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University announces new dean of the School of Social Welfare

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

LAWRENCE — The School of Social Welfare at the University of Kansas will have a new leader beginning this summer.

Paul Smokowski, Distinguished Foundation Professor in Child and Adolescent Resilience in the Arizona State University School of Social Work, will become dean of the School of Social Welfare starting July 1.

Smokowski succeeds Mary Ellen Kondrat, who served as dean of the social welfare school for eight years before retiring in June 2014. Tom McDonald, professor and associate dean for research, has served as interim dean and will continue in that role until July 1.

“We are thrilled to have a leader of Paul’s caliber to lead our School of Social Welfare,” said Jeffrey S. Vitter, provost and executive vice chancellor. “Paul brings a tremendous interdisciplinary background in social welfare, child development and public health, which will benefit our School of Social Welfare in its mission to educate students, conduct scholarly inquiry and provide leadership in formulating social policy and developing service delivery strategies and systems. The school made extraordinary progress during Mary Ellen Kondrat’s tenure as dean, and Tom McDonald has done an excellent job in the interim role. We look forward to Paul taking the school to greater heights in the coming years.”

In addition to his role at Arizona State University, Smokowski serves as director of the North Carolina Academic Center for Excellence in Youth Violence Prevention and as a research professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Smokowski’s research teams have received more than $10 million in federal funding from the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health. He has published more than 75 articles and book chapters on issues related to risk, resilience, acculturation, adolescent mental health, family stress and youth violence prevention. Smokowski’s full CV is available here.

“I am delighted to join KU’s strong and innovative faculty,” Smokowski said. “It is a great honor to provide leadership for a school so rich in history, tradition and scholastic rigor. KU’s School of Social Welfare has long been a leader in developing the strengths-based approach to service provision for vulnerable members of society in Kansas, the Midwest and across the United States. KU’s social welfare faculty are regarded with the highest respect nationally and internationally for addressing the most complex social problems of our time. As dean, I look forward to continuing to deepen the school’s commitment to engaged scholarship, fashioning effective programs and policies that can be widely disseminated.”

Smokowski has dual bachelor's degrees in psychology and theater arts from the State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY). He received his master's degree in social work from SUNY-Buffalo and his doctorate in social welfare from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Under Kondrat’s leadership, the social welfare school doubled and diversified its external funding for research, created a competency-based curriculum, increased program accessibility by initiating the first master’s program at KU taught partially online, expanded the MSW program to western Kansas with programs in Hays and Garden City, and tripled the number of students able to participate in the school’s study abroad offerings.

“Faculty in the School of Social Welfare are clearly among the leaders on campus in bringing KU’s Bold Aspirations strategic plan to fruition,” Smokowski said. “We will build on past successes by continuing to energize undergraduate education using multiple delivery formats. We will mentor graduate trainees who will provide critical leadership in social service provision, policy development and social science research into the future. Finally, expanding engaged scholarship will help guide communities across the nation in selecting, implementing and evaluating the most effective programs for vulnerable consumers during a time of increasing accountability and shrinking resources. These activities are well under way and place KU’s School of Social Welfare among the best in the nation.”

A search committee, chaired by Rick Ginsberg, dean of the School of Education, led the nationwide search for the new dean.

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