CSUN Department of Social Work founder and emeritus professor Dr. Jean E. Daniels died January 17, after 37 years at CSUN.
Raised in St. Louis, MO, Daniels obtained her Bachelors of Arts in 1964 at the University of Kansas in Lawrence at a time when only one in three students were women.
She went on to obtain her Master’s in Social Work from Howard University in 1966. She earned a second Masters degree in Public Health in 1973 and Ph.D. in 1976, both from UCLA.
Daniels joined CSUN part-time in 1976, becoming one of the first African-American women in CSUN’s sociology department. For Social Work Department Chair, Amy Levin, her role was pivotal for other women on campus.
“She entered academia at a time that was pretty difficult for females, and for African-Americans, and she broke down a lot of roadblocks and crossed a lot of barriers,” said Levin. “She was an inspiration and a role model for so many of us.”
Daniels worked her way to full-time status in 1987. She brought people she met during her educational career to CSUN, such as social work professor Herman DeBose, who met Daniels at a public health conference in Chicago during the early ’90s.
According to several of her colleagues, one of Daniels’ largest achievements was the establishment of the Master of Social Work (MSW) program at CSUN.
“It was her inspiration, it was her hard work, sweat and sometimes tears that allowed the now-thriving MSW program to come to fruition,” said Levin.
According to Beth Halaas, Field Education Director for the Social Work Department, Daniels’ drive was steady and consistent.
“She was very proper and very professional, and affected change with her style,” said Halaas. “She was just very respectful to people, and she was very determined, but it was a kind of a quiet determination regarding on how she got things done.”
For former CSUN MSW student Colleen Begley, Daniels’ professional demeanor encouraged her to enter the program in its first year.
“”I was very impressed with that, that the department’s director was willing to sit down and talk to me about the program,” said Begley. “She was very professional and encompassed social work qualities. She took her role very seriously.”
CSUN’s MSW program admitted its first class in 2005, with Daniels as its interim director for its first year.
“She didn’t necessarily need to be in the spotlight, she wasn’t hungry for attention ever,” said Halaas. “She knew how to get the job done and did all of the coordinating and getting the people.”
Daniels had plans for the program well in advance.
“Dr. Daniels’ idea of hiring me was in part for me to teach in the undergrad program of sociology, but she was building the foundation to have enough faculty to start the MSW program,” said DeBose.
Daniels would go on to hire Levin, Bartle, Halaas, among others, for the formation of the MSW program.
CSUN’s MSW program evolved over time to become the Department of Social Work, offering two and three-year programs. It is now approaching its tenth year.
Named after Daniels, the Jean E. Daniels Scholarship Fund was set up after the creation of CSUN’s MSW program to honor her efforts. Begley was one of the two first recipients of that award.
“I don’t take that lightly,” said Begley. “That means a lot to me.”
Daniels remained at CSUN until her retirement in 2013, teaching in the Department of Social Work.
Daniels was married to James Harrison Bracy, a professor at CSUN’s Africana Studies Department. Bracy died last year at the age of 70.
“They were just very powerful,” said Bartle. “They were both campus mentors.”
Outside of the university, Daniels was involved in the San Fernando chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. When possible, Daniels also traveled across the world during her breaks for presentations on societal and health issues.
“She did a lot of things on black women…looking at conditions, health, socioeconomic conditions of black women, black women and the work world,” DeBose said.
Daniels would travel to South Africa, China, Kenya, Japan, and Ghana, and the White House Conference on Aging. She traveled to present with organizations such as the National Association of Social Workers.
“Jean was asked to present materials at these conferences,” said Jane Prather, emeritus professor of sociology. “Nobody gets to do that unless they’re doing something interesting.”
Daniels’ impact can still be felt on campus today.
“I think that she made a major contribution to the sociology department by being one of the first women and one of the first women of color in our department,” said DeBose. “I would say one of her legacies is that she laid the foundation for the rest of us.”
Halaas says Daniels was very student-centered.
“She cared deeply about people and about students, particularly about students in the San Fernando Valley,” said Halaas.
Memorial services will take place March 2 at the University Student Union’s Thousand Oaks room, at 10:30 a.m.