Dr. Dudley’s Perspective

A conversation from 2009 with Professor Emeritus Jim Dudley yielded the following facts and perspectives on the development and growth of the Department of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. On the eve of his retirement, Dr. Dudley shared the following information in a conversation with then-current MSW Director, Dr. Diana Rowan.

The Social Work Department at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte started in the 1970’s, as a concentration in the Sociology and Anthropology Department, in the College of Arts and Sciences. Interest in Social Work classes grew, leading to the establishment of a Bachelor of Social Work major in 1989. The name of the department was changed accordingly to ‘Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work’, housed in the College of Arts and Sciences.

In 1991, Dr. Jim Dudley was hired by the University as the first Program Director for the Social Work Program. Dean Schley Lyons (of the College of Arts and Sciences) was a proponent for the development of a strong social work presence on campus, and gave to Dr. Dudley the task of developing the BSW program, obtaining CSWE (Council on Social Work Education) accreditation, and proving that a social work major was a valuable addition to the university community. After all of that, he would be able to explore possibilities for a Master of Social Work course of study. In 1991, the BSW program had 17 students. By the end of the same school year, enrollment doubled to 35. There was clearly a demand for social work classes at UNC Charlotte.

Starting pretty much from scratch, Dr. Dudley forged ahead quickly and developed a working relationship with CSWE (Council of Social Work Education), the accrediting body of social work education programs. With a small faculty of three professors (James Dudley, Iris Carlton-LeNay, and Elise Fullmer), a part time secretary, and located in a few offices on the 5th floor of Colvard, the department worked toward their goals: CSWE accreditation, gaining autonomy from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, developing a strong, effective and competitive program, and preparing for a MSW Program.

For the next four years, the department worked hard toward developing their unique identity. The CSWE and various consultants made many site visits to the University and outlined what would be needed to become an accredited program. Among them, they would need more social work-specific courses; up until this point, many of the BSW courses were still offered through the Sociology major. In 1995, the BSW program at UNC Charlotte became fully accredited. By this time, there were five full time faculty members and a full time secretary, Phyllis Mills, and more than 50 students were in the upper division BSW program. Dr. Dudley reflected on the ongoing careers of some of the special social work faculty members during this period after they left UNC Charlotte. Andre Stevenson went on to get his Ph.D. in social work at the University of Pittsburgh and is now a program analyst at the Council on Social Work Education, Elise (Mickey) Fullmer is now the program director at Radford University, Sondra Fogel is a faculty member at the University at South Florida, and Debbie Rice became the director of a large family service agency in Davidson County in NC.

There were several notable part time instructors in the early years as well. For example, Susan Blose taught the Introduction to Social Work courses and served as a gatekeeper to the program and an important social work instructor. Sonya Bohannon-Thacker, a UNC Charlotte BSW graduate, served as a field instructor, and a later chair of the CAB (Community Advisory Board). Yvette Murphy, another graduate of our BSW program, taught child welfare courses and served as the first President of the CAB before moving on to get her Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies at UNC Greensboro and is currently at the Duke Endowment in Charlotte. Dezette Johnson taught the elective course in school social work and later returned to get her Ph.D. in social work at Norfolk State and then became the program director of the Social Work Program at Johnson C. Smith University.

An integral player in the accreditation process was the Community Action Board. Formed shortly after Dr. Dudley’s arrival in 1991, the Community Advisory Board (CAB) is an actively engaged group of committed individuals who reflect the Charlotte community and who are recognized as the vehicle to educate, support and facilitate the reciprocal relationships of the UNC Charlotte Department of Social Work and the communities in which they live, work and serve. Originally, it consisted of 12 community members and Jim Dudley. Among those serving the longest on the CAB are John Highfill and Karen Montaperto. John Highfill has served on the CAB from 1997 to 2009, including seven years as Chair. Karen Montaperto was one of the original CAB members and is still actively involved. The CAB met at different locations around the city, including Crisis Assistance Ministry, the Salvation Army, and DSS to discuss the progress of the BSW and MSW programs. As a new program, the Social Work program didn’t have much discretionary funding. The CAB was able to provide funding and resources for events like graduate receptions and field instructor trainings that otherwise would have not been possible. Dr. Dudley credits the CAB for a great deal of influence in working with the University administration and general community, encouraging and showing the need for qualified social workers in the area. A CAB highlight during this period was a large reception for the Social Work Program at the top of Nation’s Bank (now Bank of America) to celebrate the program’s initial accreditation in 1995. The CAB President at the time was Tim Jarman, a Vice President of Nation’s Bank.

