A West Virginia University social work professional whose career has taken in everything from child welfare, health, mental health and higher education has been named chair of the Division of Social Work.
Karen Harper-Dorton has begun her duties overseeing the division, which is part of the School of Applied Social Sciences in WVU s Eberly College of Arts and Sciences.
Look for a busy 2009, she said.
In the coming year, I want to see increased engagement of our division with the state and nation as changes in demographics and economic support take place,Harper-Dorton said.
That means more partnerships with public agencies, more elective courses and increased training for disaster preparedness.
I want us to have greater service expertise to meet the needs of rural families and children in West Virginia and across the world,she said.I plan to grow our vision of human services.
Thats already happening. The division this year received six state and federal grants for its research endeavor, and next fall it will launch an international exchange with Vietnam in a program shes developing with fellow social work professor Neal Newfield.
And thats in keeping with Harper-Dortons own research philosophy over her 35-year career.
Shes personally netted some $6 million in funds for research and training programs that cover funding and technology in nonprofit agencies, cross-cultural social work practice, family caregiving, group treatment and rural social work with disadvantaged populations.
Now shes focusing on the academic investment of the Division of Social Work. The fall semester began with 500 students enrolled in division classes, with more than 300 studying at the graduate level.
WVU s Master of Social Work program is available on six campuses, and the2 + 2partnership at neighboring Fairmont State University gives FSU students in their junior year the opportunity to finish a bachelors in social work in Morgantown.
Currently, she is principal investigator of the Public Social Services Education and Training Project: Multi-Level Training for Child Welfare Professionals in West Virginia, a federally funded effort to increase and maintain professional social work in child and protective services across the country.
Through a partnership with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, a grant supports undergraduate and graduate social work training for 30 students and provides in-service instruction to public agency employees to train families in 16 northern West Virginia counties to become foster families for at-risk children.
Harper-Dorton earned a bachelors degree in business administration, English and education from Glenville State College.
She went on to earn a Master of Social Work degree from WVU and perform postgraduate work at the University of Pittsburgh in social work and public health. She also holds a masters degree in public administration and a doctoral degree in social work from The Ohio State University.
She was director of continuing education, assistant dean of the College of Social Work, professor and director of the Master of Social Work program at Ohio State, and joined the WVU faculty in 1993 as dean of the former School of Social Work.
She served as director of the Beatrice Ruth Burgess Center for West Virginia Families and Communities from 1999 to 2007, and she has worked closely with the West Virginia Social Work Educational Consortium, a collection of West Virginia universities offering undergraduate social work education. Shes also published more than 60 professional articles and book chapters, and she is co-author of four books.