The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has selected Gary L. Bowen as the new dean for the UNC School of Social Work. Bowen, who has been with UNC since 1985, is currently Kenan Distinguished Professor in the School. The University appointment, effective Sept. 1, was approved by the University’s Board of Trustees.
“Gary Bowen is a longtime faculty member, who along with former Dean John B. Turner, worked to develop the school’s doctoral program from 1988-92. Over the years, that program has grown and is now one of the reasons the school is nationally recognized and consistently earns a top ranking in U.S. News and World Report,” said Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost James W. Dean Jr. in an announcement about Bowen’s appointment. “Chancellor Carol L. Folt and I are confident that under his leadership, the school will continue to develop innovative research that enhances social work practice and education.”
Bowen will succeed Jack M. Richman, who has served as dean for 14 years and will return to the classroom. Richman arrived in Chapel Hill in 1983 and was named dean in 2002. During his tenure, he has overseen the School of Social Work’s growth in research, teaching and service, helping to elevate the graduate program to one of the nation’s best. Richman said he believes Bowen will take the school to “new heights.”
“I have had the privilege of working closely with Gary on several very successful externally funded research projects and as a colleague for over 30 years,” Richman said. “I am confident Gary has the vision and skills to elevate the school to the next level in terms of social work education and scholarship.”
At Carolina, Bowen co-directs the School Success Profile project, an assessment tool used to design support services for middle and high school students. The tool helps to determine the strength of connections students have with neighbors, the school, their family and peer groups and determines services and supports needed to increase the probability of the students’ success at school. The assessment tool has been used with more than 100,000 students in nearly 1,500 schools around the nation and has been translated into five languages for use in other countries.
Over the course of his career, Bowen has worked extensively with all branches of the U.S. military across a range of mental health and social services issues. He consults regularly with military policymakers, researchers and practitioners. His work includes a 1999 landmark study on community life in the U.S. Air Force, which examined how formal and informal supports play a role in achieving work and family balance. He was co-editor of a book published in 2015 that focused on how military families across a range of countries deal with war, balancing mission demands with family demands and the role support services play in helping families succeed.
“I am honored to serve the school, and I find inspiration from the three leaders whose names are on the building: John A. Tate, Jr., John B. Turner and Charles Kuralt,” Bowen said. “I am confident that we can continue to find solutions to the challenges of poverty, mental illness, violence and substance abuse and prepare social workers to make a difference, not only in our state but around the nation and the world.”
Active in many professional associations, Bowen is a Fellow in the National Council on Family Relations; he has also served as the organization’s president. He is also a Fellow in the Society for Social Work and Research, and he was identified as one of 40 “high impact” social work scholars in a recent study published in the journal Research on Social Work Practice. Since 2004, Bowen has received the Dean’s Recognition of Teaching Excellence six times. The award recognizes faculty members whose student teaching evaluation scores consistently remain among the highest of the faculty. He serves as a member of the distinguished Research Council for America’s Promise.
In 2016, he was honored with three awards in the School of Social Work: Excellence in Doctoral Student Mentoring Award, based on nominations from fellow faculty members and students; the Distinguished Alumni Award and the Dean’s Recognition Award for Outstanding Leadership, Impact and Contribution to the Mission of Teaching, Research and Service.