Michael Berzonsky ’63

Michael Berzonsky

Michael Berzonsky ’63 of Homer, N.Y., is the seventh SUNY Cortland faculty member to receive the State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities.

His social-cognitive theoretical model of identity has been widely studied and tested and has fostered its own impressive body of research among other scholars in the field. International colleagues universally recognize his scientific rigor, keen vision, wisdom, and magnanimity. Some have called Berzonsky “one of the five most productive identity researchers of his generation.”

The author of three books, Berzonsky has researched and written twenty book chapters, more than sixty articles published in a wide array of refereed journals, and assorted essays and reviews. He has served on many editorial boards, functioned as an active reviewer and consultant, and has won several research grants. His research agenda is often collaborative, including both faculty colleagues and students.

Early in his forty-year career, Berzonsky built on his training in educational psychology with an emphasis on human development. He focused his research on cognitive development in children and adolescents, which led to his examination of the role of cognitive processes in the formation of individuals’ sense of identity. In the 1980s, he formulated a social-cognitive theoretical model of identity oriented around a cognitive structure that shapes the social-cognitive processes used by individuals to either tackle or avoid the tasks of constructing, maintaining, or reconstructing one’s sense of identity. In the last twenty years, Berzonsky has turned his theory to the explication of identity processing styles.

“One of Berzonsky’s most important contributions to the literature is the concept of identity processing styles,” wrote Harold Grotevant, Distinguished University Teaching Professor of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota. “Berzonsky insightfully saw the need to identify and investigate the social cognitive processes underlying identity development.”

Berzonsky’s 1981 book, Adolescent Development (Macmillan), is a widely respected text incorporating this key foundational subject in psychology. He also authored a separate, accompanying instructor’s manual, also published by Macmillan. In 2003, he coedited the Blackwell Handbook on Adolescence. His scholarly writing has appeared in such mainstream journals as Developmental Psychology, Child Development, Human Development, and Journal of Family Psychology as well as more specialized journals in adolescence, personality, and international journals.

His presentations attract scholars from around the world. He has served, or currently serves, on several editorial boards, including the Journal of Adolescent Research. He has been a reviewer and consultant for more than twenty journals in the several fields of his expertise.

A native of Phillipsburg, Pa., now living in Homer, N.Y., Berzonsky has a B.A. in psychology from IUP and an M.S. in educational research from Bucknell University. He earned a Ph.D. in applied psychology from the University of Toronto. He joined the Cortland faculty in 1971 as an assistant professor, was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 1973, and to full professor in 1982.

[from SUNY press release — May 2008]