New Social Work Dean

Boston College has named Gautam N. Yadama, assistant vice chancellor for international affairs and professor in the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, as dean of the Boston College School of Social Work. 

He will begin in July and succeed Alberto Godenzi, who is retiring as dean after 15 years of service.

Yadama, an internationally respected researcher whose interdisciplinary work has focused on understanding the social and environmental challenges of the rural poor in South Asia and China, has conducted extensive community-based research throughout India, China and Nepal.

Gautam N. Yadama
New BC Social Work Dean Gautam N. Yadama

His research examines the overarching questions of how communities successfully self-govern and collectively provide essential public goods and common-pool resources vital for their livelihoods; how government and non-governmental organizations engage and collaborate with these communities; and how social and ecological interactions influence the sustained implementation of household and community interventions to overcome social dilemmas and improve wellbeing.

A gifted scholar and teacher noted for curricular innovation, he has won Distinguished Faculty Awards from both Washington University and the Brown School of Social Work. Fluent in English, Telugu and Hindi, Yadama has also served as director of international programs at the Brown School of Social Work and as a visiting professor in India, Azerbaijan, Mongolia and the Republic of Georgia.

The author of the recent book Fires, Fuel and the Fate of 3 Billion: The State of the Energy Impoverished, he currently serves as an advisory group member with the Implementation Science Network for the National Institutes of Health, addressing the issue of household air pollution around the world.

In announcing the appointment, Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley praised Yadama as a leader whose reputation for interdisciplinary collaboration in the field of social work will benefit Boston College.

“The search committee and I are confident that Gautam Yadama is the right leader for the School of Social Work,” said Quigley. “His experience in the communities of Cleveland, metro St. Louis and around the globe, his vision for the field of social work, and his imaginative approach to cross-school collaborations all resonated with faculty, staff and students.  I expect that colleagues across campus will quickly come to value Gautam as an important partner.”

Added School of Social Work Professor and Associate Dean for Research David Takeuchi, who served on the search committee, “Professor Yadama has shown the exemplary capacity to anticipate the shifting complexities of political, social and economic problems and to work with people to derive novel solutions to respond to these challenges.  He is a scholar who enjoys getting his hands dirty to enhance the quality of life for people—especially those who may be disadvantaged by their circumstances in life.”    

Fellow search committee member Thomas Chiles, the DeLuca Chair in biology and vice provost for research, praised Yadama as an internationally respected scholar whose research integrates multiple natural and social science disciplines in addressing complex social and environmental challenges.

“Professor Yadama’s research is transdisciplinary in scope, involving global public health, social work and the natural sciences to develop sustainable solutions to improve the social, economic, environmental and health outcomes of vulnerable populations,” said Chiles. “With his leadership, the School of Social Work and Boston College will be positioned to undertake interdisciplinary initiatives across schools and departments to address critical global challenges at the intersection of health, environment, energy and social wellbeing of communities in need.”

Yadama said he was delighted to join Boston College and lead the faculty at the School of Social Work.

“The Boston College School of Social Work is highly visible in the profession for its emphasis on tackling key challenges in social work,” said Yadama. “Its faculty have been significant in shaping the grand challenges for social work and taking on intractable and perennial problems confronting our most vulnerable and disenfranchised. The school is pursuing social work practice rooted in place to generate social innovation, integrate immigrants, explore race and place to provide stable lives for African American children, empower disadvantaged youth, and realize environmental justice in urban spaces.

"When you combine these approaches with initiatives like the school’s Latino Leadership Initiative and Research and Innovation in Social, Economic and Environmental Equity, what you have is the ability to train the next generation of practitioners and scholars to understand and intervene in complex real-world problems, generate social change, and produce systematic evidence to shape cutting-edge social work practice," he said.

Born in India, the son of a United Nations administrator, Yadama came to the United States with his family after high school. He received his bachelor’s degree in management from Wilkes University in Pennsylvania, and master’s and doctoral degree in social policy and planning from Case Western Reserve University.

In addition to his scholarship and research, he is an active member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Public Health Association, the Council on Social Work Education, and the Society for Social Work and Research.   

“As dean of the School of Social Work, I want to be that catalyst to build further and consolidate the innovations in social work and cognate disciplines and extend the school’s ability to collaborate with communities, government, and non-government stakeholders here in the Boston region and select places around the world,” said Yadama. “I want to listen and learn from the staff, students, and faculty on how to build further on the strong foundation they have laid under the leadership of Dean Alberto Godenzi.  This will help consolidate the School of Social Work as a place to be in the vanguard of scholarship, teaching, and practice; where we train the best practitioners, produce the best young scholars in the doctoral program, and attract and retain the best faculty, all in pursuit of lasting and sustained social change and to respond to critical challenges facing our most vulnerable here in the region and abroad.  

“The School of Social Work at BC is placed strategically to advance interdisciplinary work that integrates the various sciences in pursuit of social transformation and positive social, economic, and health outcomes.  I look forward to working with other deans and the Provost’s office to champion such collaborations across the departments and schools at Boston College.”

—Jack Dunn | News & Public Affairs