School of Social Work

No. 28 M.S.W. Program in the U.S.

Stephen W. Harms

The career of Stephen W. Harms (M.S.W.’82/SW) exemplifies the limitless possibilities for macro-level social work. Beginning with the first master’s-level position with the Virginia General Assembly’s Joint Audit and Legislative Review Commission, to deputy positions for two state governors and a deputy chief administrative officer position for the city of Richmond, Va., his successes affect change through social policy and administration.

“His career serves as a paramount example for anyone entering social work with the goal of making the largest possible impact,” says Robert Schneider, Ph.D., emeritus faculty member in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work.

Prior to earning his M.S.W., Harms served as a family case worker, counselor and psychiatric aide. It was at that time that two of his professors, Schneider and Charles Bernard “Bernie” Scotch, Ph.D., recommended he make an impact through policy and administration. The two propelled Harms into a position with Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, ultimately leading to a 30-year career in macro-level work.

“VCU’s School of Social Work launched my career in public service,” Harms says. “The vision and mentoring of two extraordinary professors, Drs. Scotch and Schneider, opened the door for me to serve as a social worker in nontraditional settings.”

As an analyst, Harms proved his eye for detail by evaluating agency programs and identifying methods for improving services and efficiencies to reduce costs. The results of his efforts netted him a position as a legislative fiscal analyst for the Senate Finance Committee of the Virginia General Assembly, where he helped to establish state budget priorities and policy goals. Then, in 2002, he signed on with the office of the governor, serving first as deputy secretary of health and human resources, then as deputy secretary of finance and finally as deputy chief of staff, advising the governor and secretaries on policies and budgets in human services and finance, and overseeing agency and program administration.

In January 2013, Mayor Dwight C. Jones called upon Harms to serve as interim deputy chief administrative officer for the human services division of the city of Richmond. He accepted and currently assists the mayor and chief administrative officer in overseeing the operation of city departments providing human services.

Ultimately, Harms credits his mother, Alice Harms, who served as a local elected official, for inspiring his career in public service, and his wife and children for their patience and support.

Categories Alumni, Awards and honors