Changing of the Guard

Published in the Spring 2010 issue of SSA Magazine

Neil Guterman has been named the new dean of SSA

Neil Guterman, the Mose and Sylvia Firestone Professor at the School of Social Service Administration and an expert on child abuse and neglect, has been appointed as the next dean of the School.

Guterman, who begins his five-year term on July 1, says that he will aim to continue to strengthen SSA's interdisciplinary approach and sees opportunity for the School to expand its role as an institution that helps address the root causes of complex social problems such as extreme poverty, violence and social exclusion.

"The School of Social Service Administration is unparalleled in the ways it brings together scholars across multiple disciplines under one roof, all with a shared dedication to tackling some of the most intractable social problems of our day," Guterman says. "Our uncompromising value on rigor—in thought and methodologies, in education and in direct application to the field—mixed with a deep commitment to tangibly advancing social justice and reducing human suffering make for a uniquely exciting culture for scholars and students alike."

The choice of Guterman as dean emerged from an intensive faculty search process, with a committee elected by SSA faculty. In the letter announcing Guterman's appointment, University President Robert J. Zimmer and Provost Thomas F. Rosenbaum wrote: "We are confident that Neil's insights and leadership will materially advance SSA's distinctive model of developing the theoretical and empirical underpinnings of social work, while at the same time demonstrating its highest forms of professional practice."

Guterman received a B.A. from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1983, an M.S.W. from the University of Michigan in 1986, and a Ph.D. in social work and psychology from the University of Michigan in 1992. He completed a Lady Davis Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Hebrew University Baerwald School of Social Work and Social Welfare in Jerusalem in 1993 before assuming a faculty position at the Columbia University School of Social Work. He has provided direct clinical services to children and families in a wide variety of family and child service settings in Michigan, California, Israel and New York City.

The author of Stopping Child Maltreatment Before it Starts: Emerging Horizons in Early Home Visitation Services (2001), the benchmark book in its field, Guterman is also co editor of the forthcoming reference volume, Child Maltreatment Prevention, as well as author of numerous papers on family risk, child abuse prevention and children's exposure to community violence. He has advised the U.S. Surgeon General's Office, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, Prevent Child Abuse America and the National Conference of State Legislatures about issues related to violence against children.

Guterman joined the University of Chicago faculty in 2006 and currently is the principal investigator for four federally and privately funded research studies. The director of SSA's Beatrice Cummings Mayer Program in Violence Prevention and a faculty associate at Chapin Hall, Guterman says that his work has been enhanced since arriving in the city. "Chicago is home to perhaps the richest gathering of scholars in the world dedicated to reducing children's victimization," he says.

Guterman will succeed Jeanne C. Marsh, SSA's George Herbert Jones Distinguished Service Professor, who served as dean from 2005-10 and 1988-98. After a sabbatical period at Chaire Sante, a health policy and services research center, part of SciencePo, Paris, Marsh will return to the classroom to focus on her research. "I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve as dean, to recruit and work with a world-class faculty,staff and student body, to facilitate significant faculty research and to promote quality educational programming," Marsh says. "I am extremely enthusiastic that Neil Guterman, distinguished SSA scholar, teacher and colleague, will serve as the next dean of the School of Social Service Administration."

As he considers the future for the School, Guterman says that he sees opportunities for SSA to enhance its already stellar role in leading social work education and scholarship. "Building from our current strengths, I hope to foster more ambitious collaboration across the University, Chicago, nationally and internationally. In the coming years, I expect SSA to increasingly become the nexus of interdisciplinary research that catalyzes real world change," he says. "And SSA's unique position within the University and in Chicago presents enormous opportunities to reenergize our community engagement in ways that are synergistic to advancing both research and practices in the field. As one example among many, a growing cadre of SSA's faculty test and develop new evidence based practices and policies—ones that are shown to work under rigorous scientific scrutiny and can be disseminated to make tangible differences in the lives of the vulnerable populations we serve."

Guterman also points to changes underway in the field of social work. "I think we're in the midst of an unmistakable shift in the profession, where we are beginning to work more proactively—or further 'upstream' if you will—to go after the causes of social problems, thereby preventing a downward cascade into more intractable and costly social consequences. It's my hope that SSA will deepen the pivotal role it already plays in marshaling this historic shift forward."