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Richard A. English

Richard A. English has a long history of leadership in academia and in the Social Work profession, and many years of community service. He began his academic career in 1967 as a fulltime lecturer in the School of Social Work at the University of Michigan (while completing his doctorate in Social Work and Social Science at Michigan). Once completing his Ph.D. degree in 1970 he was promoted to Assistant Professor and moved through the ranks to become full professor in 1983.

In academia, he has served as an Assistant Dean at the University Of Michigan School Of Social Work and Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs. In 1975 he was a visiting scholar and lecturer at the Paul Baerwald School of Social Work, Hebrew University. In 1983 he was invited by the University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work to become only the second scholar and first Social Worker appointed to the Robert L. Sutherland Chair in Mental Health and Social Policy. Dr. English is the only Social Worker to have held this position.

Among his other numerous pioneer accomplishments, the most notable are:

  1. The creation and development of a new Social Work Concentration in the Master of Social Work Degree Program at Howard University School of Social Work, Titled "Displaced Populations," the concentration places an emphasis on refugee, immigrants, homeless and victims of disasters. This program has produced graduates who have continued their education in doctoral studies with specializations in displaced populations and practitioners specializing in work with refugees, immigrants and the homeless. Some graduates pursued employment with the U.S. Department of State, international organizations, and national and local agencies dealing with displaced populations and public policy.  One of the early MSW graduates of the program became a member of the U.S. State Department Bureau of Migration and African Affairs. Another completed a Ph.D. in Social Work and Anthropology at the University of Michigan and collected data for her dissertation research in Rwanda, where she had served previously as a MSW supervisor of two Howard University School of Social Work students in the School's Displaced Populations Program. The larger project was a collaboration between Howard University and Africare to sponsor a Health/Medical Care Social Work Team in Rwanda, following the Genocide.

  2. The creation of pioneering literature on human service organizations that produced insights into those unique organizations servicing people. The first published text book with the title Human Service Organizations was published by Dr. English and Dr. Yeheskel Hasenfeld, as editors, in 1970 by the University of Michigan Press.

  3. The conduct of research on African American families for over 30 years and taught the first course on Black families at the University Of Michigan School of Social Work.

  4. The transformation of the Doctor of Social Work Degree (DSW) Program to a Doctor of Philosophy Degree (Ph.D.) during his tenure as Dean of the School of Social Work at Howard University.

Because of his membership on the editorial boards of the following publications, Dr. English has served as a beacon of quality for the new and emerging thinkers and/or researchers in social work:

  • Journal of Applied Science
  • Research on Social Work Practice
  • Urban and Social Change Review
  • Encyclopedia of Social Work, Editor in-Chief
  • Black Caucus
  • Journal of Social Service Research

His leadership in academia is also demonstrated by his highly creative research and writings on African American families and the homeless. The many organizations that have funded his research on families are evidence of external recognition of his leadership in scholarship. His research has been funded by the University of Michigan, the University of Texas and the Hogg Foundation, the National Institute of Mental Health and the U.S. Administration on Aging.

Professor Jacqueline Smith of the Howard University School of Social Work summarized Dr. English's academic contributions in a letter to the COSMOS Club on behalf of his membership, but the most significant expression of his leadership in academia is evidenced by his intellectual creativity and the many analytical products derived from his keen mind.

In his early career, Dr. English and Dr. Hansenfeld enriched organizational theory by exploring and describing in rich detail the characteristics of human service organizations.  Prior to the development of the analytical category of human service organizations, social science theorists had focused their attention on business and industrial organizations. Because scholars in the 19th and 20th centuries lived through the upheavals and changes associated with the emergence and development of capitalism, they focused on business and industrial organizations. With the emergence of complex social service delivery systems in capitalistic societies, the conceptualization of the properties of human service organizations represented a seminal work for 20th century social scientists, not only because it started a new discussion, but because the discussion integrated social science theory with the practice of an applied social science -social work.

Richard English has continued this pattern of integrating theory and practice throughout his career. Advanced social work practice requires specialization in both method and field of practice. Traditionally, educational curricula in schools of social work have identified settings servicing families and the elderly, and service populations in mental health and criminal justice, as fields of social work practice. Richard English recognized the importance of reconfiguring the delivery of social services, and organized the social work educational curricula around the knowledge and skills necessary to provide services to populations displaced by environmental changes and, social and economic upheavals. By the recreation of the curriculum component of displaced populations as a field of social work practice, he has led the profession in recognizing that the education of social work practitioners must be linked to emerging theories of change in order to be responsive to the conditions of the world in which we live.

But perhaps his most significant contribution as an intellectual leader is his original paradigm for understanding the mental health of racial and ethnic minorities. Richard English argues in his work "The Challenge for Mental Health: Minorities and their World Views" that cultural experiences and life events influence our world view. Further, cultural and racial specific factors produce distinctive world views for persons of color.

His typology of world views holds much promise for the redesign of effective mental health service delivery systems and changes in how mental health practitioners practice in the context of a society that continually struggles with racial injustice and discrimination. Furthermore, his typology has not only stimulated social science discourse, but it has influenced the work of new scholars. For example, several doctoral dissertations in Social Work have used his construct of world views to conduct research on mental health issues.

Throughout his Social Work career, Dr. English has served the profession in many and varied capacities. Dr. English's leadership for the profession led to his election as President of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) from 1980 to 1984. He served in various positions with the Council, including chairing Annual Program Meeting (1977) and between 1973-1980 chairing and serving on over 30 Accreditation teams for Social Work Graduate and Undergraduate programs at numerous universities. He served as a member of the Board of Directors of the International Association of Schools of Social Work IASSW (1980-1990); Co-Chaired the 1984 Congress; Member of the 1990 IASSW Program Committee and Chaired the 1992 IASSW Congress National Organizing Committee. He was a member of the International Program Committee of the Joint World Congress of the International Federation of Social Workers and the International Association of Schools of Social Work (1998).

He has served on visiting Committees of Schools of Social Work, Consultant to Programs of Schools of Social Work, Foundations and voluntary organizations and Local and State governmental agencies and Task Forces.

He served in various positions in the National Association of Social Workers over a long period of time. A few are highlighted below:

  • Editor-in-Chief 19th Edition Encyclopedia of Social Work, updated supplement, 2002 (1999-2003)
  • NASW Publication Committee (2000-2003)
  • Member World Assembly Organizing Committee, NASW (1992)
  • Member NASW task Force on Child Welfare (1990)
  • Member Search and Screen Committee for Executive Director of NASW (1981-1982)
  • Member Executive Committee Huron Valley Chapter, NASW (1971 ­ 1972)

NASW honored Dr. English with its Presidential Award for Excellence in Social Work Education in 1997, CSWE its Certificate of Appreciation for Service 1984 and the Black Social Workers it's Distinguished Service Award in 1983.