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School of Social Work Dean: Richard Gelles

Richard Gelles

Dr. Richard J. Gelles, an internationally known expert in domestic violence and child welfare and the Joanne T. and Raymond B. Welsh Professor of Child Welfare and Family Violence at the School of Social Work, has been named dean of the School, President Judith Rodin announced on Friday. Dr. Gelles has been serving as interim dean since September 2001 ( Almanac September 11, 2001).

"Rich Gelles is a distinguished scholar and researcher whose superb academic judgment and leadership skills make him the best possible person to lead the School of Social Work as it continues to build its community and its world-class faculty," said President Rodin. "His role as interim dean during this past year has enabled the school to continue to grow and prosper and we are absolutely delighted that he has accepted this new post."

Dr. Gelles came to Penn in 1998 from the University of Rhode Island where he had taught since 1973. He is the author of the highly influential book, The Violent Home, which was the first systematic investigation to provide empirical data on domestic violence. His more recent books, The Book of David: How Preserving Families Can Cost Children's Lives and Intimate Violence in Families, Third Edition, have also made a significant impact in the study of child welfare and family violence. He is the author or co-author of 23 books and more than 100 articles, chapters and papers.

"Rich Gelles's reputation as a researcher and public policy maker and his strong track record in university administration make him uniquely qualified to lead the School of Social Work," Provost Robert Barchi said. "He has a strong vision for the future of social work research and practice and a keen understanding of the important role academic institutions can play in developing public policy," Dr. Barchi said.

In 1997, Dr. Gelles helped draft the federal Adoption and Safe Families Act, and he has testified before Congress on many occasions. He was appointed to the Kinship Care Advisory Panel of the Administration for Children, Youth and Families in 1998. Dr. Gelles was the 1999 recipient of the Award for Career Achievement in Research from the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children. He was a recipient of the SSW Teaching Award in 1999 (Almanac May 16, 2000).

Currently, he is engaged in two research projects in Florida. He is examining how the transfer of authority for child abuse and neglect cases from child welfare agencies to county sheriffs is having an impact on the outcomes of those cases. He is also developing a template to determine which factors should be considered at each stage.

Dr. Gelles serves as Director of the Center for the Study of Youth Policy and as co-director of the Center for Children's Policy, Practice and Research. Dr. Gelles was director of the Family Violence Research Program at the University of Rhode Island, where he also served as department chair, 1978-82, and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, 1984-90.

He received his bachelor's degree from Bates College in 1968 and an M.A. in sociology from the University of Rochester in 1970. He holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of New Hampshire, 1973.

The School of Social Work, one of the nation's oldest schools of social work, offers a curriculum that integrates the development of practice skills with research, the study of specific social problems and social policies, theories and methods of social change, knowledge about human relationships, and individual and societal responses to institutional racism, sexism, and ageism. Students learn about research on welfare to work initiatives, faith-based services, and other ground-breaking faculty research.

The School also offers a doctoral degree in social welfare. The interdisciplinary doctoral program focuses on research and social policy. The School is home to four research centers: The Center for the Study of Youth Policy, the Center for Children's Policy, Practice and Research, the Social Work Mental Health Research Center and the Center for Intervention and Practice Research.


  Almanac, Vol. 49, No. 22, February 18, 2003