Shapiro Takes On a New Role

The GSSWSR welcomes a veteran professor as its new dean.

“I’m excited to mentor the next generation of social work faculty and to collaborate with my colleagues in developing innovative curricula,” says Janet Shapiro, newly appointed dean of the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research (GSSWSR).

Shapiro has been a professor of social work at Bryn Mawr for more than 20 years and served in several positions, including director of the GSSWSR’s doctoral program and director of the Center for Child and Family Wellbeing. She holds Ph.D.s in both social work and developmental psychology, and that academic training complements the GSSWSR’s dual commitment to both social work education and rigorous research.

“I’ve always been interested in how theory and research can be applied to social problems and how the practice of social work can determine questions for social scientific study,” says Shapiro. “This combination of disciplines has framed how I see myself as a social worker and educator.”

The value of interdisciplinary study is also why she wanted to join the GSSWSR faculty two decades ago. “Bryn Mawr’s GSSWSR is unique,” says Shapiro, “because many of the social work faculty also have advanced training in other disciplines such as economics, public health, sociology, and psychology. The graduate curriculum is grounded in research.”

"I’ve been at the GSSWSR for 20 years because I love it."

As a scholar, Shapiro’s research remains within this interdisciplinary framework. Her current work focuses on topics like the developmental impact of trauma on children and adolescents and the application of neuroscience to the practice of social work with at-risk children and adolescents.

As dean, her vision for the GSSWSR’s future is centered upon two aspects of a recently completed strategic plan: health and mental health across the lifespan; and children, families, and society. “These areas of focus are our guiding principles as we develop curricula, introduce innovations, and hire new faculty,” explains Shapiro. “They connect to the expertise of our faculty and to the social issues that today’s students will face as social work practitioners.”

Aligned with these key foci are two new courses: Integrated Health Care, and Social Work and Caring for an Aging America. Across the graduate curriculum, there will also be a greater emphasis on the impact of trauma on physical and mental health. And the GSSWSR is welcoming two new faculty members who were selected by their hiring committees with the two strategic foci in mind.

“Looking to the future, I want to build on our connection to Bryn Mawr’s undergraduate college,” says Shapiro. “I’m also interested in innovation that benefits today’s students, who are often working adults with many responsibilities. How can we increase the flexibility of courses to make social work education more accessible to more students?”

For Shapiro, it’s an exciting time at the GSSWSR, and she’s thrilled to take on the role of dean. Says Shapiro: “I’ve been at the GSSWSR for 20 years because I love it, and I’m looking forward to being part of its future.”