Q. Dr. Moore, why did you choose social work as your profession?
I was vicariously mentored towards the helping profession by my parents, and particularly my mother, who as very giving and caring people, were especially active in the life of the community via church related and other civic activities. I saw them respond to the needs of people when problems such as job lay-offs, sickness, substance abuse and other issues arose in people’s lives. Ours was a home known for hospitality and refuge. It was not uncommon for friends and acquaintances to “drop-in” for a hot meal or to talk with my parents for advice or to get a listening ear. When my mother passed away in 1993 the communities’ response was overwhelming. I learned then from well-wishers more about the magnitude of her influence and acts of kindness as stories of how she encouraged those with troubled marriages to salvage relationships, gave words of hope to youth who saw no future, fed and clothed neighborhood youth whose parents had experienced hard economic times and unselfishly gave monetarily to our local church to help advance its mission of making a difference in people’s lives, all with my father’s support. Additionally, my mother’s youngest sister who had an MSW was an instructor and counselor at Folsom State Penitentiary in the state of California until her retirement. Not only was I influenced by my family, but my sister Cynthia was also encouraged to earn an MSW degree. We have never regretted our decision to become social workers.
Q. What is your proudest professional achievement?
Each one of us has a potential to do great things in life and to make a contribution to the world that no one else can make. My high school guidance counselor told me that I would never become a doctor. From the time I was in my early teens I knew that I wanted to be a doctor. There were many professional people throughout my family, so I had the influence of relatives who had college degrees and who were in college at the time that I was growing up who greatly affected my quest for a college degree. My parents were always affirming in that they told us that we (my four siblings and I) were special, we were going to do good things in life, and that we should always strive to do our best.
Prior to my entering the 6th grade my family moved from a predominantly White area to a more integrated part of my hometown just outside of Pittsburgh, PA. The new school that I attended grouped students by educational tracts. Students were assigned to either the “A” or “B” group. The “A” group students were placed in an academic curriculum that prepared them for college. Generally, they were the students whose parents were professionals (i.e. lawyers, doctors, dentists, architects, school teachers and nurses). They usually lived in a certain section of town, and it was thought that those students would be very successful in life. The “B” students lived in households where the breadwinners occupied lower managerial and blue-collar occupations. Their parents worked in the steel mills, as construction workers and in the service sector. They were the students who were not being prepared for college but who instead were being prepared to join the military, to work in the steel mills and in service jobs as nurse’s aides, restaurant helpers and in industry housekeeping.
For a reason that I still cannot explain I was placed in the “B” group. It was unexplainable because prior to that, while in elementary school, I attended classes with many of the same students who were placed in the “A” group. Because many of the students in the “B” group perhaps had not been encouraged by family and teachers to reach higher goals and had subsequently given up on their dreams, classroom time was not always productive. Sometimes the students would come to class without having read their books or having done their homework assignments. I think that they behaved this way perhaps because they were frustrated that some people had stopped believing in them, and as a result they turned their anger outward. Their behavior said to me that they had stopped believing in their ability to succeed.
I always believed that I should not have been placed in the “B” group because from within my innermost being from the time I was an early teenager I always knew that I would become a doctor. I had a cousin, who was studying to be a medical doctor, and I thought that I would follow his footsteps but instead, I was destined to become another kind of doctor. I didn’t get discouraged about being in the “B” group during those middle school years, nor would my parents and others let me. I was even more determined to reach my goal. When I entered high school, I took college preparatory courses. Upon graduation, I went to college and became the first African American female in my high school class and in the history of my hometown to earn a PhD. In 1999, I became the first African American professor to receive tenure in the, at that time, 81 year history of Seton Hill University where I was a faculty member. As a result of my credentials, I have mentored other young people to do special things as well. More importantly, I have been able to encourage them to know that “B” students can be doctors too!
Dr. Sharon E. Moore is professor of social work at the Raymond A. Kent School of Social Work at the University of Louisville. She received her PhD and MSW from the University of Pittsburgh. Her authored works include “The Benefits, Challenges, and Strategies of African American Faculty Teaching at Predominantly White Institutions” which was published in a special issue of the Journal of African American Studies (JAAS) that she co-edited in 2008 that contained the most downloaded manuscripts in the history of the JAAS. Part of her current research is devoted to issues related to African American faculty at Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs). In 2010 she co-edited the text Dilemmas of Black Faculty at Predominantly White Institutions in the United States: Issues in the Post-Multicultural Era and has co-authored “African American women in the academy: Quelling the myth of presumed incompetence” in G. Gutiérrez y Muhs, Y. F. Niemann, C. G. González, and A. P. Harris, (Eds.), Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia (pp. 421-438). In 2011 she also presented the paper “The Benefits, Challenges, and Strategies of African American Faculty Teaching at Predominantly White Institutions” at the Oxford Round Table at Harris Manchester College in the University of Oxford, Oxford, England.
Her other works include, “Empowering young African American Males for the 21st Century: A collaboration between a university and an African American church,” ”Substance abuse treatment with adolescent African American males: Reality Therapy with an Afrocentric approach,” “The ABC’s of tenure: What all African American faculty should know” and the text Social Work Practice with Culturally Diverse People published by Sage.
Honors and Awards
In 1997 Dr. Moore was awarded a grant by the J.M. Hopwood Charitable Trust to attend a service learning project in Xi’an, China where she taught English as a second language to students at the Xi’an International University and also participated in a study tour of Madrid and Toledo, Spain. She was awarded the Presidential Exemplary Multicultural Teaching Award by the University of Louisville in 2004 for outstanding work in the area of teaching human diversity. In 2007 she was awarded a Fulbright Senior Specialist by the Council for International Exchange of Scholars Program. Her teaching interests are Human Behavior in the Social Environment, Social Work Practice and Human Diversity. In 2006 she became only the second African American to become a full professor at the Raymond A. Kent School of Social Work since the program began in 1939.
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