Wayne State School of Social Work launches 10-year initiative around Grand Challenges social agenda

Over the next decade, the Wayne State School of Social Work will deploy faculty, staff, funding and other resources to enhance research and practice related to the Grand Challenges for Social Work – an ambitious social agenda promoting individual and family well-being, a stronger social fabric, and a more just society.

Led by the American Academy of Social Work & Social Welfare (AASWSW) with support from the National Association of Social Workers and the Council on Social Work Education, the Grand Challenges represents a groundbreaking initiative to champion social progress powered by science. AASWSW has called upon social work researchers and practitioners to work together to address 12 urgent social problems by harnessing the discipline’s science and knowledge base and by collaborating with individuals, community-based organizations, and professionals from all fields and disciplines. The 12 Grand Challenges are:

  • Ensure healthy development for all youth
  • Close the health gap
  • Stop family violence
  • Advance long and productive lives
  • Eradicate social isolation
  • End homelessness
  • Create social responses to a changing environment
  • Harness technology for social good
  • Promote smart decarceration
  • Reduce extreme economic inequality
  • Build financial capability for all
  • Achieve equal opportunity and justice

The School of Social Work has led critical advances in many of the Grand Challenges through its work in five core areas of research: aging; child welfare; health/behavioral health; interpersonal violence; and community, policy, and program development. To maintain momentum, the school has assembled a committee chaired by Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Joy Ernst, to work with Center for Social Work Research on existing initiatives related to the Grand Challenges in the areas of curriculum, community engagement programs, and research – as well as to integrate additional interprofessional activities with community- and campus-based partners. Additional members of Grand Challenges Committee include Dean Cheryl Waites, Associate Dean For Research Joanne Sobeck, Associate Professors Stella Resko and Rick Smith, Assistant Professor Suzanne Brown, and Betsy Vanderstelt, associate director of academics and director of marketing and communications.

Brown, Resko and Smith are members of AASWSW-assembled Grand Challenges committees supporting work in the areas of (respectively) eradicating social isolation, closing the health gap by reducing alcohol abuse, and creating social responses to a changing environment. A fourth member of the Wayne State social work faculty, Assistant Professor Tam Perry, is a member of the AASWSW committee on creating social responses to a changing environment.

Noting the School of Social Work’s leadership in interdisciplinary training and research and its tradition of social work innovation, Dean Waites said the school looks forward to making a significant impact on the Grand Challenges.

“For decades we have responded to emerging challenges in Detroit through research collaborations, practice initiatives, and community partnerships,” Waites said. “We plan to continue that tradition both locally and at the national level to promote lasting, transformative social change in the decade ahead.”


For additional information on the research conducted at the Wayne State University School of Social Work Center for Social Work Research, visit us online.

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