Q&A with Patrick Dattalo
Patrick Dattalo, Ph.D. is a tenured Professor at the School of Social Work and has been part of the School’s community since 1980. He holds both a Ph.D. and Master’s degree from VCU in Public Administration and Social Work, and teaches courses in research methods, quantitative analysis, statistics and macro practice at B.S.W., M.S.W. and Ph.D. levels within the School. He began his career as a child protective services worker in a local department of social services. He has written about advanced research methods, quantitative analysis, antipoverty policy and public social services. He enjoys hiking, camping and finding antique glassware on his time off. He cares deeply for the School and its community, and has devoted much of his life to the School’s mission.
How did you get into social work?
I earned a B.S. in Psychology and was looking for related employment. One of the local departments of social services was offering a civil service exam and I did pretty well on it. I got hired and started out in child protective services. I liked it for a while, but then I found it incredibly stressful and at times frustrating. Some families had very difficult problems, and I didn’t feel like I had the tools to help them. Five or six years later I applied to the Master’s program here at VCU. I earned my Master’s degree, and after a few years, I decided to get my Ph.D., got a tenure track position in ‘93 and, well, here I am.
What would you consider your area of expertise?
I have [previously] written about antipoverty policy, child welfare and the problems of homeless people. I suppose now most people at school would think of me as a methodologist and statistician. I teach research courses at the undergraduate and doctorate levels. I also serve as a consultant to faculty and doctoral students. Right now, most of my writing centers around intermediate and advanced research methods.
What drew you to that field?
I’ve always enjoyed math. I’m fascinated by the simplicity and elegance of math. I think social work needs to accumulate knowledge in a formal, deliberate and empirical way. I enjoy helping people answer their research questions in a quantitative way.
Does your research inform your teaching?
Yes. Most of what I think and write about often relates to conversations I’ve had with students, hopefully making me a better teacher in terms of having a broader understanding of current approaches, and maybe even helping to innovate a little. Much of my teaching and research are really tied very closely, as is my service.
What do you do in your free time?
My wife and I love state and national parks, and we like to hike and camp. We’ve been to state and national parks around the country. We’re also interested in glassware from the 40s, 50s and 60s. I like to read and watch baseball.
Is there anything you want to talk about that we didn’t get to?
I really, really have been enjoying my time at the school; I have no plans to leave. I think it’s one of the most important institutions in Virginia. An enormous number of people who do good things are in one way or another connected to the school, so I’m proud to have spent more than half of my life working here.Categories Faculty and staff