Murli Desai, a Brown School alumna, has received the Life Time Achievement Award from the National Association of Professional Social Workers in India (NAPSWI), in recognition of her as a distinguished social work educator who has enriched the knowledge base of the profession.
Desai “has made significant contributions to the fields of social work and social development in general, and in the specific areas of family and women’s studies, childhood and adolescence, and old age,” according to the scroll of appreciation from NAPSWI, which Desai received on November 1 at the University of Delhi.
The scroll states, “[S]he attempted to bridge the gaps between research, policy, practice and teaching by undertaking comparative policy studies, knowledge development and dissemination, curriculum planning, teaching and teacher training, consultation and group empowerment workshops.”
Desai finished her PhD in social work at the Brown School in 1983. Michael Sherraden served as her dissertation chair. Eleven years later, Sherraden founded the Center for Social Development (CSD) after Shanti Khinduka, then dean of the Brown School, invited Sherraden to serve as director of a new center dedicated to research in social development.
“In the spirit of her work, Murli Desai represented the best of CSD before there was a CSD,” Sherraden said. “She has shaped and carried out an exemplary career, making important contributions in social development policy and practice from a human rights perspective. For many decades, social development has been a deeply important theme in the Brown School’s evolution and recognized contributions. Desai’s heralded career is part of that.”
Desai said that it was her doctoral program at the Brown School that gave her the rigour in research and theorisation that significantly prepared her for an effective academic career. It was a major turning point in her development into a progressive, assertive, proactive and creative social work educator with an international vision.
After working in practice-based research in the field for four years, Desai joined the faculty at the Tata Institute for Social Science (TISS), where she stayed for the major part of her career. She held various key positions, including head of the Unit for Family Studies, head of Social Work Education and Practice cell, and associate editor of The Indian Journal of Social Work. She subsequently worked two years at the Department of Social Work at the National University of Singapore and one year at the Department of Social Welfare of the Seoul National University.