The year was 1914 and eleven students were working hard to finish up their Certificate of Social Service at the University of Toronto. They were pioneers in the emerging profession of social work. At the time, social problems were largely addressed by the ‘charity organization movement,’ which focused on dispensing relief. Trained social workers were rare. The social work school, known in those days as the Department of Social Service, had only just opened its doors.
Today, nearly a century later, the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work (FIFSW) is internationally recognized for exemplary teaching, scholarship and research. Every year, the Faculty prepares hundreds of students to make a difference in people’s lives. Whether they choose to focus on direct clinical practice, policy, advocacy, or administration, our graduates have the knowledge and skills needed to take on daunting challenges.
And the challenges are many. There are persistent problems such as family violence, child maltreatment, racism, poverty, homelessness and mental health issues. And then there are disturbing new trends, like cyber bullying. Our rapidly aging population presents another pressing concern: how to care for older people and support their family caregivers.
The research we are doing is highly relevant and accessible. Our studies are generating new knowledge, informing social work practice and influencing government policy. Putting findings into practice is a huge priority. In fact, the Faculty’s integration of practice and research was described as “groundbreaking” in a 2009 external review.
And we don’t work in isolation. Our faculty members are highly engaged with local, national and international networks. The FIFSW thrives on long-standing partnerships with a wide community of agencies and services. Incredibly, we now have strong partnerships with over 300 community agencies.
A special and cherished relationship is helping us in our vital work. In 2007, a landmark gift of $15 million from Lynn Factor and Sheldon Inwentash created 50 scholarships and five endowed Chairs. The gift – at the time the largest ever made to a social work faculty in North America – helps our Faculty to attract a diverse and talented group of students, and to recruit and retain top scholars. We are also indebted to other friends whose donations have allowed us to establish endowed chairs and student scholarships.
Looking to the future, this Academic Plan lays out a detailed approach to keep the Faculty on the cutting edge of education, policy, research and practice. The plan is the result of a highly consultative and fruitful process involving professors, staff, sessional instructors, alumni, community partners, field instructors and students, aimed at identifying strategic directions for the next five years.
Here’s what they are:
- Leading Knowledge Mobilization in Social Work
- Promoting Wellbeing and Equity across the Life Course
- Building Innovative Learning Environments for Practice
- Connecting Local Challenges with National and Global Issues
Our vision, priorities and implementation plans are consistent with the objectives of Towards 2030, the University of Toronto’s strategic planning initiative launched by President David Naylor in the spring of 2007.
As a leader in building social work knowledge over almost 100 years, we’re excited to move forward with a plan that builds on our accomplishments and helps us make an even greater difference in the lives of individuals, families and communities.