NASW Foundation Homepage
NASW Foundation Board Members
NASW Foundation Programs
NASW Foundation Partners and Donors
NASW Foundation Contact
Make a Donation
NASW Foundation Events
NASW Foundation Fellowship, Scholarship and Research Awards
NASW Social Work Pioneers
NASW Foundation Sitemap

NASW Foundation National Programs

NASW Social Work Pioneers®


Pioneers Main Page
Search the Pioneers


Gemma Douglas Beckley


Pioneering Contributions

Gemma Douglas Beckley has spearheaded efforts nationally and internationally to recognize and meet the needs of women and children in rural, underserved communities. In her work she has been guided by her perspective on the connections between small, neglected communities of color in the U.S. and developing countries in the rest of the world.

She has reached out to colleagues and communities internationally through her many study and travel grants, scholarships, and awards.  These have allowed Beckley to travel and participate in work in eastern European and east and Southeast Asia.  Her interests and concerns about minority women and children in rural communities brought her to India as a Fulbright Scholar to study social service delivery systems; to universities in (then) Yugoslavia, Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria; and to several provinces in the People’s Republic of China where she studied the status of women.

Beckley continued her international collaborations after 2000, using another Fulbright grant to direct 15 college faculty members to Egypt and Israel for a seminar on contemporary social institutions in those countries.  Beckley also headed a team of 14 faculty members in several areas of South Africa.  Beckley also represented the N.G.O International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics (I.A.G.G.) at the United Nations in New York.  She traveled to Liberia for the United Nations Children Fund to study post-war health delivery systems.


Career Highlights


Gemma Beckley is Chair of the Social Work Department at Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi.  During 2003 through 2006, she taught as Visiting Professor at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service.  While there, she also served as program advisor to the Harlem Hospital Geriatric Outreach program, the Ravazzin Center on Aging at Fordham University, and partnered with the Institute for Women and Girls on a successful application to the U.S. Department of Education for a Fulbright-Hayes grant, which allowed a team to study women and ethnic minorities in the People’s Republic of China.


Prior to her work at Fordham University, Beckley served as professor at Rust College’s School of Social Work from 1991 – 1997.  She was also affiliated with Grambling State University’s School of Social Work in Louisiana and Wiley College in Marshall, Texas.  Beckley served as an evaluator and consultant to the Oxford, Mississippi Housing Authority, the Pew Charitable Trusts and Walton Family Foundation in a study on the impact of a work force alliance in the Mississippi Delta region, and wrote, and developed and assisted in the production of segments of a television series through Project LEAP.


Beckley worked with the Children’s Defense Fund from 1989 – 1990 as a senior program associate.  She has served on the Mississippi School Board of Directors since 1998.


Biographic Data


Beckley received her DSW. from Columbia University in 1986.  She earned her MSW. from Atlanta University in 1969 and her BA. in Sociology from Dillard University in New Orleans in 1967.


Significant Achievements and Awards


Gemma Douglas Beckley was the first African American to receive tenure from the University of Mississippi (in 1985).


2007: She was voted one of the “50 Leading Business Women”


1998 – 2000: Served on the board of directors’ International Affairs Committee, NASW.


1995: Directed a Phil Hardin Foundation grant to develop and complete the accreditation of Rust College’s Bachelor of Social Work Program for CSWE.


Significant Publications

Beckley has published dozens of articles and chapters. Among them are:


Beckley, G. (2007). Selected empowerment models and their impact on India (V.T. Samuel, Ed.).  In Perspectives on Family Empowerment. Kerala, India: Marian college Kuttikkanam.


Beckley, G. & Weathersby, H. (2004). Economic and social policy development in rural settings: An ecological perspective. In Social Work in Rural Settings, (Leon Ginsberg, Ed.). Silver Spring, MD: NASW Press.


Duncan, D., Walsh, M., & Beckley, G. (1999). Doing good while doing well: Professional Black women in the Mississippi Delta. In Neither Separate Nor Equal: Women, Race and Class in the U.S. South, (Barbara Smith, Ed.), Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.



© National Association of Social Workers. All Rights Reserved.