Published May 26, 2021
Keith A. Alford, a professor of social work and chief diversity and inclusion officer at Syracuse University, has been named dean of the School of Social Work.
Alford emerged from a highly competitive pool of candidates following an extensive national search, according to Provost A. Scott Weber, who made the announcement today.
“We are delighted to have a leader of Dr. Alford’s caliber joining our university community,” said President Satish K. Tripathi. “A dedicated and dynamic scholar with an impressive record of service, Dr. Alford is uniquely suited to usher in a new era of excellence for our nationally ranked School of Social Work, thereby enhancing our university’s positive impact on the many communities we serve.”
Alford’s appointment will be effective Aug. 15. He succeeds Nancy Smyth, who has served as dean since 2004. Smyth previously announced she would step down at the end of the spring 2021 semester and return to her faculty role as a professor of social work.
“I would like to acknowledge and commend Nancy for her visionary leadership,” Tripathi said. “During her time at the helm of the School of Social Work, the school has risen dramatically in the national ranks and today is recognized as a premier school of graduate and professional social work.” Under Smyth’s leadership, the school achieved a top-25 status in U.S. News and Report’s annual ranking of the best graduate schools.
“Dr. Alford stood out because of his clear vision for furthering the School of Social Work’s mission of creating a better society through the generation of and transmission of knowledge, promotion of social justice and service to humanity, as well as his impressive administrative experience, strategic and collaborative approach to leadership, and deep commitment to diversity, inclusion, equity and social justice,” said Weber, who cited Alford’s devotion to serving and researching the needs of children and families.
“I would like to thank Nancy for her outstanding leadership of UB’s School of Social Work for nearly 17 years, and for her willingness to continue serving as dean until Dr. Alford arrives later this summer.” Weber said.
A former child protective services worker, outpatient family therapist and therapeutic foster care supervisor, Alford’s rich service experience complements his research and teaching. He has devoted his career to serving and researching the needs of children and families. His research specializations include mental health service delivery and culturally specific programming for children and families, contemporary rites of passage programming and loss/grief reactions among African American families.
“The University at Buffalo School of Social Work has an established record of excellence and a value orientation steeped in bettering the human condition,” Alford said. “I am excited and energized by this leadership role and look forward to our collective work ahead.”
Alford’s work has been supported by numerous grants, and he currently is co-investigator on one of only eight national Intelligence Community Centers for Academic Excellence to enhance diversity in the intelligence field. He is also involved with a National Science Foundation grant supporting the training of diverse undergraduates in conducting trauma research with veterans.
Alford serves on the Editorial Review Board of the Journal of Urban Social Work, Journal of Family Social Work and Journal of Brief Therapy. In 2014, Social Work Degree Guide named him as one of the 30 most influential social workers in the nation.
At Syracuse University’s School of Social Work at Falk College, Alford served as director and chair, graduate program director and undergraduate program director. He has also served as Syracuse’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, providing executive leadership, oversight and vision for creating and implementing a range of campus-wide services, programs, policies and procedures supporting the institution’s commitment to diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion.
Alford holds a master’s and PhD in social work from The Ohio State University, and a bachelor’s degree in history and sociology from Coker University.
“I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Dean Aviva Abramovsky and all of the members of the search committee for their outstanding service, which was crucial to the successful outcome of this search,” Weber said.