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Dr. Barbara Solomon: A Social Work Trailblazer Retires

Her legacy endures for students earning social work degrees at Walden University.

After an almost 50-year social work career as a practitioner and academician, and nearly 30 years as a Walden University board member, Dr. Barbara Solomon is retiring. But her leadership and indelible influence on social work practice will long inspire and inform future generations—including students earning their degrees from Walden University’s Barbara Solomon School of Social Work.

During the winter Class of 2020 commencement ceremonies in February, Paula Singer, Walden’s chief executive officer, celebrated Dr. Solomon’s impactful contributions to Walden and social work practice, citing her “perseverance, determination, resilience, and courage.”

“In the early 1960s, when Dr. Solomon began her career as a social worker, the world was a very, very different place. The needs of underserved communities for social workers [were] just as great as they are today. But in those years, social workers did not very much look like the communities they served. There was no diversity of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Dr. Solomon launched her career fully determined to change that. Not only through her presence, but also through her writings, her teachings, and her living example,” Singer said.

In 1976, Dr. Solomon published her groundbreaking book, Black Empowerment: Social Work in Oppressed Communities, which introduced the concept of empowerment as a framework for social work practice. Dr. Christopher Cotten, a faculty member in Walden’s School of Social Work, remembers studying Dr. Solomon’s book while earning his master’s degree in social work at New York University in 1990. It “was a revelation,” he said. “The book’s influence cannot be overstated.”

Barbara Solomon speaks at Walden University commencement.

A Social Work Career of ‘Firsts’

Dr. Solomon earned her master’s degree from the School of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley, and her PhD in Social Work from the University of Southern California (USC), where she was a professor for much of her career. At USC, she became the university’s first African American dean, heading up the graduate school. She also was vice provost for graduate and professional studies and vice provost for faculty and minority affairs.

During her transformative social work career, she has served as a clinical social worker for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals in Texas and California. She was project director and principal investigator for a long-term evaluation of Los Angeles County’s family preservation and support programs. And she’s received high honors, including the Presidential Medallion and an Associates Award for Excellence in Teaching from USC, and the Rosa Parks Award from the Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

As a Walden board member, Dr. Solomon has been instrumental in developing social work programs, Singer said, applying “the full force of her energy, her focus, her passion to our university, our students, and our faculty.” One of her significant contributions was working with the university to achieve Council on Social Work Education (CWSE) accreditation in 2016 for Walden’s Master of Social Work (MSW) online degree program.

When Walden renamed its School of Social Work in her honor in 2016, Dr. Solomon said she was proud of her affiliation with Walden, “a university that is at the cutting edge of social work’s growth and prominence.”

“Through its online curriculum, Walden has the opportunity to accelerate the training of future social workers, who will provide essential services to help populations in need throughout this country and around the world,” Dr. Solomon said.

Singer has announced that Dr. Solomon has accepted the role of board member emerita and will continue to support the university’s scholarship, mission, and vision. In an interview for Walden’s alumni magazine, Dr. Solomon said that she never expects to fully retire. “There’s a lot of work to be done,” she said.

“She is an educational trailblazer and leader,” Singer said. “And one of the enduring legacies of Dr. Solomon is the work she has done to lift the profile, reputation, and quality of Walden University.”

Dr. Cotten can attest to the power of that legacy: “Imagine what a thrill it was when I joined the core faculty of Walden's MSW program in 2018 and was able to proudly call myself a part of the Barbara Solomon School of Social Work! It is gratifying to be able to link my current professional life as an educator to that very memorable and consequential textbook from my first semester as a social work student. For a university that exhorts its faculty and students to be agents of social change, naming the School of Social Work after Barbara Solomon could not be more apropos.”

Earn an Online Social Work Degree

Dr. Solomon has said her commitment to Walden is rooted in its mission of providing career professionals with the opportunity to transform themselves as scholar-practitioners who can effect positive social change. You can commit to that mission when you enroll in an online degree program in the Barbara Solomon School of Social Work.

Walden offers a CSWE-accredited online Master of Social Work (MSW) degree program and a CSWE-accredited Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program, as well as Doctor of Social Work and PhD in Social Work programs. At Walden, you can earn a degree in a school of social work named for the legend who helped shape its programs, and then launch a social work practice to help advance social change.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient online format that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

Walden University's Master of Social Work (MSW) and Bachelor of Social Work programs are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), a specialized accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). CSWE’s Commission on Accreditation is responsible for developing standards that define competent preparation for professional social workers and ensuring that social work programs meet these standards.

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