Lorraine Gutierrez, Ph.D., receives prestigious Richard Lodge Prize at Alumni and Friends Day

by Cecil Harris

Dean Andrew Safyer, Ph.D., with Richard Lodge Prize recipient and University of Michigan Professor Lorraine Gutiérrez

Displaying the perseverance that has elevated her to prominence in the social work profession, University of Michigan Professor Lorraine Gutierrez, Ph.D., gracefully withstood a 20-minute interruption caused by a fire alarm and continued to deliver her impactful keynote address as the 2013 recipient of the Richard Lodge Prize at Alumni and Friends Day on May 3.

Fortunately, the fire alarm was false. The unplanned interlude gave the audience at the Thomas Dixon Lovely Ballroom more time to reflect on Dr. Gutiérrez’s speech, “An Empowerment Perspective on Natural and Unnatural Disasters.” An example of a natural disaster would be Hurricane Sandy; an unnatural disaster would be the fatal shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Dr. Gutiérrez, who regards social work pioneer Jane Addams as a role model, urged the audience of social work educators, social workers and students to become truly engaged with their local communities as opposed to practicing what she called “drive-by helping.” She asked audience members to write down one goal that would improve their empowerment practice. She also implored educators to set the right example for students.

“If you are the type of educator who laments that students are not interested in talking to politicians to lobby on a particular issue and you’re not doing that as a faculty member, then what type of behavior are you modeling?” she asked.

Dr. Gutiérrez also drew a sharp distinction between the way people and institutions react to certain unnatural tragedies, comparing the Sandy Hook shootings to the frequent acts of gun violence across America.

“We tend to be outraged by what happened at Sandy Hook or the Boston Marathon bombings, but not outraged that there are seven gun fatalities affecting children in America every day,” she said. “That is because we don’t see [the daily violence] as readily and it doesn’t happen in the same place. But that doesn’t make the daily violence any less outrageous.”

Dr. Gutiérrez has done pioneering work in the area of empowerment theory and its application to social work. She has a joint appointment with the School of Social Work and Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan and is an associate professor in American culture. She is the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Social Work Education. Her teaching and scholarship focus on multicultural and community organization practice and methods for multicultural education in higher education.

Before presenting the Lodge Prize, Andrew Safyer, Ph.D., dean of the School of Social Work, told the audience, “There are two things I particularly admire about Dr. Gutiérrez: (1) her ability to have very difficult conversations respectfully, and (2) her generosity as a mentor to students, practitioners and colleagues.”

Dr. Gutiérrez’s visit to Adelphi was a homecoming of sorts. From 1978 to 1984, she was a social worker in New York City. As a caseworker in the Bronx, she conducted education and training workshops around domestic violence and developed and managed an emergency shelter program in the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island.

“Dr. Gutiérrez has had such a great impact on the profession and she’s a seminal thinker in the area of empowerment theory and practice, which is core to the work we do as social workers,” Peter Chernack, D.S.W., associate dean of the School of Social Work, said. “It was wonderful to have her here at Adelphi.”

The Lodge Prize is named for the late Richard Lodge, Ph.D., who was a leading social work educator and Adelphi University professor. Dr. Lodge had a distinguished career that included service as executive director of the Council on Social Work Education, dean of the School of Social Work at Virginia Commonwealth University and professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

“I believe Dick Lodge would be pleased to know that this year’s prize was given to Dr. Gutiérrez,” Dean Safyer said.

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