5 questions with… retiring Faculty Conciliation and Mediation Program Counselor Wallace ”Wally” Gingerich

GingerichIn 2010, Wallace “Wally” Gingerich retired as a professor of social work at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences. Although “retired,” Gingerich didn’t stop serving Case Western Reserve University. He continued teaching as an adjunct professor, while also spearheading the Faculty Conciliation and Mediation Program.

On July 1, Gingerich will retire from his role as Faculty Conciliation and Mediation Program counselor. And this time, Gingerich plans to take full advantage of his newfound free time.

“Professional work will be finished at the end of the month,” he said, “and I plan on doing ‘other’ things—most likely traveling.”

Next winter, Gingerich plans to ride his motorcycle on a two-month trip to the tip of South America as part of an ongoing quest to travel the corners of the globe. (He’s already reached the eastern-most and western-most tips of North America).

“My decision to retire from mediation was to be able to do these types of trips,” he said.

In more than 24 years of service to Case Western Reserve, Gingerich’s presence has been felt at all corners of campus. He’s served as: professor at the Mandel School; interim dean of the school; twice as associate dean for Academic Affairs; founding director of the Office of Educational Assessment; and his last position, Faculty Conciliation and Mediation Program counselor.

His work—whether teaching, research or mediation—has affected countless members of the faculty, staff and student body, as well as the surrounding community.

Gingerich’s commitment to helping others stems from his Mennonite upbringing. A native of southeast Iowa, he grew up in a close-knit community built on core Mennonite values, such as service and pacifism.

These selfless values stuck with him throughout his schooling, as he chose to study social work, earning a PhD from Washington University in St. Louis. After graduating, he became an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UM-W).

In Milwaukee, he was part of a group that developed solution-focused brief therapy—a goal-directed approach to psychotherapeutic change that’s featured in major textbooks and practiced worldwide.

After 15 years at UM-W, Gingerich joined the Case Western Reserve faculty.

“I came to CWRU because the Mandel School had a great reputation, excellent faculty and was known as a leader in social work education,” he said.

During his career at the Mandel School, much of Gingerich’s research focused on educational outcomes in social work education. He co-led a task force that identified the abilities students should develop during their masters social work program, which then became the benchmarks for measuring educational success. Instead of focusing on what students knew, the group emphasized what students could do in their work with clients and how students demonstrated their abilities in the field.

“This way of assessing educational outcomes brought about a change in how we think about education and design courses,” Gingerich said. “Consequently, students get a better educational experience that will continue to have a positive impact on them as they enter practice.”

Gingerich’s research and teaching have helped thousands of aspiring social workers who have come through the Mandel School. His leadership built on the school’s reputation as being rated among the nation’s best.

His passion for service and teaching extends to his role as counselor for the Faculty Conciliation and Mediation Program, where Gingerich provided an alternative to the university’s grievance process. Rather than being adversarial, mediation is a voluntary process that focuses on communication between dissenting parties.

“I think of it more as conflict coaching,” Gingerich said. “I help people identify what they need to be successful and help them come to a joint resolution.”

Gingerich’s progressive mindset and dedication to improving what he considered ineffective approaches has made him an invaluable problem-solver on campus. His efforts are appreciated by those who sought his guidance and by his successor, Professor Emeritus of Law Wilbur Leatherberry.

“Case Western Reserve is a really fine institution with fine people from top to bottom,” Gingerich said. “My time at CWRU has been a wonderful phase of my career.The graduates from the Mandel School have a personal investment in the mission of the school. I really couldn’t ask for more.”

Read more about Gingerich in this week’s five questions.

1. Who do you consider your greatest role model?

I have a few, one being my grandfather Amos. For me, he represented the traditions and core values of Mennonite culture. He was a man ahead of his time. Steve de Shazer—a psychotherapist and developer of solution-based brief therapy—was a model for helping people find solutions. He was brilliant. Also, my PhD professor Walter Hudson was a role model of mine because he was always accessible to his students. He was a warm human being who understood the value of developing meaningful relationships with his students .

2. How do you keep up with the news?

I check the CNN website multiple times a day on my smartphone. Also, I get the newspaper a few times a week.

3. What is the most challenging class you’ve ever taken?

Introduction to Fine Arts with Mary Oyer at Goshen College. I think of it as the most important class, in addition to being one of the most challenging. At the time, I didn’t know anything about art. The class was totally new to me, and I worked hard for my B. The study of art taught me a lot and opened up a new world to me.

4. What do you consider the best invention of all time?

The printing press. It was instrumental in the spread of knowledge to ordinary folks. Education is very important, and it wouldn’t have happened to the extent it has without the printing press.

5. What is your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?

My favorite thing about Case Western Reserve is the people. There is a sense of community here, and the people here love this institution and it matters to them. This university is an outstanding center of learning and discovery, and I can’t think of anything more important in our world today.