July 7, 2020

Michael Spencer, Presidential Term Professor and Director of the School’s Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander & Oceanic Affairs Office, is co-chairing the newly announced Grand Challenge to Eliminate Racism. This is the 13th Grand Challenge for Social Work—a national initiative in which the School of Social Work has played a leadership role—that champions social progress powered by science and was launched in 2016 by the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare.

In the AASWSW press release, Spencer noted that the Grand Challenge to Eliminate Racism is central to the field of social work. “Social work has been on the forefront of anti-racism in higher education, but we can and should do more,” he said. “This Grand Challenge calls for social work and society to promote innovative ways of preventing or interrupting racism and to continue providing evidence of effectiveness. We must abolish racism within our profession through our research, teaching and work with communities.” 

Plans for the Grand Challenge to Eliminate Racism include:

  • Promoting evidence- and practice-based research to improve the daily lives of people affected by racism and facilitate systemic change.
  • Advancing community empowerment and advocacy.
  • Fostering development of an anti-racist social work workforce that promotes access to resources and opportunities and encompasses transdisciplinary collaboration.
  • Promoting teaching and learning within social work education programs that examine structural inequalities and white privilege and their impact.
  • Developing a policy agenda for eradicating racism and white supremacy from institutions and organizations.  

Spencer, who joined the School of Social Work in 2018, teaches courses on diversity and social justice and research at both the MSW and PhD levels. Of Native Hawaiian descent, he focuses his research on promoting the health and wellness of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders through indigenous practices and values.  

A Fellow of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare and the Society for Social Work and Research, he also serves as co-chair of the Grand Challenge to Close the Health Gap. This spring, he received the 2020 Lewayne Gilchrist Doctoral Mentor Award, which recognizes faculty who have dedicated their careers to the promise and success of their students.

Spencer and Martell Teasley, Dean, College of Social Work, University of Utah, who is co-chairing the Grand Challenge to Eliminate Racism, are currently editing a book on the topic, which will be available later this year or early 2021.

Related Articles

Michael Spencer receives 2020 Lewayne Gilchrist Doctoral Mentor Award — UW School of Social Work News & Events
The grand challenge to eliminate racism — @theU, University of Utah