News Details

SP2’s top news of 2023

Six photos appear in a grid: students seated around a table outdoors, students standing in a classroom, the dean and a faculty member hugging in the Caster lobby, deans seated at a

Authored by: Juliana Rosati and Carson Easterly

Faculty & Research, Student Life


From new faculty appointments and achievements, to the naming of the Social Innovation Scholars Program, to a sweep of the Pennsylvania Society for Clinical Social Work Awards, 2023 was a dynamic year for Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2).

The SP2 News Break newsletter captured the highlights of SP2 news produced by the School’s strategic marketing and communications staff as well as by Penn publications. We hope you’ll enjoy below a look back at top headlines of the year.

To stay updated on SP2 news, subscribe to the SP2 News Break.


Former SP2 dean John L. Jackson, Jr. named Penn’s next provost: John L. Jackson, Jr. — formerly dean of Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2) from 2014 to 2018 — was named provost at Penn, effective June 1.

Penn Today and Penn homepage spotlight SP2’s Social Justice Scholars Program: The Social Justice Scholars Program at SP2 welcomed four scholars in 2022, offering a full-tuition scholarship, mentorship from powerful allies, and a welcoming community.

SP2’s Yoosun Park awarded 2023 Breul Prize: Park and co-author Michael Reisch received the prize for best article of the year by Social Service Review, long considered the most prestigious journal in the field.


SP2 Social Justice Scholar works to effect change through data: From volunteering on the front lines of disaster relief, to studying social policy and data analytics at SP2, Skye Horbrook focuses on using technology and data to create change.

Event with Ben Jealous looks beyond America’s racial fault line: Professor of Practice Ben Jealous discussed race, politics, American history, and his new book with Camille Z. Charles during an event at Penn co-sponsored by SP2.

SP2 Nonprofit Leadership Program and Bonner Foundation partner to increase access: The new partnership encourages alumni of the Bonner Community Scholars, a program that supports communities through civic engagement, to apply for SP2’s NPL program.


What keeps patients with cancer from using financial assistance programs?: SP2’s Meredith Doherty and colleagues provided suggestions from their research on how to improve cancer patients’ access to financial assistance.

SP2 announces Amber Hikes, MSW’08, as 2023 Commencement speaker: SP2 alum Amber Hikes, (they/she), current deputy executive director for strategy & culture for the ACLU, was chosen to deliver the School’s 2023 Commencement speech.

Penn’s Inspiring Impact highlights SP2 Social Justice Scholar and a unique gift: A full-tuition scholarship drew Master of Social Work student Mayowa Fageyinbo to SP2’s Social Justice Scholars Program, which is poised to increase its impact through a gift.


Nikole Hannah-Jones discusses race, history, and memory at SP2 event: Speaking to a full house, Hannah-Jones discussed reframing American history in a conversation moderated by Ben Jealous, presented by SP2, and co-hosted by the Annenberg School and Penn Carey Law.

Art @ SP2 affirms diversity, belonging, and community: Light, energy, and creative works filled the renovated lobby of the Caster Building at the opening of “Art @ SP2,” an exhibit featuring art by 15 students, faculty, and staff.

SP2’s Center for Guaranteed Income Research links economic policy and mental health: The potential of guaranteed income to support mental health was the topic of an article reviewing emergent evidence of cash transfers as a mental ill-health prevention strategy.


SP2 names new Social Innovation Scholars Program: SP2 named the Randi and Brian Schwartz Social Innovation Scholarship to provide full-tuition support for students seeking to innovate and generate impact in areas like economic security, immigration, and global conflict.

Study: Guaranteed Income improved people’s health during pandemic: Amy Castro and Stacia West of SP2’s Center for Guaranteed Income Research co-authored the final results of the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration, which showed connections between financial security and better health.

Faculty tribute: SP2 Professor Irene Wong retiring: As she prepared to retire after 28 years at Penn, SP2’s Irene Wong remained dedicated to interdisciplinary, cross-cultural research to reduce the stigma of mental illness.


Study: Climate change’s cost includes losses of learning and earnings due to natural disasters: After natural disasters, survivors’ losses of education and earnings may be comparable to the cost of property damage, according to a new study coauthored by SP2’s R. Jisung Park.

First graduate of SP2’s Social Justice Scholars Program lands role on Capitol Hill: “What’s important to me is being in a space where I can help people and I’m constantly in a state of giving back,” says Gianni Morsell, NPL’22, who now works with policymakers in the U.S. House of Representatives to effect social change.

