Mission, Vision and History

New students cheering

Case Western Reserve University’s Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences is a national network of scholars and practitioners who shape the course of social work and nonprofit practice and research to drive societal change in our backyard and around the world.


Advancing leadership in social work and nonprofit education, scholarship and service to build a more just world.


Students are central in all that we do, and they actively participate in and contribute to a dynamic learning community that develops leaders of social change in direct practice, community practice and nonprofit management.

The Mandel School was founded by and for the Greater Cleveland community in the belief that a university-based school of social work would transform the work of people and organizations to achieve to their full potential. As the Mandel School celebrated its centennial, we reaffirmed our historical commitment to the application of social science for improving social welfare, and seek to continue to broaden the national and international reach of our research, teaching and service. Our graduates are prepared to be future leaders who turn knowledge into action that furthers health, well being and social justice.

Adopted by the Mandel School faculty in November 2014


Consistently ranked among the nation’s foremost graduate schools of social work, the Mandel School remains at the forefront of decoding the history and dynamics of social work and nonprofit management. We created the first competency-based curriculum in social work education and continue to shape social work education with our new innovative generalist curriculum. 

Our founding and first dean

On Dec. 4, 1915, the Western Reserve University Trustee Executive Committee voted to establish the School of Applied Social Sciences—as the Mandel School was called then—and to appoint James E. Cutler as its first dean. By this action, they established one of the first university-affiliated schools of social work in the United States.

Classes began Sept. 19, 1916, with a total enrollment in both semesters of 48. The first five students graduated in 1918. The first master’s degree students graduated in 1919, which was also the year our Master of Science in Social Administration (MSSA) master’s degree program in social work was accredited.

The first graduates included Margaret H. Johnson, MSSA 1919, who would later serve as the Mandel School’s first woman dean. 

Meet the Mandel School Deans.

Our degrees and programs

The MSSA degree is the Mandel School’s hallmark graduate social work degree. Recognizing that the Master of Social Work (MSW) is the degree that is most identified with professional social work though, on April 1, 2021 Case Western Reserve University and the Ohio Department of Higher Education authorized the Mandel School to offer the MSW degree.

We have great respect and appreciation for the distinctiveness of the MSSA and all it has represented in social work for over 100 years, so this decision did not come lightly. Mandel School alumni have the option to purchase a MSW equivalency certificate that will state the year in which the alumna/alumnus received their MSSA with a note that it is equivalent to the MSW.

The Mandel School also offers the Master of Nonprofit Organizations (MNO) to teach the skills necessary to effectively lead staff and volunteers, respond to demands for accountability, design innovative and efficient solutions to society’s most pressing issues, and promote social responsibility. Now more than ever, managing nonprofit organizations requires a commitment to doing good, plus the skills to carry out an agenda of change.

Our PhD in Social Welfare is one of the first doctoral programs of its kind in America. Designed to develop leaders in social work research, policy and teaching, the program offers doctoral students the unrivaled opportunity to engage with world-renowned faculty, cutting-edge research and a creative curriculum—all within a supportive environment committed to student success.

Our research and training centers

The Mandel School is home to nine research and training centers, including three Centers of Excellence, that are organized to facilitate collaboration in research and training between faculty and community partners, including human service agencies, service delivery systems and policy makers.

Many initiatives are multidisciplinary and multi-institutional partnerships that address social problems, social-work practice and social policy. There is a strong emphasis upon dissemination—using cutting-edge knowledge to enhance practice and service delivery in the community. The centers also provide opportunities for students to participate in all aspects of the research process.