VCU School of Social Work presents the “Making a Difference” Ph.D. Alumni Award
At Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work, we have a strong sense of community among our Ph.D. students as well with our alumni. Our Ph.D. program places emphasis on developing and nurturing social work scholars and leaders who strive to make a difference in the lives of people served by social workers. In continuing with this goal, the Doctoral Program Committee established the “Making a Difference” Ph.D. Alumni Award in 2006. This Award recognizes and honors alumni who have distinguished themselves as innovators in research and scholarship, education, advocacy and policy development or human services.
Jon Eric Singletary, Ph.D., M.Div, M.S.W., exemplifies how to make a difference through social work research, community practice, teaching and scholarship. His dedication to leadership and social work education is one of the many reasons why VCU School of Social Work is proud to present him with the “Making a Difference” Ph.D. Alumni Award.
Singletary is the Associate Dean for Baccalaureate Studies in the Baylor University School of Social Work, BSSW, a position he has held since 2011. He also has held the Diana R. Garland Endowed Chair in Child and Family Studies since 2009. He has just completed 10 years of service on the faculty at Baylor, where he joined the faculty after completing his Ph.D. at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work in 2003.
After serving for 3 years as chair of the curriculum committee for the 20-member faculty in the BSSW, Singletary was asked to serve as associate dean, where his primary role is directing the B.S.W. program. In addition, his administrative role includes working with the leadership team on strategic planning for the school with a focus on the development of Baylor’s first hybrid degree program, a Ph.D. in social work and a community practice concentration in the M.S.W. program. This concentration focuses on social work models of organizing, development and planning in diverse community settings, emphasizing global contexts of practice. In an era where few schools are promoting community practice, this new concentration shows Baylor’s commitment to this historic sphere of social work macro practice. Singletary teaches a theory class in this concentration and is engaged in several community-based research projects not only in Central Texas, but across the globe.
While Singletary is developing skills as an academic administrator, he has demonstrated his planning and administrative skills in the BSSW since first joining the faculty in 2003. Immediately upon joining the faculty, he served as a co-director of the Faith and Service Technical Education Network, a research project of the School of Social Work funded by Pew Charitable Trust focusing on the promising practices of human service programs offered by faith-related organizations and congregations. In this role, he helped lead the qualitative data analysis and manage publications for the multi-disciplinary, multi-university research team, including VCU. This grant led to Singletary becoming Director of the Baylor Center for Family and Community Ministries, a position he held from 2006 – 2010, before he was appointed to the Diana R. Garland Endowed Chair in Child and Family Studies. In his role as the Garland Chair, his scholarship continues to focus on congregations and organizations that serve children and their families living in situations of poverty. Singletary’s two dozen publications primarily center around these issues, including a focus on congregational care for children and the administration of congregationally-led social services.
His research in the Garland Chair also focuses on international responses to the needs of children and families. His recent publications are related to best practices in the care of orphans and vulnerable children in Sub-Saharan Africa. He studies models of social and economic development as responses that strengthen families caring for vulnerable children. This research agenda has provided Singletary with an opportunity to serve on the UNICEF-organized Better Care Network’s religious outreach team, the Faith to Action Initiative. Singletary serves as the only university-based researcher on the team of international practitioners, leading the team in the development of an evidence base for congregational responses to the international needs of vulnerable children. This agenda has given Singletary the opportunity to teach, consult, and conduct research in several nations in Sub-Saharan Africa over the past decade.
As part of his domestic research agenda, Singletary is committed to community practices addressing hunger and poverty. As a result, he co-founded the Texas Hunger Initiative, THI, and the Baylor Interdisciplinary Poverty Initiative, two Baylor efforts committed to organizing community responses to these issues. As part of its multi-sectorial approach to organizing in response to hunger, THI currently partners with public and private organizations promoting food security. This has resulted in relationships with Share Our Strength, ConAgra, DairyMax, and USDA, Wal-Mart, The Baptist General Convention of Texas and others yielding more than $5 million of research and service grants and contracts in 2012 focused on food security development projects. THI has recently developed both regional food planning associations around Texas and a statewide Policy Roundtable as well as models of evaluation for public and private anti-hunger efforts around the state.
Before coming to Baylor, Singletary served as pastor at a local Mennonite congregation, an outreach worker for a medical clinic serving people who are homeless, and community organizer for a Baptist Missions Education program, a Methodist anti-hunger program, and an ecumenical peace education program—all in Richmond, Va. Singletary has continued to serve as a consultant encouraging churches to be involved in social service and promoting social justice. As an example, this fall he is teaching a one-day pre-convention institute at the North American Association of Christians in Social Work Annual Meeting on organizing social movements for social change.
Before earning his Ph.D. at VCU, Singletary received a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Communications at Baylor University, a Master of Divinity degree at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, and his Masters in Social Work at VCU.
Most importantly, he has been married to his wonderful wife, Wendi, for nineteen years and is the father of four children, Haden, 12 years old, Harper, 10 years old, Ainsley and Abbott, both 7years old. Their children attend the same Waco public school where his wife teaches first grade.