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Social Work Spotlight: Dr. Helen Caldwell

Dr. Helen Caldwell

Charlotte, N.C. / March 4, 2020 - Dr. Helen Caldwell is credited with creating what is now known as the School of Social Work on the campus of Johnson C. Smith University, in which she serves as dean. As a social worker of nearly 40 years, she prides herself on her work, and the impact she’s made on faculty and students at the University.

 “God sent me to Johnson C. Smith University, and I have unknowingly impacted a lot of students beyond the classroom, and for that I am really blessed,” Caldwell emphasized.

When she first began her journey in social work, she never imagined she’d become the dean of the School of Social Work, let alone work in higher education.

 “I wanted to have a contribution to civil rights,” she said.

Caldwell, a graduate of Jackson State University in Mississippi, experienced overt racism in the Deep South. It was during her time in college that she realized her calling for social work.

Emphasizing, “Students were very active in the social movement during that time.”

Prior to her time in higher education, she spent a number of years working in foster care. Her goal was to inflict change, tackle discrimination and help those who could not help themselves. Today, that goal remains.

“My desire to change the levels of discrimination and racial impacts of policies is even more important today than when I was in school,” she explained.

Even as Dean of the School of Social Work, Caldwell is still a change maker. She still teaches in the classroom and serves as a mentor to her faculty members, something she truly enjoys.

“I think that my greatest accomplishment in social work has been actually teaching it,” she elaborated.

Under her leadership, students learn all forms of social work, but most importantly, learn that social work is a part of our everyday lives. 

“It's just important that we know how broad social work is and becoming. It's more than foster care, it includes the corporate world, higher education, congressional leaders and so much more,” Caldwell said.

In the future, she hopes to expand the program to include partial hybrid courses, which will allow students to take courses online.

She hopes her students remember the impact they can make on this world and never forget, “Professionalism and integrity will take you a long way.”

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