Dean Edleson Envisions Global Leadership Role for School, CalSWEC

Who: Jeffrey Edleson, A.B., School of Social Welfare, University of California, Berkeley; M.S.S.W., School of Social Work, University of Wisconsin—Madison; Ph.D., School of Social Work, University of Wisconsin—Madison.
Currently: Dean and Professor, School of Social Welfare, University of California, Berkeley; Professor Emeritus, School of Social Work, University of Minnesota; Founding Director, Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse.

More about Dean Edleson: Learn more about Dean Edleson, his publications, and his current projects. Read UC Berkeley’s News Center interview with him and the announcement of his appointment.

CalWEC News: After 29 years at the University of Minnesota, what was your motivation for returning to UC Berkeley, your undergraduate alma mater?
Dean Edleson: I have been a professor for over 30 years and have enjoyed the privileged role of being able to pursue my passion in research and teaching. I’ve twice served as the chair of a doctoral program and for the past five years served as the Director of Research for Minnesota’s School of Social Work. I would have been quite comfortable continuing that work worldwide but felt it was the time in my life to look beyond my area of research and help the next generation of scholars and social workers take leadership through these turbulent times.

When I looked around at where I could have the most impact in a leadership role I, of course, felt that Berkeley was a key place to do so. It has long been one of the leading public schools of social work in our profession, is located in what is frequently ranked as the top public university in the world, and represented an opportunity for me to come home.

Berkeley Social Welfare has an important role to play in California, in the nation, and in the world. I will work hard over the next decade to see that Berkeley is not just an excellent school but one that leads our profession and our national and global thinking on issues of social welfare.

CN: As one of the world's leading authorities on children exposed to domestic violence, tell us what is behind your interest in this area.
Dean Edleson: I began my career as a school social worker who was trained in groupwork and cognitive-behavior methods. I studied first under Eileen Gambrill here at Berkeley and then came under the tutelage of Sheldon Rose at the University of Wisconsin, where I earned my M.S.S.W. and Ph.D. Both Eileen and Sheldon were early pioneers in evidence-informed practice. I have had a lifelong interest in practicing from the best available evidence. My dissertation focused on testing the effectiveness of school-based social skill training for children having difficulty in their peer relations.

In the late 1970s I was invited to co-lead a group for men who batter. It was led by Daniel Saunders, who was one of the early pioneers in this work and is now a professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work. I walked into that first group of men and realized that some of these men were “bullies grown up,” that these were the adult versions of some of the children I had worked with in the schools. For over a decade I co-led groups for men who batter and both wrote about and studied the impact of these group interventions for violent husbands and partners, most of that time working closely with the Domestic Abuse Project, a non-profit agency in Minneapolis.

My work with the Domestic Abuse Project led me back to evaluating the impact of groups for children exposed to domestic violence. This combined my interests as a school social worker with my equally strong interest in helping men who batter change. I saw my return to a focus on children as a way of preventing these children from growing up to be abusive or abused in later intimate relationships.

CN: You were the Director of Research in The University of Minnesota’s School of Social Work. How do you plan to apply this experience to CalSWEC and UC Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare?
Dean Edleson: 
Berkeley Social Welfare has a mission to be a thought-leader in our field. CalSWEC reflects that mission through a number of its initiatives, for example, the recently held Aging Summit. CalSWEC and the BASSC [Bay Area Social Services Consortium] are unique collaboratives that bring together regional and state leaders to improve the development of the social work workforce in child welfare, mental health, and hopefully in the future both aging and integrated health care.

I’ve worked extensively on local, state, and national initiatives as well as in a number of other countries. I founded a research and training center in Minnesota and know what it takes to develop an agenda that will have a national and international impact. I will bring this experience to my role as part of CalSWEC.

CN: As the principal investigator for CalSWEC, what do you envision for its future?
Dean Edleson:
CalSWEC has strong programming and a long history of statewide and national collaboration. It has a responsibility, as part of Berkeley Social Welfare, to go beyond this and become the global leader in training and information on the development of our workforce. We necessarily focus on California, but we should be a model for the rest of the country and provide the latest information to our entire profession on how to effectively develop our workforce. My hope is that CalSWEC grows fully into this promise of being a global leader in workforce training and research for the social work profession. Fulfilling this promise will require new strategic investments in staffing and program.