He has a department to run, a longitudinal study on non-violent conflict resolution to oversee, and he faces the task of moving halfway across the world, along with his wife and 10-year-old daughter, and finding a home in the Boston area.
But Godenzi, who was appointed GSSW dean earlier this month, is nonetheless eagerly anticipating the start of his administration next April. During a recent telephone interview from the University of Fribourg in his native Switzerland, where he chairs the Department of Social Work and Social Policy, Godenzi discussed his decision to come to GSSW and shared his impressions of the school and the Boston College community.
The word "community," Godenzi says, aptly describes the most outstanding characteristic he has observed at BC during his campus visits, and inspires in him great confidence.
"I wasn't looking for a job; I have been happy here," said Godenzi. "But from what I knew about Boston College and GSSW, when the opportunity arose I felt, 'This is ideal.'
"The conversations I've had here reinforced that feeling," he continued. "Sometimes it's only rhetoric to say there is a 'sense of community,' but I truly sensed it here. I saw colleagues who truly care for one another, who want to help one another to do a good job."
Godenzi saw other attractions, notably a school whose faculty are ranked 10th nationally in publication productivity, and one whose academic and spiritual mission is consonant with his own experiences.
"There are some important commonalties between Fribourg and BC, such as the Catholic vision and the value each institution places on combining research with teaching," he said. "In my department, we have tried to bring an international focus to our work, and I know this, too, is something to which BC and GSSW have devoted great attention."
In addition to his work as department chairman, Godenzi has served as a professor of social research at Fribourg and as an associate scholar of social psychology at the University of Zurich. He has also taught in the Sociology Department at the University of New Hampshire and in the Department of Child and Juvenile Psychology at the University of Bern in Switzerland. Since 1995, he has served as an international research associate for the UNH Family Research Laboratory.
"Alberto Godenzi brings to Boston College high energy, a breadth of experience and a clear commitment to the mission of the Graduate School of Social Work," said University President William P. Leahy, SJ. "He possesses a strong international background and outlook, as well as a desire to enhance our outreach to Boston's neighborhoods."
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael Smyer, who chaired the GSSW dean search committee, offered a similar assessment.
"Alberto Godenzi is an international leader in the field of social work who has the personal experience and expertise to lead the GSSW in the next phase of its development," said Smyer, the University's associate vice president for research. "His international activities and experience is a particular strength, as well as his understanding of the complexities of practice and the business and policy context that shape the field of social work."
Godenzi's interest in international and cross-cultural initiatives is reflected in his long-term study on the use of non-violent conflict resolution to ease family problems. The project involves assessing the effectiveness of conflict resolution training given to 800 parents, who receive home visits from social workers. It is an approach that Massachusetts helped to pioneer, Godenzi notes, and his observations of its application in Greater Boston helped to shape his own efforts.
"Obviously, the United States and Switzerland have different cultures and, therefore, face some different social challenges," he said. "But there are some issues, such as AIDS or immigration, which greatly concern both countries. I do know, however, that I will have a lot to learn, and I feel confident that I will benefit from my colleagues' experience at GSSW."
Godenzi holds a graduate degree in psychology and sociology and a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Zurich.
-Director of Public Affairs Jack Dunn contributed to this story.
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