Scholar and administrator Beth Wahler has been named the next director of the School of Social Work. Wahler joins UNC Charlotte from Indiana University, where she served as associate dean for Academic Affairs and was on faculty in the School of Social Work since 2012.
Wahler has taught across the social work curriculum in practice, policy, theory and research. In her previous role, she oversaw the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral social work programs across seven campuses affiliated with Indiana University. She collaborated with directors and administrators to ensure the quality and consistency of academic programs and access to resources for nearly 1,800 students across the state. Wahler said she saw the position with UNC Charlotte as a great opportunity.
“I was attracted to the warm, friendly, collegial faculty and staff, passionate students, the high-quality and innovative research already taking place as well as the many new opportunities for interdisciplinary and community-engaged research, the emphasis on supporting student success and the School of Social Work’s focus on social justice and equity.”
Wahler’s main research interests involve social work education, the impact of poverty and other factors associated with social disadvantage on the development and perpetuation of mental health and substance abuse problems and interventions for improving the health and well-being of people living in poverty. Currently, she is focusing on helping public libraries address the psychosocial needs of their patrons, including conducting needs assessments with individual library systems, identifying strategies for improving their capacity to respond to patron needs and piloting social work practicum units or other social work collaborations. She has presented on these topics at conferences across the country.
“Dr. Wahler stood out among a roster of exemplary candidates,” said Catrine Tudor-Locke, dean of the College of Health and Human Services. “She is a proven, capable administrator and a poised and clear communicator. She also has a strong track record in community engagement.”
Wahler partnered with a large community mental health provider in central Indiana to develop and lead the Behavioral Health Academy at Indiana University, which prepares students for practice with mental health, substance use and co-occurring disorders and to become dually licensed as both a licensed clinical social worker and licensed clinical addiction counselor.
Prior to earning a doctorate, Wahler worked as a practitioner and supervisor for more than 14 years. Her practice experience was primarily with individuals living in poverty attempting to overcome substance use disorders, mental health problems, learning disabilities and intimate partner violence victimization.
In advancing her leadership abilities, Wahler has attended the Harvard Institutes for Higher Education Management Development Program and the Future Leaders Program of the National Association of Deans and Directors of Schools of Social Work.
She said her short-term goal is to get to know the faculty, staff and students and collaboratively develop strategic priorities.
“I'm thrilled about the opportunities to support and potentially expand the School of Social Work’s academic offerings while also managing growth in a measured and healthy way, building relationships with community partners, supporting faculty teaching and research and student success and working with donors to meet the needs of the school and our students.”
Wahler completed a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Evansville and a master's and doctorate in social work from the University of Kentucky.
Professor Diana Rowan will serve as interim director of the School of Social Work following the departure of current director Schnavia Hatcher at the end of June. Wahler will begin her tenure Sept. 1.