UM Social Work Department Makes Huge Strides

Transformation includes tenure-track faculty hirings, rising national rankings for master's program

Jandel Crutchfield presents her social work research.

Jandel Crutchfield presents her social work research.

OXFORD, Miss. – With a significant climb in national rankings and the hiring of tenure-track faculty, the Department of Social Work at the University of Mississippi is experiencing unprecedented growth.

U.S. News and World Report ranked the department’s master’s program No. 103 out of 200 nationally, which is a 45-spot climb since 2013. In addition, seven new professors have joined the department, each bringing years of expertise in the field.

“Basically, we wanted to make the University of Mississippi Department of Social Work nationally visible and continue providing flagship-quality education and mentorship to students,” said Daphne Cain, chair and associate professor of social work. “We’re doing that.”

Formerly interim director of social work at Louisiana State University, Cain accepted the position here in 2014. A graduate of the University of Tennessee, her research interests include disaster mental health and parenting interventions with high-risk and vulnerable families.

“After arriving here, many of my goals were to hire new tenure-track faculty from premier social work programs, grow the graduate program and improving licensure exam passing rates,” she said. “These professors, whose research interests range from addictive behaviors to economic insecurity and poverty, are experts in the discipline.”

The latest rankings demonstrate the department’s effort to become one of the best places to earn an MSW, said Velmer Burton, dean of UM’s School of Applied Sciences and professor of social work.

“We are all pleased with the progress the department’s faculty and staff have made over the past three years,” Burton said. “The continued success of our MSW program is a testament to the value of investing in our people and programs in the School of Applied Sciences.”

Viktor Burlaka shares a moment with his social work students.

Viktor Burlaka shares a moment with his social work students.

Other new social work faculty are Javier Boyas, Viktor Burlaka, Jandel Crutchfield, Yi-Jin Kim, Tess Lefmann and Younghee Lim. Institutions they earned doctorates from include Boston College, the University of Michigan, LSU, the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of Tennessee. Each has had peer-reviewed articles published in various professional journals.

“The department has been able to recruit some of the brightest scholars in social work over the past three years,” said Mark Loftin, associate dean of the applied sciences school. “This upward trend in the social work department is very exciting.”

The academic mission of the Department of Social Work is one that aligns with the UM Creed, Provost Morris Stocks said.

“In and out of the classroom, the social work department pursues the ideals of respect, civility and freedom for all people,” Stocks said. “The University of Mississippi is proud of the department’s growth and academic success.”

Established in 1974, the Department of Social Work’s mission is to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic needs of all people – with particular attention to the needs of those who are vulnerable, oppressed and living in poverty.

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