Association for Community Organization & Social Administration

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Musings on the History of Social Work Education

Richard Boettcher, Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State College of Social Work


Recently I had occasion to take note of the fact that The Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University was celebrating its 100th birthday as a social work degree granting institution. And, similarly, the College of Social Work at The Ohio State University celebrated its 100th birthday in 2016. The MSASS degree is, and always has been, a master’s degree. OSU's first degree in 1916 was a Bachelor’s of Science in Social Administration; a master degree was added in 1923.


The two birthdays and the two different degree programs got me to thinking and recollecting about the prodigious and often divisive 20th century conflict between two opposing social work education organizations representing two very dissimilar approaches to social work education. And so, as a way of saying "Happy Birthday" to both MSASS and OSU, I have assembled this brief essay for those who like to recall history, as well as for those who may learn about it for the first time.