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July 5, 2006 Press Contact: William Harms
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Professorships at University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration to advance research on mental health and major urban problems

In the News:

“Chair Arrangement”
[Chicago Tribune]
July 6, 2006

“Ex-owners of Quartet Manufacturing give $4M to University of Chicago”
[Crains Chicago Business]
July 5, 2006

Tina Rzepnicki
Tina Rzepnicki
Mark Courtney
Mark Courtney

Melissa Roderick
Melissa Roderick
Froma Walsh
Froma Walsh

The study of pressing urban social problems, such as child welfare, public education and community recovery following widespread trauma, will get special attention at the University of Chicago through research done by four current faculty members who have been appointed to named professorships at the University’s School of Social Service Administration.

“Each one is a scholar of great distinction whose work is having significant impact nationally and internationally. They are engaged scholars whose research and teaching actively improves the lives of the vulnerable,” said Dean Jeanne Marsh. “I am thrilled with these appointments. Collectively, they herald the extraordinary caliber of SSA faculty.”

The scholars named to the chairs are Tina Rzepnicki, who will be the first David and Mary Winton Green Professor at SSA; Mark Courtney, who will be SSA’s first McCormick Tribune Professor; Melissa Roderick, who will be the Hermon Dunlap Smith Professor at SSA; and Froma Walsh, who will be the first Mose and Sylvia Firestone Professor at SSA. The appointments were effective July 1.

The David and Mary Winton Green professorship is the result of a new $2 million gift to the school by David and Mary Winton Green made to recognize and support the work of a distinguished clinical faculty member. “Supporting the work of the University is our way to show our gratitude for a rewarding education which is still part of our everyday life and to share the experiences with students today,” said Mary Green, a 1949 graduate and former field instructor for SSA. Her husband David is also a graduate of the University of Chicago, having received an A.B. in Economics in 1942 and an A.M. in Social Sciences in 1949.

“I was fortunate as a student to have such legendary teachers as Helen Harris Perlman, a brilliant woman and a brilliant teacher, and Charlotte Towle, whose rich store of knowledge about our field was so generously shared. It is so important to teach what we know about people and to continuously refine and develop this knowledge and its use in helping. For this reason David and I have chosen to endow this chair in the clinical area of social work education,” Mrs. Green said.

The couple has also made a gift of a named professorship in the Political Science Department.

Tina Rzepnicki, a distinguished scholar of social work practice, will be the first David and Mary Winton Green Professor at SSA. She is director of the Center for Social Work Practice and principal investigator of the Program Practices Investigation Project with the Office of Inspector General of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

Rzepnicki is currently evaluating the impact of task-centered intervention training delivered to more than 60 employees of the Teen Parent Services Network that covers the greater Chicago area. Collaborating with colleagues from the University of Minnesota, the evaluation will measure changes in job performance of direct service staff and their supervisors.

In addition, she recently piloted the application of root cause analysis to errors in decision making in human services, particularly errors that result in severe injury or death of a child. This method was originally developed to examine catastrophic outcomes in high risk situations, such as airline crashes and nuclear accidents, for the contributions of individual behavior, administrative practices and policies, as well as other contextual factors. Rzepnicki believes that root cause analysis offers the best opportunity to uncover multi-level factors contributing to negative outcomes, in this case, child fatalities. It facilitates the examination of case decision errors by emphasizing the identification of faulty organizational processes that might lead to them. “Root cause analysis seems to hold a lot of promise for human services,” she noted, “because solutions that may prevent similar errors in the future also become evident.”

Widely published in the area of child welfare and social work clinical practice, she has co-authored four books and most recently co-edited, with Harold Briggs, the volume Using Evidence for Social Work Practice: Behavioral Perspectives, in which she also authored several chapters.

Mark Courtney, one of the nation’s leading scholars in welfare reform and child welfare services, will be SSA’s first McCormick Tribune Professor.

He has been the director of the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago since 2001, but will be stepping down as leader of the child and family policy research center to return full-time to teaching and research effective September 1. He will remain a faculty associate at Chapin Hall.

A common thread running through Courtney’s past and current work is a concern about how public institutions deliver social services at the community level. In an early pathbreaking book, co-authored with then-Dean of the University of California-Berkeley School of Social Welfare Harry Specht, Unfaithful Angels: How Social Work has Abandoned its Mission, Courtney urged social workers to return to the origins of the profession in the community and to refine their practice in that context. In more recent research, he has focused on the interaction of communities with child welfare work. “In the child welfare system, for example, there is a push to keep kids in the communities they came from,” noted Courtney. “Yet many policies and practices of child welfare and other formal systems rip children out of their communities.”

