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The Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work

With a legacy that traces back to 1936, the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work (MBTSSW) at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa is committed to educational excellence that addresses complex human needs.

Our Mission

Provide educational excellence that advances social work with its focus on social justice. The principal responsibility is the generation, transmission, and application of knowledge for the global enterprise with special attention to Native Hawaiian, other Pacific Islander, and Asian populations in our state and region.

Longevity & Legacy

The people who benefit from social work are our ‘ohana and neighbors who experience devastating problems of poverty, homelessness, and domestic violence; debilitating illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and dementia; and traumatic natural disasters. As a land, sea, and space-grant institution, we hold a special kuleana (responsibility) for building the educational capital and workforce that prioritizes social justice for our local and regional communities, but also has relevance for the global enterprise. We believe that when we lift the most vulnerable among us, we lift the entire global community.

Since our inception, the MBT SSW has educated over 5,000 social workers with degrees from our Bachelor of Social Work (BSW), Master of Social Work (MSW), and Doctorate in Philosophy (PhD) programs. In our BSW program, we educate social workers for generalist practice intended for the broad array of human needs. Our MSW program emphasizes practice, policy and research with specializations in children and family, health, behavioral health, and gerontology. A distance education option in our MSW program affords us the critical opportunity to educate students living on Hawai‘i, Moloka‘i, Kaua‘i, Maui, Lana‘i and Guam.Our PhD program focusing on Social Welfare, prepares leaders in research and policy dedicated to resolving the most serious challenges confronting society.

We currently enroll over 300 students, with the majority being residents of Hawai‘i committed to returning to their communities to do social work in ways that are interdisciplinary, culturally-anchored,and community-engaged. Inherent in our kuleana (responsibility) is the deep appreciation of diversity as core to achieving an inclusive and enriched learning environment. Seventy percent of our students reside in Hawai‘i, from more than 20 racial/ethnic groups, with Native Hawaiians and Caucasians as the largest groups. Similarly, our faculty and staff are racially/ethnically diverse in ways replicating Hawai‘i’s population. The work of our faculty in instruction, research, and service is rooted in the mission of social justice and guided by innovation in our four strategic priorities: Hawaiian place of learning, global social justice, engagement, and technology.

Extraordinary Demand for Social Work

Employment of social workers is projected to grow 19 percent from 2012-2022, faster than the average for all occupations (Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, 2014-2015).There are extraordinary demands in healthcare, gerontology, behavioral health, and child, family and school social services, and it is essential that we grow the national census of 650,000 persons with degrees in social work (NASW, 2015) to meet escalating needs.

Consider these real lifestories of people helped by social workers in Hawai`i:

  • Different not Broken

    Kaipo was just about two years old when we noticed that he didn’t like being held or touched and would cry when we tried to soothe him. We didn’t know what to do. Every time he cried we would reach out to him and he would push us away. My husband and I were so frustrated, it hurt so badly to see him hurt. We didn’t know what to do. Finally we scheduled an appointment with our pediatrician and after weeks of tests he was diagnosed with Autism. Dr. Dale made a number of referrals, but none more important than the one to Lisa, our social worker. Lisa specializes in working with kids with Autism, but she also works with the families too. It hasn’t been easy, but she’s helped us realize that Kaipo is different, not broken. She helped us move beyond the diagnosis and recognize his many strengths. While Kaipo struggles with his feelings, he does feel deeply and richly. He needs us and wants us despite having difficulty communicating this fact. Lisa worked wonders with Kaipo, but she’s done even more for us. Our family is not what we expected when Kaipo was born, but it’s perfect in its own way.

  • Dignity with Dying

    I saw all the signs and symptoms, but somehow I was still shocked when the doctor diagnosed Dad with terminal cancer. I know I should have been sad, and I was, but more than anything else I was scared and overwhelmed. How was I going to take care of my dying father and my 15 year old daughter? That’s when the social worker introduced herself. I don’t know what I would have done without Samantha. She helped me deal with all of my mixed emotions, set up hospice services, and even talked with my daughter who was struggling with grandpa’s passing. Having a social worker during that difficult time made all the difference in the world. It hurt more than I could have ever imagined and yet, we made it through. And Dad…he lived his final months with integrity and grace.

  • The Family Secret

    It’s the family secret that no one talked about. My brother Jim was always the life of the party. He seemed to have his life together…he worked hard, loved his family and loved a good time just as much. Sundays at his house, watching the game, were the stuff of legend. Then one Friday night his wife Lani called us, Jim had not come home. We looked but couldn’t find him. The next day he returned home, and we learned what all of us knew all along but were afraid to talk about- Jim had a drinking problem. He spiraled out of control and within months lost his job. Over the course of the next year, he almost lost his family. Jim checked into a rehab center and, as part of his healing process, we went in for family therapy. Jill, the social worker, was courageous. I am not sure how she did it, but she managed to simultaneously support Jim and help him own his actions. She confronted us too, about enabling his behavior. Jim is sober now, but every day is a challenge. And the family? We are now supporting his sobriety and learning quite a bit about ourselves along the way.

