Teacher Feature: Dr. Peggy Black

Peggy Black, Ph.D., department chair and associate professor of sociology and social work, provides her students with the tools to create a better world, one individual at a time.

“I’m passionate about social work, and about creating a socially just world,” she says. “I like to be able to give people tools to change their environment.”

An Erie native, Black earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Geneva College, her master’s degree in social work at Case Western Reserve University and her doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh.

She also served as a clinical social worker in a variety of hospitals and nursing homes in Erie prior to joining Mercyhurst in 2001.
Jill Barrile photo: Dr. Peggy Black is the sociology department chair.Jill Barrile photo: Dr. Peggy Black is the sociology department chair.
Black’s work focuses on the needs of older adults who face such issues as chronic illnesses and nursing homes.

She teaches several introductory courses for sociology and social work as well as higher-level courses. Her teaching methods include role-playing, simulations of situations and discussion-based activities.

Black has earned several awards in her career, including the 2002 Social Worker of the Year: Northwest Division of PA-National Association of Social Worker and honorable mentions for the 2006 and 2007 Mit Joyner Award for Innovative Programs in Gerontology.

She has also served as a Pennsylvania delegate and guided policy about aging concerns.

Yet she remains humble with each opportunity.

“Working with families and alleviating their stress and trauma is equally rewarding,” she says.

“We represent the mission statement more than any other major at Mercyhurst,” Black says about the sociology and social work departments. She says sociology students learn to handle social problems and give strength to people struggling with illness, family issues and other problems.

In other words, she gives students the tools to transform into successful and competent social workers. She says, “It’s rewarding to watch the transformation from wanting to do something and being able to do it.”

She acts as co-adviser to the Social Work Club and helps with Flourishing Child, a series of programs that raise awareness of youth social issues.

Black is active both on and off campus. She works closely with local social work institutions and offers professional development seminars.

“One of my missions is to make sure there are opportunities for social workers to continue their education,” she says.

Black also makes sure her students have a great start on the education front. Sociology and social work students who earn a degree at Mercyhurst may have advanced standing for master’s programs.

Social work students can work in almost any environment, Black says, and the major is very marketable since the need for social work will never go away.

In her spare time, Black enjoys reading, listening to music and vacationing with her family.