Dean Nancy J. Smyth

Published October 21, 2020

Dear University Community:

I am writing to share with you that Dean Nancy J. Smyth has informed me of her plan to step down as dean of the School of Social Work effective at the end of the current academic year, and return to her faculty role as a professor of social work. An excellent dean and university leader, Nancy has significantly advanced each of UB’s educational, research, and engagement missions, leaving the school well positioned to build on this success for years to come. I will commence a search for the next School of Social Work dean later this semester and plan to have new leadership determined by the end of Spring 2021.

Nancy was appointed dean in 2004, and her 16 years of leadership have truly transformed the School of Social Work. Nancy led the school in creating and implementing a strategic plan that aligns its vision and goals with UB’s institutional priorities and focuses on preparing students for success in the 21st century, and enhancing faculty productivity and impact through the creation of the Buffalo Center for Social Research to support faculty research. Since 2004, the school has improved its national profile, rising in the US News and World Report ranking from 46 to 25, within the top 10 percent in the US.  

Nancy has been dedicated to preparing the next generation of social workers for practice, research, and policy leadership. Under her leadership, the School of Social Work transformed its curriculum with a trauma-informed and human rights perspective, which has become the recognized and distinctive identity of the school. The school integrated more flexibility into its master of social work (MSW) program and collaborated with other UB schools and community partners to offer students enhanced learning and engagement opportunities in areas that include aging, child welfare, disaster response, mental health, substance abuse, and veterans and military families.

A forward thinking dean and recognized leader in social work in digital environments, Nancy has led the school in using technology to enhance student learning and access while innovating the social work profession. She increased the use of digital media to expand the school’s reach and impact, raising the school’s social media presence and introducing a nationally renowned podcast. Under her leadership, the school launched several new online degree and micro-credential programs, including an online doctorate of social work (DSW) in social welfare in 2019, and an online MSW in 2013, which has become the school’s most selective degree program.

Recognizing that social workers must be prepared to work in an increasingly global world, Nancy has been committed to internationalizing the School of Social Work. Under her leadership, the school established its first international research partnership with Amrita University in India, creating UB/Amrita Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Institute. The school also introduced international field placements for students, increased study abroad opportunities, and introduced a global focus into the curriculum.

Nancy is committed to building partnerships with other UB schools and encouraging social work faculty to participate in cross-disciplinary and university-wide initiatives to enhance innovation and impact and provide students with unique educational opportunities. Examples of this can be seen in faculty participation in the Global Health Community of Excellence, Artificial Intelligence Institute, Joining Forces E Fund initiative, and SUNY Learning Through Development Project in Haiti. In addition, social work students participate in UB’s excellent interprofessional education program with health sciences students to prepare them to be collaborative-practice ready when they enter the workforce. To prepare students to collaborate with and contribute to successful community non-profits, in partnership with the School of Management, the school created a unique Social Impact Fellows program that places interdisciplinary teams of students in internships in local mission-driven organizations.

A UB faculty member since 1991, Distinguished Fellow of the National Academies of Practice in Social Work and board certified expert in the area of traumatic stress, Nancy has over 35 years of experience as an academic and licensed social worker, primarily in the areas of trauma and addictions. She is a board member of the National Deans and Directors of Schools of Social Work, former president of the St. Louis Group (the national organization of social work deans at research universities), and a founder of the National Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare.

For more information, please see the UB Now story.

Colleagues, please join me in thanking Nancy for her outstanding leadership and service and in wishing her much continued success as she returns to the faculty.  



A. Scott Weber                                                                                      Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs