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After much anticipation, the College of Social Work is installed in its new home in Hamilton College. A dedication ceremony on Friday, the 11th of September, 2015, featured guest speakers, garnet and black balloons, and a palpable excitement. The audience was comprised of administrators, faculty, staff, students, and alumni, as well as representatives from the Board of Visitors and the Board of Trustees.

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The College of Social Work was previously scattered across campus at multiple facilities, so the move to Hamilton College represents an opportunity to build a stronger identity and community. Built in the 1940s to accommodate naval training, Hamilton College required $17.5 million of renovations.

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Dean Anna Scheyett opened the ceremony by welcoming the assembled crowd to the “sleek and beautiful educational space” that will enable the CoSW to become united as “one roof and one scholarly community.” Dean Scheyett’s remarks were followed by USC President Harris Pastides, who emphasized the importance of social work to the university and beyond, citing the CoSW’s local and international partnerships. He praised the CoSW’s outstanding scholarship and expressed hope that moving into the new space will result in even more dynamic work via improved morale and increased opportunities for interaction. He ended his speech by exhorting members of the College to keep Hamilton’s doors open, maintaining and expanding our relationships with other disciplines and community partners.

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The dedication ceremony also featured the Honorable John von Lehe and alumna Carla Damron. Von Lehe, who is a member of the Board of Trustees, spoke of his mother, Agenora Adams von Lehe, a school superintendent and social worker who dedicated her life to child welfare. He recently established the Agenora Adams von Lehe Endowed Fellowship Fund, and he thanked attendees for allowing him the opportunity to honor and remember her. Damron, who is the current Executive Director of the South Carolina Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers as well as a novelist, echoed Dean Scheyett’s earlier comments about the importance of social work and advocacy, and she argued that moving into Hamilton College is a “powerful message” to all CoSW students that their chosen path is a special one and that they are incredibly deserving of this beautiful space.

After the ceremonial ribbon-cutting, guests moved into the Hamilton atrium for a reception. The atrium lobby is a welcoming space that features the original hardwood floors from the former Hamilton gymnasium. Just inside the door is a mural that depicts the history of the building and of the CoSW. Student-led tours highlighted the computer labs, the faculty/staff and student lounges, and the courtyard. One unique feature in the building is an observation suite attached to one of the classrooms. The suite is equipped with cameras and two-way mirrors, which allow students opportunities to practice client-provider interactions, watch their performances, and receive feedback.

Though September 11 may seem an odd choice for such a celebratory occasion, Dean Scheyett suggested that on that day in 2001, we learned “that the world needs healing, justice, and peace.” Those three things are precisely what social work is about, “and that’s what we dedicate our building to today,” announced Scheyett.

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