The School of Counseling and Social Service faculty member who retires this year explains his passion for social change.
By Amy DerBedrosian
When Dr. Edward S. Beck sees a need in his profession, his community, or the world, he acts. The faculty member in the School of Counseling and Social Service, who retires this August after six years at Walden, helped form the American Mental Health Counselors Association and was its seventh president. Concerned about the Middle East narrative on college campuses, he founded Scholars for Peace in the Middle East in 2002 and served as its president until 2009. In 2011, Beck became honorary vice president of ZAKA, an international humanitarian search and rescue organization based in Israel.
WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO LEAD AND PROMOTE CHANGE?
I come from a long line of healers and physicians. There’s a Hebrew phrase, “tikkun olam”—repair the world. That’s my code. It’s deeply ingrained in me—as a counselor, professor, community leader, and an agent for social change.
HOW HAVE YOU MADE AN IMPACT IN MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELING?
I was part of the group that established the field of mental health counseling. It didn’t exist as a distinct profession before 1976. I co-authored the original training standards that Walden’s program uses today.
WHY DID YOU START SCHOLARS FOR PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST?
The goal was to establish a network of faculty members willing to discuss issues civilly with a solutions-oriented process. Being a person who likes to bring people together, I started a listserv to get other scholars to share. The network grew to 100,000 faculty members around the world and included 50 Nobel Laureates and college presidents. This is an example of what one person can do when you put your mind to it.
WHAT CAN ALUMNI LEARN FROM THIS EXPERIENCE?
Surround yourself with like-minded people. It’s hard to do it alone. Make sure your cause is righteous, that it’s genuinely useful and helpful. I used my leadership, networking, and administrative skills to help everyone feel they owned the idea. As the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu says, “A leader leads best when people say they did it themselves.”
WHAT SUCCESSES DID YOU EXPERIENCE WITH SCHOLARS FOR PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST?
We’ve been most effective in bringing attention to the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement. We engaged, educated, and empowered faculty to stand up against the boycotts of Israeli universities. With Walden students, I don’t get into politics, but I draw from my experiences and talk about how to overcome obstacles.
WHAT LED YOU TO GET INVOLVED WITH ZAKA?
ZAKA is doing incredible work that transcends politics and is a service to humanity, especially their efforts to assist with disaster wherever it may be. I agreed to participate and get others involved in supporting this work. Coming from a family of helpers, how could I say no?