Associate dean Jonathan Schwartz said his counseling psychology work focuses on prevention because “it’s a moral imperative to prevent suffering before it happens.”
Posted October 4, 2017 – Jonathan Schwartz, an associate dean at the University of Houston College of Education, has won a national lifetime achievement award for his work to prevent bullying, intimate violence and other troubling behaviors.
“There’s a lot of empirical evidence that prevention works. And it’s economically smarter,” said Schwartz, who has been researching prevention for 15 years. “How can you morally not do it? It’s a moral imperative to prevent suffering before it happens.”
Schwartz was honored in August with the Lifetime Achievement Award in Prevention from the Prevention Section of the American Psychological Association’s Society of Counseling Psychology.
“I have known Dr. Schwartz more than fifteen years and have found him – from our first meeting to the present – to be an exceptional person with excellent scholarly skills and abilities,” Arthur Horne, dean emeritus of the University of Georgia College of Education, wrote in his award nomination letter.
Horne added that Schwartz combined his research expertise with “a genuine caring and supportive approach to working with students, colleagues and communities.”
Frederick Lopez, professor emeritus at the UH College of Education, also was honored this month at the APA’s national convention in Washington, D.C. Lopez won the Lifetime Achievement in Mentoring Award from APA’s Society of Counseling Psychology.
Schwartz previously chaired APA’s Prevention Section (Division 17) and has written three books focused on prevention; they addressed bullying, violence and fundamentals of the field.
He also helped write APA’s first-ever guidelines about prevention, emphasizing the importance of early intervention rather than only treatment after the fact. The guidelines earned approval in 2013.
The concept of prevention can be “a hard sell,” Schwartz said. “It’s easier to say you’re treating a problem that’s already occurred.”
For example, he said, think about the Affordable Care Act. Some people are reluctant to fund preventative medicine or efforts to prevent behaviors that may not manifest.
Schwartz’s interest in prevention began when he was a graduate student at New Mexico State University. To help pay for college, he worked with domestic violence offenders who were court ordered into counseling treatment. About 90 percent of the men, Schwartz said, were abused as children or witnessed their fathers abusing their mothers.
“It really taught me the importance of early intervention,” he said.
His research into bullying stems from seeing that domestic violence offenders often started as schoolyard bullies. “How,” he asks, “do we prevent them from getting to that point?”
Once a detached high school student, Schwartz began to connect with the field of psychology while earning his associate’s degree. Although he donned headphones to class, his psychology professor reached out, asking about the music and taking an interest.
“Sometimes,” Schwartz said, “that’s all it takes.”
Schwartz earned a bachelor’s in psychology from the University of Buffalo, plus a master’s in counseling and a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from New Mexico State University.
He worked at the UH College of Education from 2005 through 2009 before serving as a department chair and associate dean of research at New Mexico State University. He returned here in 2014 to oversee graduate studies.
Most recently, Schwartz serves as co-founder and co-director of UH’s Advancing Community Engagement and Service (ACES) Institute. Approved in 2016 and housed at the College of Education, the institute provides support and resources to promote service, or experiential, learning opportunities for students and community partnerships. The inaugural work involves neighboring schools in Third Ward.
“Dr. Schwartz is a most deserving recipient of this national award,” said UH College of Education Dean Robert McPherson, a fellow of APA and past president of the Texas and Houston Psychological Associations. “As evident from his leadership of the Third Ward schools initiative, his field-based, prevention intervention research is having a positive impact on the community.”
–By Ericka Mellon