Driving Equity 2030

Inside the Brown School’s 10-year Strategic Plan

This 10-year strategic plan is built on the significant history and strength of graduate education at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis. We invite you to view and download a copy.

For decades, the MSW program has been consistently ranked No. 1 or 2 by U.S. News & World Report. The School launched its Master of Public Health (MPH) degree program in 2009. Ten years later, the program was ranked No. 17 by U.S. News & World Report (the only program among a field of public health schools in the top 20). The Master of Social Policy (MSP) dual-degree program began in 2015 and is growing with interest from domestic and international students.

The Brown School also offers coursework leading to a doctoral degree in social work and public health sciences. Launched in 1952 and 2014, respectively, both programs engage students in rigorous research training and preparation for academic careers at top universities.

Building upon this exceptional foundation, the Brown School embraces the bold goal of Driving Equity through Rigorous Science, Transformative Education and Mutually Beneficial Partnerships.

Driving Equity 2030

Progress Reports 2022

Since the launch of Driving Equity 2030, an array of faculty, staff and stakeholders have concentrated their time, talents, and energy to achieve the goals outlined in the strategic plan, which is organized around four core commitments and four strategic priorities. Currently, the leads advancing these key initiatives are building infrastructure, identifying benchmarks, and creating processes to track the implementation phase. These goals are ambitious, but attainable. We are pleased to provide the Brown School community with a progress report of each of the plan’s pillars. Although not intended to be comprehensive, these achievements demonstrate the significant efforts that are already transforming the Brown School.

Core Commitments

The core commitments uphold our vision and inform distinctive research, education programs and mutually beneficial partnerships.

Equity, Diversity & Inclusion

The EDI committee has taken significant steps in creating the infrastructure to transform the Brown School into a more equitable organization and achieving its vision of “A better and more equitable society.” Highlights of these achievements include:

  • Establishing methods and opportunities to collect relevant data and create EDI training grids
  • Boosting training sessions (Faculty Training, Crossroads) in the pursuit of racial equity
  • Curating and maintaining online readings, toolkits, and resources
  • Piloting new anti-racism courses

Lead: Vetta Thompson, E. Desmond Lee Professor of Racial and Ethnic Diversity

Impact in, for and with St. Louis Region

The initial step taken by the Impact with St. Louis committee was defining the mission and vision for the Office of Impact with St. Louis.

  • Vision Statement: We envision a collaborative region where the voices of St. Louis’ most impacted communities are centered in co-created, clear, and actionable plans that improve outcomes for all by eliminating systemic injustices, disparities, and inequities.
  • Mission: Through community-engaged teaching, research, and service, we will co-create pathways with community-based organizations and local and regional efforts to ameliorate all racial, health, and social-economic inequities and disparities for all St. Louisans, with a specific focus on the school’s geographic priority areas: North City, North County, South City, and East St. Louis.

An additional achievement includes creating an Employee Volunteer Time Off Program with the goal of addressing the capacity building needs of community-based organizations. Led by a staff-formed subcommittee who have developed guidelines, chosen a name for the initiative (Step Up to Serve St. Louis), and outlined training processes and materials.

Co-leads: Cynthia Williams, Assistant Dean for Community Partnerships; Jewel Stafford, Assistant Dean for Field Education

Global Teaching and Research

Focused on expanding the Brown School’s global visibility and communications, the global teaching and research committee launched a new website showcasing the rich and diverse global research, practices, and engagement opportunities offered by the Brown School. The global newsletter has also undergone a redesign with the goal of boosting audience engagement and the creation of a LinkedIn global Brown site aims to engage students and alumni.

Turning inward, the team is reviewing its MSW, MPH, and MSP program syllabi with a focus on the current global content. Discussions are underway to build global content and consciousness into existing courses. Faculty, staff, and students are engaged in this analysis. Additionally, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic curbing global travel and programming, efforts are being made to explore different models of university partnership and global engagement. This has already resulted in the global office supporting new partnerships with Brazil and Mexico.

Lead: Lindsay Stark, Professor, Associate Dean for Global Strategy and Programs

Transdisciplinary Research and Education

The team is creating a leadership and administrative structure within the Brown School that advances transdisciplinary teaching and research. This has resulted in the creation of two positions: the Associate Dean for Transdisciplinary Faculty Affairs held by Melissa Jonson-Reid and the Associate Dean for Transdisciplinary Research held by Fred Ssewamala. Both Jonson-Reid and Ssewamala completed an internal scan of TD course participation at the Brown School and met with all faculty about research, teaching, and career development. The committee is working to identify how the Brown School liaises with the university’s agenda.

