Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

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Peter B. Vaughan, Ph.D.

Peter B. Vaughan, Ph.D., is dean of Fordham's Graduate School of Social Service.

Peter B. Vaughan, Ph.D., says that he has been at the business of social work for "a lot of years." Now in his second decade as dean of the Graduate School of Social Service (GSS), Vaughan said he has never regretted his decision to leave the University of Pennsylvania—where he was both associate and acting dean in the School of Social Work—in favor of tackling the in-your-face energy of New York City.

Vaughan, whose career spans more than four decades, recently was named a “Social Work Pioneer” by the National Association of Social Workers—a distinction reserved for the nation's most outstanding leaders in the field.

Under his leadership, GSS has risen in rank to No. 18 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report and has garnered a reputation for graduating students with strong academic and practice experience.

In the last decade, GSS has brought in tens of millions in funding, recently averaging about $3 million annually in grants and contracts. GSS’ network of training programs, placement and research stretches far and wide, with the school working with municipal, state, regional and federal agencies.

“Fordham has always been a school that is true to its roots to serve poor and vulnerable populations,” Vaughan said. “We are not preparing private practitioners here at GSS. We don’t think about social work in that way; that’s not part of our mission.”

One focus of GSS, Vaughan said, is to educate a new generation of social workers to work with people from different backgrounds. With the rapid growth in immigrant communities, especially in New York City, social workers need to understand their clientele’s experiences and grasp the importance of a global and a human rights focus.

To those ends, he has initiated a global services specialization that helps GSS students prepare to work within immigrant communities, with international non-governmental organizations and on behalf of other underrepresented groups. The specialization includes a focus on human rights and social justice.

“Our global services specialization has really taken off,” Vaughan said. “It lends itself to a human rights curriculum. You can't talk about human rights without looking at the issue all around the world.”

Today, GSS has concentrations in three areas: leadership and macro practice, research, and clinical practice. Vaughan is particularly proud that GSS is one of the few schools of social work that offers a research concentration for MSW students. As one of a handful of Fordham deans, Vaughan sits on University search committees and leads initiatives; he and Michael Gillan, Ph.D., associate vice president of Fordham Westchester, are co-chairs of the FordhamVets Task Group. The group helps recruit veterans under the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008.

Vaughan’s goals for the new decade are threefold:

He wants to grow the GSS program at the Westchester campus.

He also would like to find new funding opportunities for the school’s centers, including The Bertram Beck Institute on Religion and Poverty, the Ravazzin Center on Aging, and the Institute for Women and Girls.

Lastly, he wants to build scholarship opportunities to help attract students to a profession that he sees as being more in demandthan ever.

“What are the needs of our nation’s vulnerable and marginalized people, and what do they need to have some modicum of success in this society?” Vaughan asked. “At GSS, we are looking at those questions and making decisions about where we need to be headed to serve them.”


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