Pranab Chatterjee retired June 30 as a professor, bringing to a close the longest tenure of a faculty member in the history of the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University. The Grace Longwell Coyle professor of social work, Chatterjee enjoyed a distinguished career in the 41 years since being recruited by former dean Herman Stein in 1967.
Chatterjee was appointed as Coyle Professor in 2006.
"I am proud to have continued Grace Coyle's tradition of integrating case work and group work," Chatterjee said. Chatterjee is a champion of group work within communities, advocating its importance in an age where one-to-one casework has become a more dominant tradition within the field of social work.
Despite retirement, Chatterjee will maintain a presence at Case Western Reserve. He will be teaching a class on organizational behavior at the Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations in the fall and will continue mentoring doctoral students.
"Dean Stein brought me here from Chicago to cover a particular area of social work, namely human behavior in social environments," Chatterjee said.
In 1975, he published a monograph entitled Local Leadership in Black Communities that examined leadership styles in African-American communities in Cleveland.
"That was the first of several accomplishments here at Case Western Reserve of which I'm most proud," Chatterjee said.
He points to the recently published second edition of his book, Contemporary Human Behavior Theory (Allyn & Bacon, 2005) as the fulfillment of his mission at the school. The book was co-written with Susan P. Robbins of the University of Houston and Edward R. Canda of the University of Kansas.
Another of Chatterjee's accomplishments has been his effort to move social policy from a disciplinary view in social work to a multidisciplinary approach. He has written two books on the subject, Approaches to the Welfare State (NASW Press, 1996) and Repackaging the Welfare State (NASW Press, 2000).
Chatterjee also points with pride to a series of publications through the National Association of Social Workers that looks at technology transfer from a socioeconomic viewpoint.
"Seen from a limited perspective, tech transfer boils down to what patents are developed by engineers and scientists and can be sold to businesses," said Chatterjee. "Seen from a larger perspective, though, technology transfer has implications for both the culture of origin as well as the culture of destination."
"For example, birth control works here in the U.S. where a high value is placed on the education of women," he said. "But birth control will fail in a country where women are illiterate and often look to their husbands for direction and instruction."
As to changes in social work that Chatterjee has seen over the course of his career, he points to the growing domination of one-to-one work between social worker s and their clients. The erosion of community-based work is something that bothers him.
"I see social work turning into a therapist tradition of working with single clients in 50-minute billable hours," Chatterjee said. "I don't share in this tradition. I believe you need to go out into the neighborhoods, the street corners, bars and bowling alleys and build relationships with entire communities."
Chatterjee acknowledges that the new one-on-one tradition is creating jobs, but it's skewing the role of social work to serving the middle class instead of the poor.
He also continues to work on his next book examining social development. Using Eastern India as a model, Chatterjee plans another year of field work and writing before the book is published.
Beyond his academic pursuits, Chatterjee is a poet, gardener and accomplished sailor.
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