Our Vision

A community of creative problem solvers,
effective advocates, and courageous leaders who seek justice.

The Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work is one of the premier schools of social work in the Pacific Asia region. Inherent in our mission of educational excellence in social justice is the generation, transmission, and application of knowledge for the global enterprise with special attention to Native Hawaiian, other Pacific Islander, and Asian populations in our state and region. In 2008, the School was named after noted humanitarian Myron B. Thompson re nownedfor his preservation of Native Hawaiian culture and his advocacy for the diverse peoples of Hawai‘i and the broader region. By fulfilling our legacy, we believe we embody the noble causes of our namesake.

Over the years, the MBT SSW has cultivated a reputation for exemplary educational programs,robust research, and distinguished service. Some hallmarks:

  • We are the only School of Social Work in the Pacific Basin with three educational programs articulating undergraduate and graduate education - BSW, MSW, PhD.
  • We are ranked in the top third of all accredited masters’ programs in the United States; and our distance education option is ranked #6 in online social work programs.
  • We have received our largest National Institutes of Health research grant award of $15 million, with senior partner, the John A. Burns School of Medicine, to examine health disparities among Native Hawaiians and other populations in Hawai‘i.
  • Donors are making significant investments in our school to help us do more, including establishing the endowed professor in social policy (Richard and Rose Takasaki Endowment) and the endowed chair in aging (Barbara Cox Anthony Endowment).
  • We are the new tenants of historic Gartley Hall, a fully renovated building that has an energy-efficient platform with the Certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), and with potential for state-of-the-art growth in technology.

Kahea – Call to Action

We stand pa‘a (steadfast) in our commitment to grow social work through educational excellence, and we do this by expanding our hale (house) to become a kauhale (village). In Native Hawaiian culture, hale refers to house as a single building and kauhale refers to a group of houses comprising the Hawaiian home. We view our kauhale as the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work faculty, staff, students and alumni, our interdisciplinary partners at the University, and the multitude of community partners we are privileged to be associated with. Please join us in the MBT SSW kauhale as we grow the next generation of social workers.

Funding Priorities

Gartley Hall Naming Opportunities

For the first time, we can provide our friends and partners an opportunity to name “spaces” in historic Gartley Hall for specific funding levels for a ten year term. There are a variety of spaces that can be named that have instructional, research, community engagement, and administrative functions. The naming of spaces is a significant, highly visible and enduring honor that can catalyze teaching and research. Funding is to be used for diverse School needs, with attention to technology and special projects.

Learn More

Student Scholarships

Student scholarships provide financial support to students who are interested in social work. Many of the MBT SSW students are the first in their family to attend college or obtain a degree in higher education. Through scholarships, we can provide access to the brightest students who might not otherwise have the financial means to pursue higher education. Scholarships can be supported by a named endowment that will continue inperpetuity or by annual gifts.

Professor and Chair Endowments

Endowments for Professors and Chairs have different funding levels, and are intended to attract and retain distinguished leaders to fulfill the mission of social work and match the priority interest of donors. Examples may include social policy, aging, Native Hawaiian health, international social work, and community engagement. Funding supports the endowed faculty in achieving excellence and can include leadership development, research, student support, and community engagement.

Hawaiian Place of Learning

Funding support to establish the MBT SSW as a Hawaiian Place of Learning is important. It acknowledges the School as a leader in indigenous affairs and our unique kuleana to the host culture. It also promotes our regard for our namesake, Myron Pinky Thompson and his advocacy for Native Hawaiians and the diverse peoples of Hawai`i.

Global Social Justice

Funding to support partnerships in global social justice establishes the MBT SSW as a leader in education in the Asia Pacific region. Funding could support study abroad for students, faculty development, curriculum development and international initiatives and projects.

Simulation Laboratory

Preparing our students for social work practice in the 21st century requires cutting edge technology. Funding to support the establishment of a Simulation Laboratory in Gartley Hall will enhance students’ education using state-of-the-art technology for multicultural practice with individuals, families, and groups.

Support The Journey

Together, we can move Hawai‘i and its people toward a remarkable future.
Together, we can Journey Beyond

For information on supporting The Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work, please contact:

Mark Fukeda
Director of Development, UH Mānoa
(808) 956-7988 • mark.fukeda@uhfoundation.org