Building upon the culture of collaboration to encourage and support transdisciplinary agendas in teaching and research, job postings now include language on how the Brown School provides an environment for transdisciplinary research. A workgroup has completed a transdisciplinary definition document. Specific language regarding transdisciplinary and team science is included in the new draft tenure document under review by the Brown School interim co-deans and ultimately to be reviewed by the WashU General Counsel.

Co-leads: Melissa Jonson-Reid, Associate Dean for Transdisciplinary Faculty Affairs, Ralph and Muriel Pumphrey Professor of Social Work Research; Fred Ssewamala, Associate Dean for Transdisciplinary Faculty Research, William E. Gordon Distinguished Professor

Strategic Priorities

These priorities are areas in which we wish to increase our focus and build capacity over the next 10 years.

Affordability and Financial Accessibility

This strategic priority team is committed to making a Brown School education affordable and financially accessible by alleviating student debt through the expansion of scholarship support as well as other supports such as practicum stipends, emergency funding and part-time programs. Launched in fall 2022, the University’s Student Initiative, Make Way, will build critical resources for new scholarships. Additionally, the team is working with Advancement and other school partners to explore funding channels for students like expanding paid practicum and research opportunities. Currently, team members are meeting one-on-one with students to discuss practicum needs as well as determining available resources to support stipends. Further, the team is working on streamlining the emergency funding request process so students in urgent need can secure faster funding.

The committee is exploring ways to increase educational access by creating flexible degree options across all three Master’s degree programs. In fall 2022, the Brown School launched a pilot part-time MSW program as a cohort-based model for the mental health concentration, clinical social work track. Eight students matriculated into the inaugural cohort. A program director was hired in July and an implementation team has been established for the continued development of other part-time MSW programs. In fall of 2023, Social Impact Leadership will be added as a second concentration option, with Children, Youth & Families added in fall 2024.

Lead: Jacque Martinez Pullen, Chief of Staff, Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives

Data Science and Technology to Advance the Social Good

Focused on identifying how to elevate Data Science for the Social Good, the committee has made great strides in this area. Leadership growth was bolstered by the installations of Doug Luke as the Irving Louis Horowitz Professor in Social Policy and Brett Drake as the Professor of Data Science for the Social Good in Practice. Further, Jenine Harris has become the Chief Analytics Officer to help provide data leadership in the Brown School.

Launched in 2022, the Post-Master’s Certificate in Artificial Intelligence Applications for Health Data meets the goal of increasing resources to promote advanced data and analytic skills for faculty, staff and students. The program provides hands-on, step-by-step guidance and ample practice opportunities for professionals to learn and apply state-of-the-art AI models to solve real-world health and social problems.

Lead: Patrick Fowler, Director, Doctoral Program in Public Health Sciences

Climate Change, Environmental Health and Justice

A core team consisting of Reis, Ianotti, and Lesorogol are working to develop data collection techniques for metrics, as well as establish priorities, and identify next steps. Recently, a student was hired to help with a curriculum and research landscape analysis.

A priority and an early win for the Environmental Health area is the open cluster hire for a new faculty member with expertise in climate change, and environmental health and justice, particularly with an emphasis on underrepresented communities. This position is currently posted and the Personnel Advisory Committee is working to fill it this academic year.

Leads: Rodrigo Reis, Professor

Community-Driven Science

Given the Brown School’s commitment to mutually beneficial partnerships locally, nationally, and globally, elevating community-driven scientific methods and studies as an area of distinction is an important opportunity for leadership across its fields. The committee is working on providing internal infrastructure to support community-driven science as a protected place for faculty, staff, and community to hold space with the purpose of constructing new initiatives around community-driven science.

Ideally, the committee would like to incentivize collaboration with community citizen scientists through grants and awards, increase the communication and dissemination of the impact of the Brown School’s collaborative scientific efforts, and advance the field of community-driven science through transdisciplinary curriculum development, instruction, and practice.

Lead: Sean Joe, Benjamin E. Youngdahl Professor of Social Development

Dig Deeper: Inside Driving Equity 2030

Read this article highlighting how equity and affordability are cornerstones of the new strategic plan, and watch our launch videos. Strategic leads share their insights, though processes and goals for each section of Driving Equity 2030.

Inside the Brown School’s Plan for the Decade Ahead

The Brown School’s Commitment to Cutting-Edge Science and to St. Louis