July 11, 2018

Signaling the University of Washington’s support for the School of Social Work’s leadership role in establishing the Grand Challenges for Social Work, the Office of the Provost will provide funding to support graduate student research in the Grand Challenges topic areas. The School will match the $25,000 provided by the provost in order to fund $50,000 in financial awards over the coming five years to competitively selected social work graduate students whose dissertation or thesis focuses on one of the 12 Grand Challenges. The funding announcement was made on June 13 by then-Provost Gerald Baldasty.

“The collaborative Grand Challenges approach has energized the field of social work and has led to important innovations that address urgent social problems,” said Baldasty. “At the highest levels of the University, we want to show our support for our graduate students who are committed to this important effort.”

School of Social Work Dean Eddie Uehara and faculty were instrumental in the launch of the national Grand Challenges initiative—an effort that has drawn the participation of social work schools, agencies and scholars across the country and has generated interest among European and Asian social work organizations. Since the initiative was launched in 2016, the Grand Challenges for Social Work have inspired scores of conferences, books and articles. 

“With this support, Provost Baldasty became one of the first university-level leaders to partner with a school of social work to provide financial support to emerging Grand Challenges scholars,” says Uehara. “This will help us deepen our impact in training the next generation of social work innovators and leaders.”

UW researchers have authored papers on topics related to all 12 of the Grand Challenges, and School of Social Work faculty have provided foundational scholarship in four key areas: Ensure Healthy Development for All Youth, Close the Health Gap, Create Social Responses to a Changing Environment and Reduce Extreme Economic Inequality.

Uehara co-chairs the Grand Challenges Executive Committee, and faculty members David Hawkins, Rico Catalano, Karina Walters, Mike Spencer, Susan Kemp and Jennie Romich all serve as co-leaders of Grand Challenges topic areas.  

The impact of the School’s Grand Challenges–related research has quickly moved beyond academia to yield significant real-world results. For example, the state of Colorado—with University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work leadership and faculty plus a broad coalition of social work agencies—committed more than $9 million over two years to implement Communities That Care, a proven youth development model pioneered at the School and a core component of the Ensure Healthy Development for All Youth grand challenge.