Social Work is
  • Advocacy
  • Coalition Building
  • Empathy
  • Collaboration
  • Action
  • Change Making
  • Human
  • Compassion
  • Empowerment
  • Ever-Changing
  • Leadership
  • Social Justice
  • Evidence-Based
  • Essential in our world
  • Radical
  • Powerful
  • Intersectional
  • Research-Informed
  • Public Impact
  • Therapeutic
  • Solidarity
  • Transformational
  • Service
  • Unlimited

Social Work is a Far-Reaching Human Relations Profession

It encompasses direct practice with individuals, families, and communities; organizational leadership; research addressing society’s most intractable problems; advocacy to correct systemic inequities; and many more forms, all with a commitment to social justice and an awareness of people’s socio-environmental conditions.  

The profession has its roots at University Settlement, founded in 1886 not far from the NYU campus, which directly served the waves of immigrants who arrived in the U.S. through New York City in search of a better, freer, safer life. 


New York City is the Birthplace of Social Work in the United States

Not far from NYU, the world’s first settlement house was founded, the first “friendly visitors” carried out their work, and the first child protection organization was formed

Where the Profession is Going

The core mission of social work remains service for and empowerment of those who are most vulnerable, marginalized, othered, and excluded. How the profession fulfills that mission continues to evolve. Social work increasingly uses rigorous science to drive innovation, and applies facts and evidence to advance effective, humane, and socially just practices. It is moving upstream with proactive services and interventions to prevent adverse circumstances. It is growing around the world as more countries turn to social workers to address the consequences of social inequality, human dislocation, trauma, and other cross-national concerns. NYU Silver is at the forefront of all these transformations and is pushing the boundaries that help advance the profession and those it serves.

I believe the COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity for social work to rise to the occasion and lead. While it is an understatement to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought destructive effects across our society and communities, it is also an undeniable call for social workers to refocus and recommit to the values of the profession. In particular, we must manifest, as NYU Silver’s mission states, ‘a commitment to social and economic justice that includes freedom from all forms of oppression and access to social goods.’

Michael A. Lindsey, Dean and Paulette Goddard Professor of Social Work

Are You Ready for the Challenge?