“My experience in a liberal arts major laid an important and continuing foundation for my thinking long into my professional career.”
By Paige Sullivan
When Jeffrey Edleson began his undergraduate career at the University of California, Berkeley, in the early 1970s, he was drawn to the social welfare program because of its interdisciplinary offerings, unaware that it would come to define his career. “[It allowed] me to take courses across the University in psychology, anthropology, sociology, and social welfare,” he said.
Now, over forty years later, Edleson has been selected from a nationwide search to return to Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare as dean. Edleson, a 1974 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Berkeley, looks forward to going back to the University.
“I am humbled and honored to return to my undergraduate alma mater to lead the very professional school and work in the same building I studied in during the early 1970s,” he said. “When I graduated from Berkeley I had no idea I would become a professor and certainly no notion that I would someday be invited to return to head up the School of Social Welfare.”
In the time between receiving his bachelor’s degree from Berkeley and taking on this new position, Edleson has dedicated his professional career to social welfare and social justice, specializing in domestic violence and the maltreatment of women and children. He is considered a leading authority in this area and for the past twenty-nine years has served as a professor at the University of Minnesota’s School of Social Work.
Edleson often speaks nationally and internationally and has published 12 books and over 120 articles on domestic violence, groupwork, and program evaluation, including Effective Intervention in Domestic Violence and Child Maltreatment Cases: Guidelines for Policy and Practice (National Council of Juvenile & Family Court Judges, 1999), of which he is the co-author. A fellow of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, Edleson was recently appointed to the National Institute of Justice’s Scientific Review Panel on Family Violence and Violence Against Women.
He found his calling in this realm of social justice through the guidance of undergraduate and graduate mentors who got him involved with adolescent groups, then intervention groups for men who batter. “I’ve devoted the past thirty years to this work of ending men’s violence against women and children,” he said. “It is hard work at times – the stories of these families’ lives are difficult to hear – but at the same time it is very satisfying to feel you are making change not only in this country, but in many others as well.”
In regards to the liberal arts and sciences education he received as an undergraduate, Edleson feels this had an important impact on his career. One class, “Literature of Utopia,” stood out in particular. “I still think of many of the concepts we discussed in that class when I think about social policy formulation in our country today,” he said. “So my experience in a liberal arts major laid an important and continuing foundation for my thinking long into my professional career.”
Graduating Phi Beta Kappa is also something Edleson continues to value. “Being a Phi Beta Kappa graduate has always been a mark of excellence on my resume,” he said. “It is something I have always highlighted in my biography and a distinction of which I am quite proud.”
Though his professorial experience has familiarized Edleson with many of the tasks required of him as dean, he is looking forward to the opportunities that come with this new role. “I am ready to support a new generation of scholars to develop their own research passions and become the leading scholars of their generation,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to this next phase of my career and am thankful that I’ve been given the opportunity to serve my colleagues and my profession in this way.”
Paige Sullivan is a senior at Agnes Scott College majoring in English and psychology. Agnes Scott is home to the Beta of Georgia chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.