Professor Eric Kingson, a nationally recognized expert on Social Security, joined the School of Social Work last fall.
It's hard to categorize a professor like Eric Kingson. He regards his role as an academic not as a self-fulfilling one, but as one that allows him to contribute to society. He has done so in various waysas a prolific writer, a leading national expert on Social Security, and a teacher who helps students make their own discoveries. Each aspect of his professional life influences and enhances the others. "There has to be an end that you are trying to serve," Kingson says. "Academics have a responsibility to share their work. The information has to get out if it is to be useful. With teaching you make a different kind of contribution to the future of society. That is an incredible responsibility."|
Kingson, who joined SU last fall after 11 years at Boston College, quickly settled into his office, which has a comfortable, homey feel. One student who drops by for a chat is offered a giant pretzel from a jar Kingson keeps next to his computer. Booksincluding several bearing his own nameshare shelf space with photos of family and friends. Kingson proudly displays photos of the children's soccer teams he's coached, saying he envisions himself as a coach in the classroom as well. "Teaching is much like coaching," Kingson says. "You're basically guiding students, helping them reach their own conclusions."
Kingson strives to balance academic pursuits with practical application. He spent years researching the Social Security system, particularly the generational issues that influence its effectiveness. In 1982, he served as an advisor to the National Commission on Social Security Reform and gained a deep appreciation for the legislative system. "I view Social Security in the context of a very big, community-serving institution," he says. "The legislative process certainly isn't perfect, but when it works it can be a vehicle for doing great things."
The commission was formed in response to a government shortfall that could have meant the end of Social Security by 1983. The expert advisors had only a few months to devise a plan to save it. "It was literally that close," Kingson says. "The money wouldn't have been there the following year. Congress wasn't about to let that happen."
In 1995, Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey asked Kingson to return to Washington to serve as a senior policy advisor on his Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform. Although Washington may not seem the most likely place to occasionally find a man who describes himself as a pluralist, Kingson enjoys the policy-making process because it challenges his thinking on issues connected to his research. "I like the idea of people bringing a lot of different ideas to the table," he says. "That's also what I love about teaching."
School of Social Work Dean William Pollard believes Kingson's presence at SU is a recruiting coup. "He teaches an areapolicythat is receiving a great deal of national attention and is of great interest to our students," Pollard says. "He adds greatly to our capacity to become a national school of social work."
While Kingson's work in the legislative arena is impressive, he views it as simply another extension of his academic responsibilities. "It's not like the president is calling me up all the time," Kingson says with a shrug. "I give a presentation in Washington once, maybe twice a year. Lots of people do it."
For now, Kingson is sharing his knowledge primarily with his students. He says the decision to come to SU was an easy one. Having several acquaintances among the SU faculty, Kingson was aware of the University's rising reputation. Within the School of Social Work, Kingson sensed a true commitment to bringing the school to the next level. "This is a very talented group of people," he says. "Research and writing are important to the faculty, but no matter how much the school grows, there will always be a real emphasis on teaching."