Skip to content

History of Social Work at EWU


The School of Social Work embraces the mission of Eastern Washington University to expand opportunities for personal transformation through excellence in learning. The School's Bachelor of Arts in Social Work (BASW) and Master of Social Work (MSW) Programs are fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

Top Navigation

Main Navigation

  • EWU Home
  • College of Social Sciences
  • Programs of Study
  • Social Work
  • About Us
  • History of Social Work at EWU
  • Main Content

    Social work education at Eastern began in 1959 when a social work major was added by the Department of Sociology.  Later, the Department was renamed the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work with a major in each of the three disciplines.

    Early Black and White Photo of Senior Hall

    The School of Social Work came into existence in 1974 with the passage of Washington Senate Bill 2574 providing for a Professional Master of Social Work degree at Eastern Washington State College (now Eastern Washington University).  The bill was the result of a graduate and professional education needs assessment sponsored by the Washington State Legislature and a feasibility study conducted by the Council on Social Work Education.  The feasibility study noted that no graduate-level professional school of social work existed between Seattle and Minneapolis across the northern tier of states at that time. After examining eight universities located in the inland northwest, the study recommended a graduate- level professional school of social work be established at EWU.

    Following legislative approval and initial funding, a search and planning committee was established made up of the provost, graduate dean, and one social work faculty member each from both EWU and WSU, plus three professional social work practitioners from the social work community in Spokane.  In the Fall of 1974 John O'Neill was hired as dean of the new school and three faculty members were hired to plan a curriculum, establish a location for the school, and develop necessary ties and commitments with the social work practice community, and launch a new school. One social work faculty member each from EWU and WSU also joined in this effort.

    Historical Senior Hall Building
    The first MSW class was admitted and began the graduate curriculum in Fall of 1975.  Also, the BA in Social Work Program transferred to the School of Social Work during that academic year.  The MSW program has expanded to many parts of Washington State and beyond, and the BA program is a large and respected program.   Both the MSW and the BA have grown and matured during the past four decades. As of the 2015 Spring Commencement, EWU has awarded a total of 2,358 BA degrees (in Social Work) and 3,567 Master of Social Work degrees and the School of Social Work has enhanced the landscape of social services in the Inland Northwest.

    Historical Documentation provided by Emeritus Faculty, Robert Rich, PhD, MSW

    For brief history on the buildings at EWU,

    For the complete history of the buildings, view the EWU Historic District Guide Book.

    Contact Information

    Susan Thompson, SOWK Student Services & Admissions Coordinator
    125 Senior Hall / Mail Stop: SNR 102
    Cheney, WA 99004

    phone: 509.359.6485
    fax: 509.359.6475

    Footer Navigation

    Text Only Options

    View the desktop version of this page.