George Warren Brown School of Social Work

Coordinates: 38°38′49″N 90°18′20″W / 38.64700°N 90.30568°W / 38.64700; -90.30568
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Brown School at Washington University
George Warren Brown School of Social Work.jpg
Brown School's Hillman Hall
Parent institution
Washington University in St. Louis
DeanTonya Edmond, Rodrigo Reis, Interim Co-Deans (Incoming August 2023: Dorian Traube)
Academic staff
Location, ,

38°38′49″N 90°18′20″W / 38.64700°N 90.30568°W / 38.64700; -90.30568

The Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis is a school for the training of social science researchers and practitioners.

The Brown School offers a Master of Social Work (MSW), a Master of Public Health (MPH), a Master of Social Policy (MSP), a PhD in Social Work, and a PhD in Public Health Sciences. As one of the academic units of Washington University in St. Louis, the Brown School was founded in 1925 as the Department of Social Work. The school was endowed in 1945 by Bettie Bofinger Brown and named for her husband, George Warren Brown, a St. Louis philanthropist and co-founder of the Brown Shoe Company. The school was the first in the country to have a building for the purpose of social work education, and it is also a member of the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health. The school is housed within Brown, Goldfarb, and Hillman Halls on the University's Danforth Campus.



Washington University introduces a social work program under the leadership of Professor Frank Bruno. This program was initially named the Washington University Training Course for Social Workers and was part of the Department of Sociology in the College of Liberal Arts.


The social work training program transferred to the School of Commerce and Finance, which was then renamed the School of Business and Public Administration.


The George Warren Brown Department of Social Work is established with money from the estate of George Warren Brown, a prominent shoe manufacturer.[1]


The Washington University community and alumni of the George Warren Brown Department of Social Work dedicated Brown Hall.[2] Brown Hall is the first building in the nation constructed to house a program of social work education. George C. Throop, then chancellor, opened the first evening’s dedication ceremonies with a tribute to George Warren Brown and his wife, Betty Bofinger Brown, whose bequest in memory of her husband had made the building possible.


Brown Hall is home to the Department of Social Work as well as the departments of history, political science, anthropology, and sociology. As the program grew, the school expanded to occupy the entire building.


The University establishes the George Warren Brown School of Social Work as a separate school with Benjamin E. Youngdahl as its dean. Years later, the estate of George Warren Brown donated $1 million to the University to create a permanent endowment for the school.


The Brown School and Washington University dedicates Alvin Goldfarb Hall, a four-story building that doubled the capacity of the school.[3]


The Master of Public Health program enrolled its first class, and collaborated with the new Institute for Public Health. Students are able to obtain a dual degree with the Master of Social Work. The Institute for Public Health is designed to be multi-disciplinary, and has collaboration from the School of Engineering's Technology for Environmental Public Health and International Development program, the Olin Business School's undergraduate major in healthcare management, and the College of Arts and Science's undergraduate majors in medical humanities and global health and environment.

Research centers[edit]

The Brown School is home to several research centers with distinct areas of emphasis, among them:

Brown School Research Centers
Center name Mission
Black Families, Racism, and Resilience Lab Examines the impact of culturally positive resources on the well-being of Black children, youth, and families. Research focuses on the evolution of attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors over time. Aims to assist educators, practitioners, and scholars in comprehending how policies, laws, and everyday interactions shape the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of Black Americans. Objective is to provide culturally responsive and empowering solutions that strengthen Black American communities.
Centene Center for Health Transformation The Centene Center for Health Transformation is a unique academic-industry collaboration between the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, the Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University, and Centene Corporation. The center is a Community-Corporate-Academic Health Care Partnership that advances life-centric health research to improve lives so communities can thrive.
Center for Diabetes Translation Research Aims to eliminate disparities in Type 2 diabetes by translating evidence-based interventions to high-risk populations. The NIH-funded research center is a collaboration between the Brown School and the Medical School and was formed to address health literacy and health communication; dissemination and implementation; health economics and health policy; and community-based participatory research and cultural competency.
Center for Health Economics & Policy The Center for Health Economics & Policy promotes the advancement of evidence-based research with a focus on enhancing health outcomes. It actively shares this research with policymakers and various stakeholders.
Center for Innovation in Child Maltreatment Policy, Research and Training The Center for Innovation in Child Maltreatment Policy, Research, and Training advances scientific knowledge to prevent child maltreatment and promote positive outcomes through effective interventions. It emphasizes the interconnection of research, practice, and training, ensuring that policy and practice align with the latest scientific findings.

The Center focuses on urgent needs in the field and employs collaborative approaches relevant to real-world situations. Notably, two research projects aim to enhance maltreatment screening capacity using innovative strategies. This includes utilizing integrated administrative data to inform child welfare and multi-system responses, as well as improving the science of newborn screening for maltreatment risk and engaging new parents in supportive services.

