military and mental health social work.

Another area getting students’ attention is cyber addictions.

“They have whole hospitals dedicated to cyber addictions such as texting and gaming,” Cain said. “It’s brand new, and students get really excited about it. There’s so much you can do with a social work degree. It’s highly versatile with lots of significant job opportunities.”

Cain began her new role June 16. Her husband, Daniel Novak, also obtained a faculty position at UM, as an associate professor of English. Together, they bought a house that they enjoy with their five dogs.

“I’m deliriously happy living here,” Cain said. “When I first came for the interview, it felt like home.”