SP2 celebrates five accomplished changemakers at Alumni Hall of Fame induction: Five distinguished SP2 alumni spoke about their aims of creating justice, community, and hope at the 2023 SP2 Alumni Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.


SP2 welcomes three new faculty with interdisciplinary expertise: Three new faculty joined SP2, bringing policy and practice expertise at the intersection of the fields of education, criminal justice, and environmental politics.

SP2’s doctorate in clinical social work featured: Program director and faculty member Jacqueline Corcoran spoke about SP2’s DSW Program, the nation’s first social work doctorate focused exclusively on practice.

New year brings new faculty leadership roles: Four SP2 faculty members were appointed to direct the PhD in Social Welfare Program, the Master of Science in Social Policy Program, and School-wide strategic initiatives.


Desmond Patton and the science of being human: Penn Today featured SP2’s Dr. Desmond Patton — one of the University’s youngest Penn Integrates Knowledge professors — and his work on grief and loss, joy, and well-being.

Study: Green energy transition may leave some workers behind: While green jobs have increased, trends in labor market inequality may be exacerbated, according to coauthor R. Jisung Park, an environmental and labor economist at SP2.

Federal judge cites SP2 dean’s testimony in landmark decision upholding disability rights: The expert testimony of SP2 Dean Sara S. Bachman was cited throughout a major ruling upholding the rights of children with complex medical needs.


Working to understand & prevent intimate partner violence: A Q&A with Dr. Millan AbiNader: A researcher and social worker who began her career as a victim services advocate, SP2’s Millan AbiNader examines how systems and communities affect experiences of gender-based violence.

New Yorker highlights homelessness research of SP2’s Dr. Dennis Culhane: Exploring modern homelessness, Pulitzer Prize – winning author Jennifer Egan turned to Culhane, who discussed the $11 billion expense of allowing homelessness to continue.

Deans of Penn’s health schools discuss climate change in their fields: As part of a Climate Week panel of deans and leaders from Penn’s five health schools, Dean Sara S. Bachman discussed the climate crisis as a significant social justice issue.


SP2’s Dr. Desmond Patton elected to National Academy of Medicine: A pioneer in the fusion of social work, communications, and data science, Patton was one of five Penn experts among 100 new members elected to one of the highest honors in health and medicine.

Study: Increasing minimum wage has positive effects on employment: In labor markets where employers have more control over wages, increasing the minimum wage often results in a rise in employment, according to SP2 coauthor Ioana Marinescu.

Leading Social Change: SP2 students tackle their “One Big Thing” in interdisciplinary course: Co-taught by SP2’s Ariel Schwartz and civil rights leader Ben Jealous, the class invites students to choose a social issue or cause and explore paths for making decisions aligned with their values.


SP2 alumni sweep Pennsylvania Society for Clinical Social Work Awards: MSW Program alumni Sarah Pallivalapil-Karerat (First Prize), Jennifer Bulcock (Second Prize), and Jaclyn Spiegel (Third Prize) won with papers that began as SP2 assignments.

SP2 welcomes third Social Justice Scholars cohort: Among the nine students in the 2023-2024 cohort, scholars’ social justice leadership interests range from socioeconomic inequality to anti-racism to community development.

Two SAFELab researchers named to SP2 faculty: Dr. Aviv Landau and Dr. Siva Mathiyazhagan were appointed SP2 research assistant professors. Their work with SAFELab examines how youth of color navigate violence, grief, and joy.


Trailblazing guaranteed income program in Saint Paul enhanced mental and financial well-being: In a report from SP2’s Center for Guaranteed Income Research, findings reveal connections between receipt of unconditional cash and improved financial health, sense of self, and economic mobility.

Dr. Jennifer Prah delivers 2023 McAuley Oration in Global Health: Dr. Prah, the Amartya Sen Professor of Health Equity, Economics, and Policy at SP2, spoke at the Otago Global Health Institute’s 15th Annual Conference in Dunedin, New Zealand, discussing how her health capability profile can be applied in public health settings.

Penn Today features SP2 expertise for Giving Tuesday: Katherina ‘Kat’ Rosqueta and Iris Leon of SP2’s Center for High Impact Philanthropy spoke with Penn Today about the history of Giving Tuesday.