Barbara Solomon’s Inspiring Career as a Social Change-maker

The USC alumna and former dean helps minorities enter the social work field.

Barbara Solomon
Barbara Solomon, left, and Dean Marilyn Flynn (Photo courtesy of Steve Cohn)

When Barbara Solomon PhD ’66 joined USC’s social work faculty in the 1960s, the nation seemed at a turning point.

In that time of activism, social workers fought against poverty and pushed for civil rights. “The social work profession had begun to define institutional racism,” Solomon says.

Fast forward two decades. When USC leaders wanted to establish a scholarship to encourage more minorities to enter social work, they asked Solomon to consider lending her name to it. Solomon’s reputation as an advocate for underrepresented minority families made her a natural for the honor. She had become the first African-American dean at USC in the 1980s, heading the USC Graduate School.

She ultimately agreed to lend not just her name, but also her support. She approached others in the community to contribute, and recently pledged $25,000 of her own money to the scholarship fund, serving as an example of social workers who give back to others.

The Barbara Solomon Endowed Scholarship is awarded to African-American students pursuing a Master of Social Work at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work with an interest in working within the African-American community. Today, under Dean Marilyn Flynn’s transformational leadership, the school has expanded its focus, building programs serving veterans and their families and introducing an online nursing degree. The school holds a reputation for building social work knowledge and expertise that serves diverse communities.

Says Solomon: “I see the need for African-American social workers, who understand the communities and can communicate with the residents, as even greater now than it has ever been.”

By Lynn Lipinski

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