Marilyn Ghezzi has received the University’s prestigious 2017 Distinguished Teaching Award for Post Baccalaureate Instruction. A clinical assistant professor in the School of Social Work, Ghezzi is among four faculty members at UNC to be honored with the award, which was created to recognize the important role of post-baccalaureate teaching.
She also becomes the sixth faculty member from the School to receive the award since it was established in 1995. (See a list of all previous award winners.) She and other current award winners will be formally recognized during a half-time ceremony on Jan. 31, at the UNC-Pitt men’s basketball game in the Dean E. Smith Center. Each winner will receive a one-time stipend of $5,000 and a framed citation.
“I’m thrilled, and I’m really honored to be among those people from the School of Social Work who have won in years past,” Ghezzi said. “I’m also really proud to represent our clinical faculty because they all do such amazing work.”
Ghezzi started as an adjunct instructor at the School in 2002 after serving as a clinical social worker at a mental health center for more than 20 years. She joined the faculty in 2008 as a clinical instructor and field advisor with the School’s Field Education office. Currently, she teaches master’s-level courses about mental health practice, including differential diagnosis, group therapy, and brief treatment.
Her teaching philosophy is strongly influenced by her years as a practitioner, she said.
“I am very passionate about the role of relationship as a crucial factor in helping clients, supervisees, and students,” Ghezzi said. “In addition to learning all the necessary content in my courses, I want my students to attend to the process of building relationships with clients as well as to become aware of how those relationships are impacted by their own personality, history, and culture. I also want my students to become critical thinkers and life-long learners.”
Over the years, students have frequently recognized Ghezzi’s work in the classroom, voting twice for her as “Most Outstanding Faculty Member” and tapping her for the “Most Supportive Faculty Member” award. She also regularly receives glowing evaluations from students, who often laud Ghezzi’s clinical knowledge and supportive and engaging teaching style, which involve a variety of mediums to help students learn, including lectures, role-plays, videos and experiential activities.
“She models what it means to be a great social worker, psychotherapist, and human being,” one student praised.
Since joining the School, Ghezzi has received the School of Social Work Dean’s Award for Teaching Excellence eight times, including each of the last four years.
“Her lectures are rich with stories from the field and her teaching and guidance are authentic and relevant to students who will soon enter the workforce and engage with their own clients,” praised Dean Gary L. Bowen. “This real-world experience, combined with a solid knowledge of theory and practice and a gift for inspiring confidence and promoting positive change are what make Marilyn an exceptional teacher. In addition, she is an untiring advocate for students and for her profession. She is an asset to our School and to our University.”
Moreover, Ghezzi has worked in many ways to improve the School, as well as the professions of social work and of teaching. She has served as a chair or member of numerous committees at the School in the areas of curriculum, strategic planning, and distance education. She has also served as faculty advisor for the Student Health Action Coalition, a free health clinic run entirely by UNC students.
In the community, she volunteers for board service and has held leadership positions on the boards of Mental Health America of the Triangle and the N.C. Chapter of International Association for Social Work with Groups.
But her heart, she said, remains in the classroom, where Ghezzi said she is fortunate to encounter “fantastic students” every year.
“Teaching has become a cherished second career for me,” she said. “I feel so blessed to have had this amazing first career as a practitioner and to then find that I love teaching as much as I loved clinical work is just really, really exciting.”