Center for Mental Health Services Research The Center for Mental Health Services Research, through its national network of collaborative research partners, works with public social service agencies to build a base of evidence designed to address the challenges of delivering mental health services to vulnerable populations. The center is one of only 11 centers of its kind in the country and the only one part of a social work school.
Center for Obesity Prevention and Policy Research The Center for Obesity Prevention and Policy Research develops and disseminates new knowledge to inform the creation and implementation of programs and policies designed to prevent obesity.
Center for Public Health Systems Science Launched in 2001 and helps create an innovative understanding of how policies and organizational systems affect public health problems. The Center translates research results to inform chronic disease prevention policy and improve public health practices.
Center for Social Development The Center for Social Development's domestic and international research focuses on building assets of individuals and families so they can invest in life goals such as homes, education, and enterprise development. The Center's work also explores issues of civic engagement to ensure the people of all ages and economic levels actively participate in our society.
Center for Violence and Injury Prevention The Center for Violence and Injury Prevention is a CDC-funded research center that pulls from multiple disciplines and partnerships to advance the prevention science and develop evidence-based, real-world strategies for preventing child maltreatment, intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and suicide attempts.
Health Communication Research Laboratory The Health Communication Research Laboratory is one of the leading centers in the U.S. dedicated to the research, development, and dissemination of health communication programs that enhance the health of individuals and populations. Most recently, they have been involved in National Institutes of Health Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL)-funded COVID-19 misinformation monitoring work.
Implementation Research Institute Promotes the progress of implementation science in the field of mental health. Its primary focus is to support the career growth and development of early to mid-career investigators.
Initiative for Social Work and Forced Migration Strives to take a leading role in social work and social welfare research, education, and training to enhance the quality of life and well-being for individuals who have been forcibly displaced across international borders. It serves as a virtual hub for scholars in social work specializing in international forced migration. The initiative seeks to establish certificate programs that acknowledge scholars and service providers who adhere to its standards. Additionally, it aims to engage in international student exchange programs, attract graduate students who are interested in the field, and organize conferences. The initiative also actively participates in open-source data collection and sharing for studies related to forced migration.
Institute for Public Health Addresses the complex health issues and health disparities facing the St. Louis region and the world.
Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences Provides a range of programs and services aimed at expediting the transformation of research discoveries into practical applications. These efforts are focused on enhancing prevention, diagnosis, and treatment methods in real-world settings.
International Center for Child Health and Development Fosters the well-being of youth and families in low-resource communities, with a specific focus on sub-Saharan Africa. Its mission is to contribute to poverty reduction and enhance health and developmental outcomes.

ICHAD conducts meticulous applied research centered around interventions that strengthen families economically and empower them. These interventions aim to address the complex interplay between poverty, disease, and health-related risks affecting youth. The center also strives to raise public awareness and garner support for social programs that build upon existing assets. Additionally, ICHAD advocates for evidence-based policies and programming informed by research findings.

Kathryn M. Buder Center for American Indian Studies The Kathryn M. Buder Center for American Indian Studies is one of the most respected centers in the nation for academic advancement and the study of American Indian issues related to social work.
Prevention Research Center The Prevention Research Center in St. Louis is a joint effort between Washington University in St. Louis and Saint Louis University. The Center explores the behaviors that place Americans at risk for chronic diseases such as obesity, cancer, and stroke. Center researchers are particularly concerned with the improvement of the quality of life among special populations: the young, elderly, and the uninsured.
SMART Africa Center The SMART Africa Center (Strengthening Mental Health and Research Training) is a collaborative center that operates across multiple disciplines. Its main objective is to address the gaps in child mental health services and research in Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda. The center is financially supported by the National Institute of Mental Health.

Through a population approach, the SMART Africa Center aims to improve child mental health by bringing together a diverse consortium of stakeholders. This consortium includes academic institutions, government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and community partners from Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, and the United States. Together, they focus on tackling the burden of child mental health and addressing service gaps in sub-Saharan Africa. The center emphasizes the implementation and expansion of evidence-based practices to achieve its goals.

Social System Design Laboratory Advances the science and field of system dynamics for human services including social work, education, medicine, and public health. The Lab is a resource for students, researchers, and professionals to help build the capacity of those who want to learn and apply system dynamics in order to address specific problems in organizations and communities.


  1. ^ "St. Louis Historic Preservation". Retrieved 2023-05-21.
  2. ^ "George Warren Brown Hall". Washington University in St. Louis. Retrieved 2023-05-21.
  3. ^ Schoenherr, Neil (2015-10-06). "Hillman Hall more than doubles Brown School's teaching, research and program space - The Source - Washington University in St. Louis". The Source. Retrieved 2023-05-21.