Manoj Pardasani, PhD, took over as dean and professor at the School of Social Work in July 2020.
Previously, he served as an associate provost (graduate and professional schools) and professor of social work at Hunter College in New York, and a faculty research scholar at the Ravazzin Center on Aging and senior associate dean at the Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service. He has taught as a visiting professor in China, Germany, Chile and the United Kingdom.
Passionate about public policy reforms, Dr. Pardasani has published over 40 peer-reviewed articles and chapters in professional publications. He has a Master of Social Work and a Doctor of Philosophy from the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University.
During an unusually busy summer of planning and organizing, with the campus operating remotely, Dr. Pardasani took the time to answer some questions about himself and his new position with Adelphi.
What were your initial thoughts in taking on the role of dean of the School of Social Work?
I am honored to have been offered the opportunity to be the dean of the School of Social Work. Adelphi is a nationally and internationally renowned school, and I am excited to be able to work with the faculty, administrators, staff and other stakeholders to build on its current strengths and design the next chapter for the School. I would like to see the School recognized as an innovative, transformative and impactful school that is seen as a model for social work education. I would also like to admit that I am slightly nervous about taking on this mantle—especially during these trying times.
What accomplishments are you most proud of prior to coming to Adelphi?
At Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service, I started my journey as a pre-tenure faculty member, and after tenure, moved into administration as a senior associate dean. During my time at Fordham University, I oversaw a major curricular revision (BSW, MSW and PhD) and was instrumental in helping to develop a fully online MSW program, as well as two interprofessional graduate degree programs in nonprofit leadership and health services administration. I also helped to expand our collaboration with universities abroad and develop global opportunities for social work students and faculty. These experiences helped me learn the importance of collaboration, shared governance, interprofessional dialog and strategic visioning.
As an associate provost for graduate and professional education at Hunter College, I worked closely with the deans of nursing, social work, arts and sciences, education, urban public health and allied health. In doing so, we helped design and implement innovative marketing strategies that increased enrollment and promoted graduate education. Specifically, we launched a digital media campaign and additional recruitment endeavors that highlighted professional health careers in various disciplines. I was also instrumental in developing a model for interprofessional clinical education that was funded by a large foundation. Finally, I oversaw the operations of major research centers and two funded social service programs. All these experiences highlighted the importance of engagement with the wider community outside the university setting, as well as the need to support faculty mentorship, research and grant writing.
What are or were your initial priorities at Adelphi? What do you hope to accomplish?
My initial priorities have now changed given the COVID-19 pandemic and our need to address this unexpected challenge. So I would divide my priorities into two groups: short-term and long-term priorities.
With regard to short-term priorities, we are working hard to plan for the Fall 2020 semester. Our guiding principle is the health and safety of our students, faculty, administrators, staff and partner agencies. We offer social work programs not just at the Garden City campus, but also at our Manhattan, Hauppauge, Hudson Valley and Orange County centers. So we must ensure that safety precautions and resources are equitably distributed across all locations. Keeping that in mind, a majority of our courses at the BSW, MSW and PhD levels will be offered in a remote format. However, mindful of the learning needs of our students, we will offer a few, select in-person courses at all centers in our BSW and MSW programs. These courses will follow a Hyflex [hybrid flexible]format and offer flexibility to the participants. Regardless of the modality, we are working hard to provide a quality learning experience for all our students. Given that we are a professional discipline, we are also working closely with partner agencies to provide a safe and meaningful field education to our students.
With regard to long-term priorities, I would like our School to examine our mission and vision and how they inform our curriculum, practices, policies and procedures. I would also hope that we can review our curriculum for innovation, changing practice environments and the need to prepare students to become effective, transformative, anti-racist and human rights practitioners. I would like to update our recruitment processes for potential students, faculty and staff, and utilize the broad range of marketing opportunities (social media, websites, print and visual media, etc.) in order to enhance our visibility. I hope to promote faculty research, teaching and service in order to highlight their contributions to our discipline and to the social service field.
Finally, I would like to engage our alumni and community partners in helping us to strengthen our school and deepen our external engagement efforts.
What unique skills or assets do you bring to the job?
I am collaborative and collegial. I believe in empowering individuals to achieve their highest potential. My definition of leadership incorporates principles of transformation, motivation, cooperation, respect and evidence-based decision-making. I would like to think of myself as forward-thinking, creative and innovative—as someone who is committed to the profession of social work and its potential for transforming the world.
As a leader in academia, I recognize the critical importance of shared governance and put it into practice in all my endeavors. As a former practitioner and administrator of social service agencies, and in my current work as an educator/researcher, I understand how faculty play an integral role in influencing the profession, as well as our responsibility as a school of social work to the wider community.
What are the School’s greatest assets?
This year, the School of Social Work will celebrate its 70th anniversary. Over the last seven decades, the school has not only educated generations of social work practitioners and scholars, but has significantly impacted the communities we serve. Our faculty is nationally and globally renowned for scholarship and pedagogy and has made critical contributions to the profession. The faculty members, administrators and staff are deeply committed to the School. Their passion, skills and values are what makes our School so revered. I would say one of our most important attributes is our student-centered operating philosophy and responsiveness to student needs.
Finally, our alumni have made us proud—not only do they serve effectively and advocate for social justice, but they often return to the School as recruiters, field supervisors, faculty field liaisons, adjunct faculty and administrators.
What inspired you to pursue a career in academia?
I began my career as a social worker in a senior center. In working with older adults, I quickly recognized the importance of engagement, community organizing, social justice and advocacy. As I progressed in my professional career, I had the opportunity to work with individuals, families and groups from marginalized and under-resourced communities. This raised my consciousness regarding the need for evidence-based practices, engaging in social policy analysis, capacity-based assessments, employing a human rights framework for practice and the resource challenges faced by social work agencies. As an administrator in social work agencies, I was introduced to field departments of social work programs and faculty researchers. I quickly understood the need for collaboration between our field and academia in order to innovate the discipline and prepare impactful social workers. These experiences and an opportunity to teach in a social work program inspired me to pursue a career in academia. I would say that my journey in academia has truly helped me realize my vision of synergistic, symbiotic and meaningful partnerships between a school of social work and the wider community.