As the voice of social work education in America, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) represents more than 750 accredited undergraduate and graduate programs of professional social work. Its President and Chief Executive Officer, Darla Spence Coffey, PhD, MSW, will deliver the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences’ 2017 Commencement address and will receive the school’s Advocate for Human Rights Award.

“Dr. Coffey is an innovative leader who has worked tirelessly to bring attention to social workers and other change agents who address society’s most pressing challenges,” said Dean Grover C. Gilmore, PhD. “It is fitting that one of the final events of our Centennial celebration will feature a leader of her caliber and vision, to guide our graduates and school into the next 100 years of activism and accomplishment.”

Coffey was recently awarded the Political Advocate Leadership Award by the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy (CRISP), an organization committed to expanding the participation of social workers in federal legislative and policy processes.

She has professionally and personally championed many causes, including the 21st Century Cures Act, a comprehensive mental health bill. She was successful in advocating for a doctoral degree in social work to be considered as qualification for a new Assistant Deputy position created at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (the original bill only included PhD psychologists and psychiatrists). She also helped CSWE become a member of the Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC), after communicating the important role that social workers play in effective and comprehensive health care services.

Coffey worked with the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) to include social work schools as eligible to apply for the next round of Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training grants (social work was excluded in the last round). This is the largest workforce development effort that social work has ever been involved in.

She regularly advocates for new members of Congress to join the Congressional Social Work Caucus and has worked with the Institute of Medicine to lead the inclusion of the importance of social determinants of health (social work’s “domain”) and the importance of attending to the health and well-being of healthcare students and workforce. She also helped CSWE sign on to the re-introduction of the Social Work Reinvestment Act, which was introduced in to Congress last month.

Prior to her tenure at CSWE, Coffey served as professor of social work, associate provost, and dean of graduate studies at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. She received her BSW from Eastern College, her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania, and her PhD from Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research. She has an extensive background in social work practice in the areas of mental health, substances abuse, and domestic violence. After years of working with and researching the effects of domestic violence on children, Coffey developed a curriculum, Parenting After Violence, and trained cohorts of social workers in the child welfare system in Philadelphia Pennsylvania in its implementation.

Coffey will speak at the Mandel School’s Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 21, at the Maltz Performing Arts Center, to graduates of the school’s social work and nonprofit management graduate programs and their guests. The school’s ceremony follows Case Western Reserve University’s Convocation, which will feature celebrated civil rights attorney and CWRU alumnus Fred Gray. Commencement is part of the Mandel School’s Centennial celebration, marking the 100th anniversary of its founding at Case Western Reserve University as the nation’s first university-affiliated professional school of social work.

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