Dean Search for the
USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work

From the Office of the Provost

Introducing Sarah Gehlert as Dean of the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work

Message to USC Community

From: Charles F. Zukoski, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

On behalf of President Folt, I am delighted to announce that Dr. Sarah Gehlert will be joining our community as the dean of the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, effective April 15.

Dr. Gehlert is coming to us from the University of South Carolina where she is Dean of the College of Social Work and University of South Carolina Educational Foundation Distinguished Professor. Among her many senior leadership roles across her field, she is the President of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare and serves on the Steering Committee of the Grand Challenges for Social Work initiative.

She is also the E. Desmond Lee Professor of Racial and Ethnic Diversity Emerita at Washington University in St. Louis. While there, Dr. Gehlert was the co-Program Leader of the Prevention and Control Program of the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center, co-Director of the Transdisciplinary Center on Energetics and Cancer (TREC), and Training Program Director of the Program for the Elimination of Cancer Disparities (PECaD).

Before that, she was the Helen Ross Professor and deputy dean in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. She is co-author of Handbook of Health Social Work, the foremost textbook on health social work. She served on the Board of Scientific Counselors of the National Human Genome Research Institute at NIH.

Dr. Gehlert’s vast scholarship includes a particular focus on the health of at-risk populations. She has deeply examined how social, environmental, neighborhood, and community factors influence biology to affect health outcomes.

Reflecting the impact of her research and leadership across disciplines, Dr. Gehlert has served in particularly notable joint appointments. She was also Professor of Surgery while at Washington University in St. Louis, and she held joint appointments in Comparative Human Development and at the Institute for Mind and Biology at the University of Chicago.

She is the right person at the right time to lead the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work to new heights. We expect her to call on her extensive experience to deepen the school’s mission of teaching and research focused on the most vulnerable in our society, to provide leadership in community engagement, and to achieve cross-disciplinary academic distinction. The School has led the way in facilitating real-world experience for USC students and modeling how we as a community can nurture our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Dr. Gehlert will reaffirm and deepen our work in these areas.

I want to thank Dr. Suzanne Wenzel for her leadership and dedication to the faculty and staff as interim dean. We sincerely appreciate her commitment to the School, which I know will continue as she returns to her faculty position.

I also thank the Dean Search Committee, co-chaired by Executive Vice Provost Elizabeth Graddy and Pinchas Cohen, Dean of the Davis School of Gerontology. They helped identify senior leaders from across the field who would be appropriate for this opportunity. To all the faculty, staff, and students who participated in our open forums, and to everyone who provided President Folt and I direct feedback on our candidates: I thank you for your commitment to your School and for helping us find Dr. Gehlert. Together, we will continue to promote the excellence of the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.

In addition, I am deeply grateful to Suzanne Dworak-Peck who served as a special advisor throughout the search process and has been a strong partner with the School.

Please join me in welcoming Dr. Gehlert and her spouse, Dr. Roy Wilson, a community psychiatrist and Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, to the Trojan Family.

Cc: Carol L. Folt
Academic Senate
Academic Deans
President’s Cabinet
Provost’s Cabinet

About the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work

The mission of the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work is to promote social justice and well-being at every social level through advanced education, community engagement, interdisciplinary scientific activity, advocacy, and professional leadership.

The school advances its mission through its four academic departments, each of which reflects all of the components of the school’s rich learning environment, with opportunities for value-driven education, student and faculty scholarship, and opportunities for alumni to engage in lifelong learning. Faculty engage in empirical research, innovation and community service, engage our students in scholarly projects, and produce publications, conferences and presentations that focus on needs of vulnerable individuals and communities facing complex challenges in diverse environments.

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