Dr. Dudley had his eyes set on the development of a successful MSW program from the time he was hired. After working so hard on the successful development and accreditation of a BSW program, the next step was the development of a Master of Social Work program. In 1995, after the accreditation of the BSW program, he and the CAB worked diligently to convince the administration that a MSW program was needed and worthwhile. While the CAB had played a role in the improvement of the BSW program, they were also instrumental in the formation of a MSW program. Their support helped prove to the University administration the necessity of graduate-level social workers in the Charlotte area and surrounding region. Dr. Phil Dubois, who was the UNC Charlotte provost during this process, was also very supportive of movement toward an MSW program.

One obstacle in the creation of an MSW program at UNC Charlotte was that at the time, there was an established part-time MSW program through UNC Chapel Hill housed at UNC Charlotte. Seeing the need for additional graduate level social work training, the University of North Carolina General Administration supported a reversal of the policy limiting additional MSW programs in the state to allow for the creation of an MSW program at UNC Charlotte. After garnering this support from the General Administration, the department was able to move more quickly toward starting the program. Support from the local UNC Charlotte administration came from Provost Denise Trauth, who was immensely supportive of the MSW program. The CAB continued their unwavering support of increased social work professionals in the Charlotte area. The department began adding more faculty and the number of faculty applicants increased as word spread that soon there would be a Master of Social Work program as well. As the curriculum was being developed, a focus on Advanced Interpersonal Practice emerged as a hallmark of the second year specialization of the MSW program at UNC Charlotte. The first group of MSW students began classes in 2000. In 2002, the first cohort graduated. During this time period, the MSW and BSW programs officially became an autonomous department, bidding good bye to the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work. The social work program director at the time, Dr. Philip Popple, became the chair of the newly formed Department of Social Work.

In 2002, the Department of Social Work was given a choice: they could remain in the College of Arts and Sciences, or they could move to join the College of Nursing and Allied Health Professionals. Seeing some similarities in the programs of the latter College, such as the field practicum experiences and accreditation requirements, the department made the difficult decision to leave where it had started and joined the Department of Nursing and a combined department of Health Promotions and Kinesiology faculty in the newly named College of Health and Human Services. The new name reflected a decision by the College to expand its mission to include social work and hopefully other human service disciplines in the future.

Dr. Dudley reflected on the careers of another set of faculty members who were very instrumental in developing the MSW program during its first seven years; many of them have since left the university. They include: Linwood Cousins, who is now the program director of social work at Western Michigan University; Phil Popple, who is the BSW Coordinator at the University of Texas at Arlington; Deana Morrow, who is a faculty member in social work at Winthrop University; Carole Winston , who is the Director of the Maya Angelou Institute for the Improvement of Child and Family Education at Winston-Salem State University; and Marcia Shobe, who is the program director of social work at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Gay Jordan, Suzanne Boyd, and Terri Matthews, who are still with us, were also very involved at this stage. After Dr. Phil Popple stepped down as Chair in 2003, interim chairs from the existing faculty led the department for another three years. To bring us up to date, Dennis Long was hired as Chair in 2006.

As Dr. Dudley retires, he expressed his hopes and wishes for the programs created under his leadership:

I have so many hopes and wishes for the department and for the very special group of faculty and staff that we currently have. Overall, I hope that the BSW and MSW programs will thrive, expand, and continue to create practitioners who will make significant improvements in the lives of people in our region and beyond. In specific terms, I hope you always have plenty of time and energy to prepare and empower our students to be model practitioners. I hope you will find more time for teaching and enhancing the curriculum. I hope you will have more opportunities to develop close mutually satisfying ties with numerous community agencies and other community groups. I hope the lecturers and tenure-track folks continue to grow together and remain very closely connected to each other as one organic whole. And of course I hope that all of you remain in the department for a long, long time and that at least some of you break my “record” of 18 years!

Compiled and written by Dr. Diana Rowan and Kelly McDonald, with input from Dr. Jim Dudley and others, July 2009.