Farmer Named Social Work Dean

Betsy FarmerA professor and associate dean for research at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Social Work has been named the new dean of Pitt’s School of Social Work.

Elizabeth “Betsy” Farmer will begin her role as dean at Pitt on Aug. 1 during a year in which the school is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

At Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), Farmer established and managed the School of Social Work Office of Research. She has been involved in a revitalization of the school’s research focus and doctoral curriculum, and initiated a number of cross-disciplinary, community-engaged projects, including the school’s Adopt-A-Classroom program at a local elementary school.

“Betsy has the vision and experience to take the University’s top-ranked School of Social Work and elevate it in prominence, practice and impact,” said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “I am pleased that she is joining us as the school’s new dean and excited to watch her get to work.”

Patricia E. Beeson, provost and senior vice chancellor, added: “Betsy Farmer has a long and impressive history of championing social work values and enhancing social work research and education. Her extensive and diverse record of dynamic leadership within the institutions she has served and within the broader community positions her well to leverage and enhance the multifaceted work of Pitt’s School of Social Work as it enters its second century.”

Prior to entering academia, Farmer worked in community-based settings, including serving as a treatment foster parent, respite care provider and group home parent. Her experience drove her research interest in improving treatment and care for youth with mental health problems, and she has received significant funding from the National Institute of Mental Health to carry out her work. Her success in improving treatment foster care resulted in an evidence-based model, “Together Facing the Challenge,” which is now being implemented in programs in more than 20 states.

Farmer says her initial priorities will be to continue all the “truly wonderful work” the school is already doing, to work with the staff and faculty to identify the school’s growth potential and to be clearly focused and creative in how she and the faculty will deliver a high-quality relevant curriculum in ways that ensure access and opportunities for a broad range of students.

“I love being in social work because the core values and the wide range of critical problems the discipline tackles provide ongoing motivation to work collectively, consistently and creatively to figure out how to improve the world around us,” she said.

She added: “This is a critical time in our country for the values, approaches and services that social work is built upon.”

Before joining VCU in 2012, Farmer was on the faculty at Case Western Reserve University, Duke University and Pennsylvania State University. Since 2011, she has served as co-editor of the Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. She earned a Ph.D. in sociology from Duke.

Farmer is a native of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and has family ties to Pitt: Her grandfather, John V. Miller, earned his bachelor of science degree at Pitt in August 1929.

Farmer’s leadership will follow that of Larry E. Davis, who announced last fall that he was stepping down as dean after 17 years. He is staying on as director of Pitt’s Center on Race and Social Problems for one year.


Sharon Blake,, 412-624-4364