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Dr. Maeda Galinsky retires after 50 years

Professor Maeda Galinsky has been a scholar, researcher, teacher and mentor. She can now add one more title to the list: Retiree.

Galinsky, who has been referred to as the “grand dame of the School of Social Work,” officially announced her retirement this year after 50 years of service. A pioneer scholar for her work with groups and on intervention research, Galinsky is the School’s longest serving faculty member.

“When you look through the history of social work with groups… the impact that she’s had over the last half century has been considerable,” praised Dean Jack M. Richman, who has worked with Galinsky for 32 years. “It’s just amazing. She is an absolute gem.”

Friends, family, and colleagues agree and many gathered at the School of Social Work in early June to celebrate Galinsky’s historic career and her lasting influence on the field.

“At a time when academia has become much more about self-promotion, Maeda has talked about what’s important to students and how do we really prepare good social work practitioners and researchers,” said Professor Kathleen Rounds, who recalled meeting Galinsky 29 years ago during a job interview with the School. “Her contribution to making this School a strong and supportive community has been huge.”

Galinsky, 80, began her social work career in the 1950s, though her passion for helping others developed much earlier, she explained in an interview several years ago. “I’ve had a rebellious streak since I was little,” said Galinsky, who grew up in College Point, N.Y. “I would always talk to the person in trouble — someone whom you weren’t supposed to talk to.”

Her professional path began to take shape as an undergrad majoring in social relations at Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Mass. While there, she served as a volunteer and then director of a program that enabled student volunteers to work with the mentally ill in a psychiatric hospital. From that experience, Galinsky said she knew she had to pursue social work. She went on to receive her MSW and Ph.D. at the University of Michigan, where she also taught for a year.

Then, in 1965, her husband David was offered a position with UNC’s Department of Psychology. Soon after, Galinsky was hired as an assistant professor at UNC’s School of Social Work. She couldn’t imagine spending her life doing anything else, she told those gathered for her retirement party in June.

“I am grateful that I found social work as a career,” she said. “It has given me a deep satisfaction and a richness in my life. It has provided a feeling of connectedness to many people and to many issues that are important in the lives of all of us. It has sustained me not only because of what I have gotten to do but also because of the people with whom I have been involved—clients, students, mentors, colleagues.”

Galinsky’s influence on the field, especially on social work theory and practice with groups, is still felt today, her colleagues praised. Although she was trained as a researcher and practitioner, when she first arrived at UNC, Galinsky found a School that was much more focused on teaching the functional model of social work to students, including building relationships, casework, and working within agency requirements. Moreover, research was practically nonexistent; there was no structure in place to develop it or funding to support it.

But Galinsky and her then colleague, Janice Schopler, were undeterred and quickly began to pursue various pilot studies, most of which they paid for out of their own pockets. Over the following decades, their work and publishing flourished, as did Galinsky’s reputation for being a critical thinker who embraces every opportunity “to argue about things and wrestle with ideas.”

“Maeda has an artistic and intellectual effervescence that’s constantly engaging and stimulating, always perspicacious and self-effacing,” said Tate Distinguished Professor Mark Fraser, who has co-authored and co-edited numerous journal articles, journals, book chapters, books and other presentations with Galinsky. “(She has) been both the heart and the head of so many of our research projects.”

Galinsky’s colleagues—many of whom were her students—also recalled the scholar’s compassion and genuine interest in others. Her youthful spirit and wry sense of humor remain infectious, and her advocacy for others, especially students, still influences their own teaching today, some said.

“Maeda is the kind of faculty member who gets to know her students,” said Marilyn Ghezzi, a clinical assistant professor and former student of Galinsky’s. “She knows you as a person. She was a true mentor—my cheerleader, my champion for my career. But the thing that I really took away (from her) and strive with my own students, is to really know them as people, and then I tailor the academic work to what those students really care about.”

For the last several years, as the School celebrated it’s 90th anniversary and as of this year, it’s 95th, Galinsky has assured students, faculty and staff that she will continue to be a presence at Tate-Turner-Kuralt. After all, she still maintains an office in the building and remains eager to publish and edit.

“So as many of you who know me are probably wondering, ‘Is she really leaving?’” Galinsky playfully teased those attending her retirement party. “The truth is – it’s not quite goodbye.”
Farewells are difficult, especially when she has loved working for so long for such a “remarkable place,” Galinsky added.

“It has been the right place for me in terms of my career and in terms of people—the incredible staff, students and colleagues—all of whom have enriched my intellectual, professional and personal being,” she said. “This place has allowed me to be a thinker and a doer, a teacher and a learner, a loner and a groupie. The School has provided me with resources and encouragement and support and love.”

On June 3, School of Social Work colleagues, family and friends gathered in the School’s 5th floor lounge to honor Galinsky.