Courtney’s current work includes a project that uses government administrative data on involvement of Chicago’s low-income population in city and state social service, health, and education systems to help program managers better coordinate services. He is also involved in a longitudinal study in Milwaukee County that is following 1,100 families that applied for public assistance in 1999 and two studies of youth who are leaving the foster care system due to reaching the age of majority. One of the latter studies follows 732 youths in Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin as they “age out” of foster care, through their 21st birthdays. The other study is a federally-funded experimental evaluation of the effectiveness of programs that are intended to prepare foster youth for adulthood.

“I am looking forward to being back full-time at SSA and increasing my involvement with students in the McCormick Tribune program,” he said.

This endowed professorship and one at the Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies are part of a grant from the McCormick Tribune Foundation to create the Program for Urban and Community Leadership. This program was designed to bring students from the Harris School and SSA together to address issues facing urban communities.

“The foundation makes investments in people and institutions that will have a great impact on both the communities in the Chicago region and the country,” said Don Cooke, senior vice president of philanthropy at McCormick Tribune Foundation. “The faculty of this program are helping to prepare our future leaders and we look forward to Mark Courtney’s contributions.”

Melissa Roderick, a prominent scholar on education and co-director at the Consortium on Chicago School Research, will be the Hermon Dunlap Smith Professor at SSA. She is an expert in urban school reform, high-stakes testing, minority adolescent development, and school transitions. At SSA, Professor Roderick is the faculty director of the Community Schools program.

Her work has focused attention on the transition to high school as a critical point in students’ school careers, and on the transition to college among Chicago Public School students. Roderick’s latest work is a joint project between CPS and the Consortium, focusing on the relationship between students’ high school careers and preparation, their college selection choices, and their post-secondary outcomes. The first report from this partnership was released in April, in which she announced findings showing that grades are a more important predictor of college enrollment and graduation than entrance exam scores for graduates of Chicago Public Schools. The Consortium study also found substantial differences across colleges in graduation rates among highly qualified CPS graduates, suggesting that college selection matters a great deal. Roderick is also in the midst of a longitudinal study tracking 105 CPS students who have just graduated high school. The study will continue through two years after high school graduation, and also follows those who did not attend college.

“High schools are supposed to prepare students for the world that follows, but how well do they meet that goal?” asked Roderick. “Our work with CPS will help to build that accountability into the system in Chicago, and could serve as a nationwide model for tracking youth outcomes.”

From 2001 to 2003, Roderick served the administration of CPS as founding director of the Department of Planning and Development.

The Hermon Dunlap Smith Professorship was established in 1976 in honor of Smith, who was chairman of the SSA Visiting Committee at its first meeting in 1955. He was a distinguished civic leader in Chicago, and served as chairman and chief executive officer of Marsh & McLennan.

Froma Walsh, a leading mental health scholar on family resilience and strengths-oriented, community-based family therapy, will be the first Mose and Sylvia Firestone Professor at SSA. A member of the faculty since 1982, Walsh also has an appointment in the Department of Psychiatry, Pritzker School of Medicine, and is co-director of the Chicago Center for Family Health.

Walsh’s scholarly work has focused on the development and application of her research-informed family resilience framework for interventions to strengthen families facing crisis, trauma or loss; disruptive transitions; and prolonged adversity. Her model is used in research, program development and direct practice in many parts of the world. Her most recent work addresses family and community resilience in response to widespread trauma and catastrophic events, including natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, war-related losses, refugee experiences, and terrorist attacks. She will be traveling to Jerusalem on July 11, at the invitation of the United Nations Relief and Work Agency, to provide training for community mental health workers serving children and families suffering severe trauma and loss. “A resilience-oriented approach is valuable in early intervention and prevention of serious, long-lasting post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Walsh.

Her books and articles, hailed as milestones in the clinical literature and widely used as classroom texts, include Strengthening Family Resilience, (2nd ed.); Normal Family Processes: Growing Diversity and Complexity, (3rd ed.); Living beyond Loss: Death in the Family (2nd ed.); Spiritual Resources in Family Therapy; and Women in Families. Professor Walsh has received many honors for her distinguished contributions to theory, research and practice, including awards by the American Psychological Association’s Division of Family Psychology, the American Association for Marriage and the Family, and the American Family Therapy Academy (of which she is a past president).

Dr. Mose Firestone, a 1943 graduate of the School of Social Service Administration, is a nationally respected leader in social work and widely credited as a pioneer in psychiatric social work. He was among the earliest proponents within the military in identifying and treating what is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder in combat veterans. Firestone and his wife Sylvia, who also spent her career as a professional social worker, live in Beverly Hills, California. The Mose and Sylvia Firestone Professorship was established in 1995.

About SSA: The School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago is a professional school offering master’s and doctoral degrees in social work. Founded in 1908, SSA is one of a handful of institutions that helped create and define the profession of social work and the field of social welfare. It remains a leader today; SSA is routinely ranked among the top social work schools in the nation.

For more information on the McCormick Tribune Foundation, please visit
Last modified at 09:20 PM CST on Thursday, July 06, 2006.

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