Focus on Diversity

Cultural humility, anti-oppressive practice, and social justice are values central to the profession of social work and our school. We strive to promote diversity in race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, age, income, marital status, political beliefs, religion, immigration, and mental and physical ability. We seek to enhance human well-being and promote human rights as well as social and economic justice to achieve an equitable, healthy, and productive society. To do so requires understanding and dismantling personal biases (unconscious and conscious) and systemic injustices within our society and school.

The work required to meet the ethical standards of the social work profession and to strive for social justice, both within the school and the communities in which students work, happens in ways large and small, day-in and day-out and is not the responsibility of any one group at the school. It’s the responsibility of all members of our community.

Over the past few years, students, faculty, and staff have undertaken a number of signature efforts to improve diversity and equity efforts with special attention to the curriculum, recruitment, and retention of a diverse student body, and training provided to faculty, staff, and students.

The Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work prioritizes diversity and inclusion work in all areas.


This committee works with the rest of the school to develop and maintain an environment that will attract, nurture, and support diversity within the school, with particular attention to diversity and inclusion among students. Central goals of the committee include 1.) improving school climate by increasing opportunities to build community, and 2.) training students, staff, faculty, and community in ways that include leveraging diversity and intersectionality to improve course content, and create safer space and supportive learning environments. The committee includes faculty, staff, and student representatives.

The committee organizes Cultural Dialogs to facilitate conversations between faculty, students, and staff about diversity, power, oppression, and privilege. In addition, the committee coordinates a number of initiatives focused on school climate and student life, such as:

  • Creating Spaces Gatherings to bring together both part-and full-time students and faculty to create community at the beginning and end of the year.
  • Opportunities for students of color to network with each other and build community — the school started a Social Workers of Color Student Coalition, which provides an opportunity to build community and work on issues of interest to student social workers of color.
  • The LGBTQ and Allies student organization also provides opportunities for building community and creating LGTBQ-focused programming for the School.


Many of the 44+ scholarships offered to students provide financial assistance to historically underrepresented student groups. In addition, we are often able to offer Advanced Opportunity Fellowships for underrepresented graduate students in partnership with the Graduate School and College of Letters & Science.

The School started an endowed fund called the Tamara Grigsby Memorial Fund for Diversity and Inclusion, which supports efforts in the school to improve diversity and inclusion. Tamara was one of our MSW graduates and a legislator and advocate for social justice. Above our building entranceway is a quote by Tamara Grigsby that says:

“I just ask that you will join me in changing the world. We have a human, a moral, and a professional responsibility to do no less.”

There is also a plaque there in Tamara’s honor.

Tamara Grigsby’s parents also endowed a Tamara Grigsby Scholarship for Advocacy of Equity, Social Justice, and Positive Social Change.


The school has placed an emphasis on diversity, inclusion, and justice in the curriculum and pedagogy, and much of the research conducted by our faculty focuses on issues related to diversity, equity, and disparities in health, education, housing, income, and more. In addition:

Every year we hold the Dorothy Pearson Lecture in Equity and Social Justicewhich features a nationally-recognized speaker for a lecture on social justice and equity for students, faculty, and the public.

We hold an annual student symposium where students present their year-long Change Agent Projects to community partners, faculty, agency supervisors, and other students, highlighting the work students contribute to making a difference in their field placements and community. Many of these projects focus on more inclusive practices and addressing disparities within client systems.

In 2018, we started our first annual School of Social Work Community Read. Each year the book is selected with a focus on social justice and systemic oppression. It is voted on by students, staff and faculty, and integrated within activities throughout the year. For example, in 2019, Michelle Alexander, was the keynote speaker at our annual Social Workers Confronting Racial Injustice Conference.  Other activities include book club discussions and integration into class content.  To date, our SSW Community read books have included:

  • 2018: So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  • 2019: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration n the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
  • 2020: Making a Difference: My Fight for Native Rights and Social Justice by Ada Deer

This year a faculty member taught a new class called SW639: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Individuals and Social Welfare. As part of the course students created a survey to raise visibility and celebrate queer identities, sexualities, and stories. It culminated in a final project to showcase these positive experiences in the school and greater university campus.


The school has increased the diversity of its Board of Visitors and Professional Consultative Committee (PCC) members. Both of these boards play advisory roles within the school. The Board of Visitors provides expertise to assist the school with alumni relations and development and the PCC provides consultation to the overall curriculum with particular emphasis on the field program. It’s critical that both boards include a diversity of voices in order to provide the best possible advice and input from a range of perspectives.


We hold an annual Social Workers Confronting Racial Injustice Conference, which is attended by over 500 community members, students, faculty, and staff (with a long waiting list). The conference challenges social workers to engage in racial and social justice action.


Trainings are held for faculty and focus on topics such as diversity, inclusion, racial injustice, and having difficult conversations in the classroom. The purpose of these trainings is to provide opportunities for faculty to further their knowledge in these topic areas and continually work to improve their skills in the delivery of the content and the facilitation of in-class discussions.

We also hold trainings for our Agency Supervisors focusing on cultural humility and strengthening supervisory relationships with students.


Creating a community where every person feels welcome, valued, and well-equipped to work to overcome historical injustices as part of their own social work professional endeavors requires a never-ending commitment by our entire community. Please join us with your ideas and talents.

The Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work and UW-Madison strongly encourage applications from persons of color; persons who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender; and persons with disabilities.

If you are visiting this page, you or someone you know is likely hurting after experiencing a bias or hate incident on campus. That should never be part of the Wisconsin Experience and we want to address the issue and provide you with resources you might need.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison values a diverse community where all members are able to participate fully in the Wisconsin Experience. Incidents of bias or hate affecting a person or group create a hostile campus climate and negatively impact the quality of the Wisconsin Experience for community members. UW-Madison takes such incidents seriously and will investigate and respond appropriately to reported or observed incidents of bias or hate.

If an emergency has occurred, please call 911.

Report an incident online.

Visit the Bias Reporting Process site for more information on how UW-Madison handles these incidents.

UW–Madison is committed to creating a community where every person feels welcome, valued, and able to succeed. This is an ongoing and collaborative effort with initiatives across campus. This site tracks progress and reports on the outcomes of these initiatives. Join the effort to make our campus more inclusive for the diverse members of our community.

The Diversity Inventory Program or DIP is a searchable online database of UW–Madison diversity programs, activities, resources, and research. As the direct fulfillment of Initiative 8 of the Diversity Framework, DIP is designed to help improve coordination, planning, and the visibility of activities at the university that focus on diversity, inclusion, and climate.