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5 Ways to Move from Culturally Competent to Culturally Engaged from the Dean of Howard University’s School of Social Work

Written by David Sutphen on Nov 1, 2021

Related content: Higher Education, Diversity And Inclusion, Graduate Programs, Leadership

I hope you were able to catch my episode of EDU: Live last week. Dr. Sandra Crewe, the dean of Howard University’s School of Social Work, was the latest special guest for my regular conversations on equity, access, and opportunity in higher education and beyond.

During our enlightening discussion, Dean Crewe shared everything from how growing up in a newly desegregated Virginia inspired her to pursue a career in social justice, to how Howard uniquely prepares its Master of Social Work (MSW) graduates by integrating the Black Perspective, to how the field must continue to adapt and change in order to meet the moment.

In case you missed it, here are five of Dean Crewe’s most memorable insights from our conversation:

1. On the power of the Black Perspective in Howard’s Master of Social Work program:
“The Black Perspective is a unique lens that moves us away from being culturally competent to culturally engaged: “Tell me, what is it that I missed? Who are the outliers, and why?”
2. On how choosing to attend a desegregated high school (at the time “separate but equal” was replaced by “freedom of choice”) drew her to support issues in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI):
“I desegregated and realized for the first time that I truly was not welcome. My success in that environment made me understand that you need a champion there with you.”
3. On how she “shows up” to conversations around DEI:
“I’m always looking to see who’s NOT at the table. It’s not just about the look of DEI, it’s the voice—hearing what’s not being said as much as what is.”
4. On how she sees the social work curriculum needing to embrace more change:
“Social work is not an island unto itself. We have to integrate what we do with other disciplines, like joint degrees with the MBA, public health, divinity, fine arts, and the expressive therapies to help people get well.”
5. On the need for more “macro” social workers, like herself:
“We have to take a closer look at systemic injustices and if we’ve been used as conduits of racist structures. We must influence a shift so that policies are more flexible based on individuals’ needs.”

I’m so glad I got the chance to connect one-on-one with Dean Crewe in this capacity, as I personally have so much respect and admiration for her journey into DEI and the vital social justice work she’s leading at Howard. I’m also excited for 2U and the School of Social Work to be working together on creating greater access through Howard’s online Master of Social Work program. I invite you to watch the full video of our EDU: Live conversation below—and to learn even more from Dean Crewe about Howard’s grounding in the Black Perspective in this interview from when we first announced our partnership.

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