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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Faculty & Staff

College of Social Work’s success excites dean

Dean of Graduate College of Social Work Ira Colby talks about growing up and his career. | Steven Oster/The Daily Cougar

For Professor and Dean of the Graduate College of Social Work Ira Colby, there wasn’t just one event, experience or person that influenced his career choice.

Colby was born and raised in western Massachusetts and was surrounded by family members who were involved in community services.

“There wasn’t one of those ‘aha’ moments,” Colby said. “It was a convergence of many things.  I grew up with parents, aunts, uncles and others who believed in helping others.”

Colby worked his first job at the YMCA and earned his undergraduate degree from Springfield College in his home state. He went on to earn his master’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University and his doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania.

After receiving his graduate degrees, Colby moved to Texas in 1983 and taught social work at the University of Texas at Arlington.  During his time there, he served as director of the criminal justice program and took an interest in homeless teens who had been forced to leave their homes.

“I was asked to take this project on by Child Protective Services in Fort Worth as an outgrowth of my efforts with youth services,” Colby said. “The initial work leads to increased public awareness around the issue of ‘throw away’ teens and eventual state funding for at risk youth services.”

Colby moved on to the University of Central Florida after he left Arlington and served as director for the school of social work there.  When he pursued the dean’s position at GCSW in 1999, Colby was already familiar with the college.  He had worked on projects with previous Dean Karen Haynes on political social work activities in the late 1980s.

“The faculty and reputation of the college made it easy to apply,” Colby said. “Its mission and philosophy mirrored my own beliefs, and it seemed like a good fit.”

GCSW has a nationally recognized graduate social work program and boasts a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize as part of its faculty.  Colby said that he is proud of GCSW, the faculty and the students and is enthusiastic about their accomplishments.

“Just watching the faculty excel in their work and the students do just absolutely amazing things is what makes me proud,” Colby said. “I get excited when I see what they are accomplishing.”

There are two research centers at the college: The Center for Drug and Social Policy Research and the Child and Family Center for Innovative Research. Colby said that when it comes to social research, GCSW is one of the top ranked in the nation.

“Our research will only get stronger,” he said.

In addition to leading the way in social research, GCSW administers numerous community projects.  Colby said that he hopes these programs, in addition to the hands-on learning approach that GCSW offers, give social-work students a rich education experience.

“I hope that they find this to be a unique experience,” Colby said. “It’s not just about books.”

Colby said that he has no intention of leaving GCSW any time soon.

“I’ll be here as long as the faculty, staff, students, the University administration and the broader community believe that I have something to offer,” he said.

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