Laura Lein, dean of the School of Social Work at the University, has announced she will step down from her position at the end of the upcoming academic year.

In an e-mail to Social Work students on Monday, Lawrence Root, a Social Work professor and chair of the search committee to find a new dean, informed students that the search for a new dean is underway. He encouraged students to contribute to the search by filling out a survey that was created to help the administration determine what qualities students look for in their dean.

Root said the search committee has already held events for faculty, master students, doctoral students and staff over the last two and a half weeks to start crafting criteria for the new dean.

“We’ve held what we call town meetings, basically unstructured meetings, to get ideas about what people think about the directions for the school, and the kind of things we will be looking for in a dean,” Root said.

Dean Lein worked at the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin for 24 years before she was hired as Dean of the School of Social Work at the University in 2009.

In an interview with the Daily, Lein said she decided to step down as dean due to family issues.

“It was a hard decision to make,” said Lein. “I call it bittersweet, and I decided it was probably time for me to transition, primarily because we’ve had a series of family issues, and I felt like I was going to be starting to split some of my time and attention in the next three or four years in ways that weren’t going to work very well, and would defuse my focus a little bit, so I really was looking to go while things felt really strong to me.”

After taking a year leave from the University during the 2016-2017 school year, Lein said she would like to return to the School of Social Work to continue research in her specific field of expertise.

“I’d like to continue working in my own area, which is looking at families in poverty, often in extreme poverty, and what it means to live in poverty in the United States and particularly how that relates to the social policies, welfare policies, economic policies of our time,” Lein said.

Lein’s work at the University has greatly impacted the School of Social Work. During her time as dean, Lein introduced Learning Communities, or groups of both faculty and students researching unique areas of social work, such as child welfare and global social work. Lein also saw the introduction of the undergraduate Community Action Social Change Minor during her time as dean.

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