Dorothy Van Soest Writer/Author
Short Version of Bio
Dorothy Van Soest is a writer, social worker, political and community activist, as well as a retired professor and university dean who holds an undergraduate degree in English literature and a Masters and Ph.D. in Social Work. She is currently Professor Emerita at the University of Washington with a research-based publication record of ten books and over fifty journal articles, essays, and book chapters that tackle complex and controversial issues related to violence, oppression, and injustice. Her debut novel, Just Mercy (Apprentice House), was informed by her widely acclaimed investigation of the lives of thirty-seven men who were executed by Texas in 1997 and inspired by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Victim Offender Restorative Mediation Dialogue program. It personalizes the topic of the death penalty through a heart-wrenching and ultimately redemptive family drama of forgiveness, destiny, and the true nature of justice. Her next novel, At the Center (Apprentice House, September 2015), is a mystery that grew out of her experiences with the child welfare system. Dorothy Van Soest lives in Seattle, Washington where she is currently working on her third novel, another mystery grounded in the 1968 NYC teachers' strike.
Professor and Dean Emerita, University of Washington
PhD, The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.
MSW, University of Minnesota
Dorothy Van Soest is former dean of the UW School of Social Work and former associate dean and professor at the University of Texas School of Social Work in Austin. She has over 40 years of social work teaching and practice experience, with academic appointments at the University of Minnesota, St. Thomas University, The Catholic University of America, Smith College, University of Texas Austin, and University of Washington.
Dorothy began her social work career as a child protective services social worker in public welfare after ten years of teaching high school English and third grade. She has experience working in the Headstart program in three cities, directing a youth serving organization, and training social workers through the Minnesota State Department of Public Welfare.
Her advocacy for peace and social justice led to her serving as Chair of the National Association of Social Workers’ (NASW) Peace and Justice Committee for two terms in the 1980s and to directing two international development education projects for NASW from 1990-1995.
Dr. Van Soest has conducted research and has been widely published in the areas of peace, cultural diversity, violence prevention, and social justice. A sample of titles of some of her journal articles includes: "The Impact of Social Work Education on Student Beliefs about Justice and Commitment to Social Justice Advocacy," "Social Work Education for Multicultural Practice and Social Justice Advocacy: A Field Study of How Students Experience the Learning Process," "Oppression," "Violence Reconceptualized for Social Work: The Urban Dilemma," and "Social Work Educators Commitment to Peace and Social Justice."
She wrote a curriculum guide entitled Incorporating Peace and Social Justice into the Social Work Curriculum, which was published by NASW in 1992. Another book published by NASW Press in 1997, is The Global Crisis of Violence: Common Problems, Universal Causes, Shared Solutions. The second edition of her book with Betty Garcia, Diversity Education for Social Justice: Mastering Teaching Skills, was published in 2008 by the Council on Social Work Education Press with a companion student text, Social Work Practice: Cultural Competence in Action, that was published in 2006.
Dr. Van Soest has conducted several research projects aimed at investigating the impact of social work education on students’ commitment to diversity and social justice and a study of social work professors’ sensitivity to racism and their responsiveness to critical events that occur in the classroom. Her study of the lives of 37 men who were executed by the state of Texas in 1997 was featured in an ABC News.com editorial column by Lee Dye entitled “Bent Twigs-Study: rough Upbringings can shape Murderers” on May 14, 2003 and a report of that same study was published in Violence and Victims under the title “Different Paths to Death Row: A comparison of men who committed heinous and less heinous crimes.”
She has made numerous national and international presentations and given speeches on topics related to violence prevention, the global crisis of violence, cultural diversity, and social justice issues.
Dorothy lives in Seattle, Washington, where she now focuses exclusively on writing fiction.