November 2013 Articles

Higher-Ed Leaders

GSSWSR alumnae parlay careers as clinicians and researchers into deanships.

By Priya Ratneshwar

Few of the GSSWSR alumnae/i who have entered higher education administration came to the School with that goal in mind. But as they have gone on to parlay careers as clinicians and researchers into deanships, many have found themselves drawing on aspects of their Bryn Mawr experience.

“Our GSSWSR prepares students to assume the responsibilities for effective leadership within multiple settings and across various sectors of society,” says Darlyne Bailey, GSSWSR dean. “We do this through two primary ways:  classrooms and field placements that provide a curriculum designed to address the complex needs of individuals and their communities; and highly talented faculty who are united through their shared commitment to enabling each student to reach her/his highest potential. As a result of these realities, we have a good number of alumni who find themselves in positions of leadership in academia.”


Gail Steketee

Gail Steketee, M.S.S. ’73, Ph.D. ’87, dean of Boston University’s School of Social Work, worked full time at Temple University on a National Institute of Mental Health-funded study of behavioral therapy for obsessive-compulsive disorder (with principal investigator Edna Foa) while she pursued her doctorate. During this time, she found “a great mentor” in Professor of Social Work Leslie Alexander, who was studying clinical interventions with researchers at the University of Pennsylvania.

Steketee believes her educational background in social work, paired with her experience collaborating with clinical psychologists and psychiatrists, allowed her to enter BU with an interdisciplinary perspective that is different from many of her psychology and psychiatry colleagues. “I am far more likely to pay attention to the contexts in which people live and work and how these relate to mental health disorders,” she says.

This broader perspective is not only critical to her current research on hoarding disorder but also informs her work as dean. In addition raising the BU School of Social Work’s profile by improving its communications and research infrastructure, Steketee says she is “thinking about where we need to make bold moves to maximize the school’s strengths and urban mission.” Her goals to that end include increasing faculty hires in the macro/community practice area and forging more connections with BU’s health-science programs.

Robin Mama

Robin Mama

Robin Mama, M.S.S./M.L.S.P ’84, Ph.D. ’90, dean of the School of Social Work at Monmouth University, also juggled a job while earning her doctorate. As a staff member at the Philadelphia Area Project on Occupational Safety and Health, Mama was responsible for a variety of projects, including those on AIDS and asbestos in the workplace. Meanwhile her scholarship focused on topics such as reproductive hazards in toxic workplaces and workers’ rights legislation. This commitment to human rights also informs Mama’s work as dean. She says the school’s undergraduate and master’s programs “affirm the ideals of advancing human rights and social justice which are at the heart of social work.”

Another one of Mama’s goals is to leverage her experience as representative of the International Federation of Social Workers to the United Nations to foster the school’s global perspective. She was recommended for the appointment, which she has held since 2001, by Ruth Mayden, M.S.S. ’70, former dean of GSSWSR. “The connections I formed with faculty as a Ph.D. student have been crucial to my career,” Mama says.

Cheryl Parks

Cheryl Parks

Bryn Mawr played a key role in the transitions that Cheryl Parks, Ph.D. ’97, dean of the Seidel School of Education and Professional Studies at Salisbury University, made from clinician to scholar to administrator. Research courses she took at the College inspired her “to go from wanting only to teach to wanting to work in a Research I university.”

In 1999, Parks joined the faculty of the University of Connecticut, where she was appointed associate dean for research in the School of Social Work. Coming full circle, in 2012 she attended the two-week HERS Bryn Mawr Summer Institute, which prepares women for roles in higher education administration. “HERS solidified my interest in higher-ed administration and also strengthened my confidence in what I had to bring to an administrative role,” Parks says.

Parks was appointed dean of the Seidel School this past July. While she believes her career path has been forged by “layer upon layer of experiences,” she still harkens back to some of the core lessons she learned at Bryn Mawr.

“I’m constantly stressing the importance of going to original sources—that’s straight out of my doctoral program,” Parks says. “I also appreciated the real emphasis placed on diversity at Bryn Mawr. Cultural competency and the ability to look at and attend to the interplay of identities that people carry with them is crucial in managing the day-to-day operations of a school.”