Transition at the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work

Tommy Trojan

July 19, 2022

Dear Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work Community,

We write today to share with you that Sarah Gehlert has informed us of her decision to end her tenure as Dean of the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, effective August 1, 2022.

Please join us in thanking her for guiding the School over the past two years. Dean Gehlert came to USC just as the COVID-19 pandemic started and her steady leadership through the grave challenges of that time helped Social Work reestablish forward momentum. She arrived shortly after the school had faced a series of challenges, including a significant budget deficit. Our Social Work community is well-positioned for future growth founded on a commitment to excellence in teaching, research, and practice.

During Dean Gehlert’s tenure, she pushed for school progress through restructuring programs, with a specific focus on lowering student debt. Her tenure has been further characterized by support and advancement for researchers and faculty, who have garnered prestigious awards and grants.

The strategy she has overseen has fostered the development of the Integrative Social Work program, a lower-credit, lower-cost MSW to train skilled practitioners with invaluable field experience and much less of a debt burden. This positions the School as a leader in social work education.

Our Social Work community benefited from Dean Gehlert’s decades of experience and national network, which she constantly deployed in connection with alumni and employers to position our students for the best post-education career outcomes. Her leadership and participation in national task forces and significant conferences ensured that USC’s Social Work community has and will continue to have a voice in shaping responses to key issues facing our nation. Under her leadership, the School became the primary sponsor of the Trojan Guardian Scholars and instituted a 13-person Community Advisory Board made up of leaders of community-based organizations.

Dean Gehlert plans to return to the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis where she is a professor emeritus. Please join us in expressing gratitude for the vital work Sarah has done for the School and our university community, and in wishing her and her spouse, Roy Wilson, the best in their future.

We will soon begin a search for our new dean and we will follow up with details on that process. In the meantime, Vassilios Papadopoulos, Dean of the USC School of Pharmacy, will serve as interim dean of the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. Dean Papadopoulos, a noted scientist, will bring his expertise as a trusted and innovative leader to the School. We thank him for this service to the university.

We believe the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work has an extraordinary future. The field is dynamic and growing, and its practitioners are in demand. Social work’s positive impact on society is evidenced not just through health outcomes but through advocacy roles, research, education, and on-the-ground work toward social justice.

Social work is an integral part of the education landscape in the university of the future, and we look forward to supporting the success of Social Work students, faculty, and staff. Dean Papadopoulos shares these views and will work with us to advance the School.


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

Steven D. Shapiro, Senior Vice President for Health Affairs

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