Congressman Edolphus Towns, M.S.W. ’73, credits his Adelphi education for providing him with skills that helped prepare him for his successful career in politics.

“Social work is one of the strongest backgrounds you can have if you want to be involved in the political arena,” says Congressman Edolphus Towns, M.S.W. ’73. “You learn about individuals and groups and processes and how they work together, and that’s all important in politics.”

A 14-term veteran of the U.S. House of Representatives representing New York’s 10th District, which encompasses much of northern and eastern Brooklyn, and chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Mr. Towns also credits his Adelphi education with giving him early experience in building alliances.

“The opportunity Adelphi gave me to dialogue and talk about life experience and recognize that backgrounds are so important in what you say and do and think…helped me to understand politically that everyone isn’t going to walk alike and talk alike, but you can still form a coalition,” says Mr. Towns.

During his terms in Congress, Mr. Towns has worked to address issues from improving the public healthcare system to increasing access and opportunities for minority business leaders. His introduction of the Higher Education Opportunity Act, which increased grant funding for minority-serving institutions, has been particularly important to colleges and universities. But one bill in particular was built directly on research he undertook while earning his M.S.W.

“While I was at Adelphi, I was concerned with athletes not having enough information to determine what school they should attend,” says Mr. Towns. “After coming to Congress, I sponsored the Student Athletes Right-to-Know Act. There were some colleges at the time that for over 10 years had not graduated a single basketball player, but they didn’t have to acknowledge that in their scholarship offers. Now, when students get a scholarship they get information about the school’s academics that help the family and the athlete to be in a better position to make a decision.”

Perhaps the greatest lessons Mr. Towns took from his time at Adelphi regard the vital role of private nonprofits in solving social issues. “Nonprofits serve a tremendous purpose,” he says. “Politicians can’t do everything, and elected officials need to work diligently to make sure nonprofits get the funding they need.”

In keeping with his strong belief in the power of nonprofits in general and social workers in particular, Mr. Towns has sponsored the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act. If passed, the Social Work Reinvestment Act would address a number of issues, including high caseloads, workplace safety, and fair market compensation for social workers, in addition to supporting social work student and faculty recruitment and postdoctoral social work research.

This story originally appeared in the  School of Social Work News 2010 edition.

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