The son of immigrant parents from Argentina and Nicaragua, Dr. Sergio Rizzo Fontanesi was born and raised in San Francisco and moved to Los Angeles for graduate school, completing a joint MSW and PhD in Social Welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. While at UCLA, his areas of study and research were nonprofit evaluation, faith-based social services, and the broad intersections between culture, spirituality, and mental health care. After earning his doctorate, he joined the faculty at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, where he continues to teach graduate courses.
He also worked for four years at the UCLA Luskin Social Justice Research Partnership, overseeing a robust research and evaluation portfolio of nonprofit, philanthropic, and public agencies across Los Angeles County. While in this position, he served as Project Director of a two-year program evaluation of Beit T’Shuvah (BTS); the start of his deep love for, and commitment to, the organization. It was during this time that he learned a transformative lesson: “step out of your role and into your soul”, and in the process, he discovered a place of belonging, passion, and purpose.
In early 2018, he was part of a BTS Strategic Planning Committee created to address program continuity and succession planning; later that year he was appointed Director of Clinical Services. An inquisitive and skeptical spirit, it is in this position that Sergio has finally arrived home.