Social work often is demanding, thankless and heartbreaking — but it appears that many professors from large and small colleges and universities are making a difference. The following top 20 most influential social work professors have made headlines recently with their social work and comments. They may also head up influential groups that help people transition into healthier and happier lifestyles.

The following list is compiled in no particular order.

  1. Dr. Lucas-DarbyDr. Emma Lucas-Darby, a faculty member at Carlow University’s School for Social Change, is past president of the National Association of Social Work’s Pennsylvania chapter and past chair of the group’s National Leadership and Identification Committee. She was appointed by Gov. Ed Rendell in 2006 to the State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Professional Counselors. (photo:
  2. Dr. Susan MappSusan C. Mapp, PhD, MSSW, is department chair and associate professor of social work at Elizabethtown College. Her recent treatise on international threats to child welfare, Global Child Welfare and Well-Being, is hailed by experts as a sourcebook for child welfare and global social issues. The book is a follow-up to her pioneering textbook, Human Rights and Social Justice in a Global Perspective.
  3. Dr. DiNittoDiana DiNitto, PhD is Cullen Trust Centennial Professor in Alcohol Studies and Education and Distinguished Teaching Professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Social Welfare: Politics and Public Policy and the co-author of Chemical Dependency: A Systems Approach, among other publications.
  4. Dr. BrownC. BrenĂ© Brown, PhD, MSW is a research professor at The University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Dr. Brown is a nationally renown speaker and has won numerous teaching awards, including the College’s Outstanding Faculty Award. Her research on vulnerability, shame and authenticity has been featured on PBS, CNN and NPR and was the topic of two 2010 TEDx talks. She also is the author of The Gifts of Imperfection.
  5. Dr. FalconnierLydia Falconnier, PhD, MSW is an assistant professor at University of Illinois at Chicago’s Jane Addams College of Social Work. She is a widely quoted source for mental health and substance abuse services with at-risk populations, and she recently co-authored The Engagement and Retention of Participants in Family Support Programs, which currently is in press.
  6. Dr. OsowskiDr. Tom Osowski, PhD, assistant professor of social work at The School of Social Work at The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast, was instrumental is the development of the state’s only disaster management certificate program option for students in USM’s master of social work program. He also was spokesperson for a student team that questioned Gulf Coast residents about their reactions to Hurricane Katrina as well as to the recent oil disaster.
  7. Gary BaileyGary Bailey, MSW is currently an Associate Professor at Simmons College Graduate School of Social Work, where he also serves as a Clinical Associate Professor at the Simmons School of Health Sciences, among other appointments. He is a past President of National NASW having served as President from 2003 until 2005, and is the recipient of numerous awards and honors.
  8. Dr. SmithDouglas C. Smith, PhD, MSW of the School of Social Work, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, recently received a $700,000 grant from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) to research new peer-enhanced substance abuse therapy for young adults age 18 to 25. Dr. Smith also is collaborating on a multi-site study called the CyberMD, a study on adolescents’ risky drinking outcomes and treatment utilization.
  9. Dr. LockeChris Locke, PhD, MSW joined the Department of Sociology, Anthropology & Social Work at Auburn University in 2010 after working in numerous areas of the mental health field in social work practice in Ohio. Dr. Locke’s research interests include examining the stigma of mental illness with particular focus on the impact of the media on stigma, recovery and mental illness, and domestic violence offender treatment.
  10. Dr. LawlerMichael J. Lawler, PhD, MSW is the new chair of the masters of social work program at the University of South Dakota. He previously served as social work department chair at the University of California-Davis. Dr. Lawler spent time in Russia transforming orphanages into child centers and has worked with international programs through the United Nations Convention on childrens’ rights. USD is the only school in SD that offers a master’s program in social work.
  11. Dr. MincyDr. Ronald Mincy is the Maurice V. Russell Professor of Social Policy and Social Work Practice at Columbia University School of Social Work. He is a co-principal investigator of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, and a faculty member of the Columbia Population Research Center (CPRC) and an advisory board member for the National Poverty Center, University of Michigan, among other appointments.
  12. Marjorie HammockMarjorie B. Hammock, MSW, LISW, is an Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Field Practice at Benedict College, South Carolina. Her interests include family and child welfare, corrections, community organization, cultural competence, and expert witnessing in capital punishment cases. She is recognized as an exemplar in the Social Work profession and as a Pioneer by NASW.
  13. Dr. StrandDr. Virginia Strand, DSW is professor at Forham University Graduate School of Social Service and Founding Director of Children FIRST, a research and training institute within the school. Her research interests are in child welfare and children’s mental health and she has published most recently in the areas of trauma assessment for children and transfer of learning programs for child welfare workforce development.
  14. Dr. McMahonSarah McMahon, PhD, is assistant professor at Rutgers School of Social Work and associate director at the Center on Violence Against Women and Children. Using quantitative and qualitative methods, Dr. McMahon’s research has explored the role of gender, subculture membership, sense of community, and individual perceptions and behaviors related to violence.
  15. Dr. DupperDavid R. Dupper, PhD is associate professor at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville College of Social Work. Dr. Dupper is interested in enhancing the educational success of students who are at-risk of school failure by focusing on factors that contribute to school exclusion. He’s written two books, numerous book chapters and many papers on topics including school violence, bullying, school discipline and at-risk students.
  16. Dr. GroteNancy Grote, PhD, MSW is research associate professor for the social welfare doctoral faculty at the School of Social Work, University of Washington. She recently served as part of a multidisciplinary group who discovered that pregnant women are at greater risk of delivering prematurely or giving birth to infants with low birth weight if they are diagnosed with clinical depression.
  17. Dr. ReidCaroline Reid, PhD, is assistant professor at the University of Kentucky teaching at Eastern Kentucky University. Her focus is on field education in social work, fatherhood, women and science and single gender education. She also is principal investigator for the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Violence against Women grant that funded the EKU-SAFE initiative that includes a new facility in Room 126 of the Keith Building.
  18. Dr. CramptonDavid Crampton, PhD, MSW is an associate professor at Case Western Reserve University’s Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences. He is a member of a national team evaluating the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Family to Family Initiative and the panel chairman for a group that is working with the Cuyahoga County child-welfare department to improve the way it manages high-risk families.
  19. Dr. DeVoeEllen Ransel DeVoe, PhD joined Ruth Paris, PhD (noted below) as professors from Boston University’s School of Social Work to complete a study on the mental health needs of soldiers deployed at war. The article, “When a Parent Goes to War: Effects of Parental Deployment on Very Young Children and Implications for Intervention,” appears in the October edition of the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry.
  20. Dr. ParisRuth Paris, PhD worked with Dr. DeVoe (above) on an article that has gained national attention. In 2009, both professors introduced a pilot version of Strong Families Strong Forces to a small group of military parents and children. In July 2009, the Department of Defense invited both DeVoe and Paris to attend a meeting with five other principal investigators participating in Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs.

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