Sarah Gehlert will step in as the new dean of USC’s Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, according to a memorandum that was sent to the USC community by Provost Charles Zukoski Tuesday. Her position will be effective April 15.
Zukoski stated in the letter that he is confident in the future of the school under Gehlert’s leadership. “She is the right person at the right time to lead the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work to new heights,” he wrote.
The appointment of Gehlert comes after Marilyn Flynn, the former dean of the school, stepped down in 2018. She faced allegations regarding a $100,000 gift to the school by Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Flynn then transferred the donation back to a campaign fund run by the original donor, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The school of social work has also been scrutinized for the admission of less qualified students into its online programs. The LA Times reported in June 2019 that the admissions were an effort by the university to raise money against the school’s existing deficit.
Gehlert, who most recently worked as the dean of the college of social work at the University of South Carolina, has focused her efforts in the medical development of communities in need. Gehlert has held appointments at other universities including the Washington University in St. Louis and University of Chicago.
Her appointment was decided by a dean search committee co-headed by Executive Vice Provost Elizabeth Graddy and Pinchas Cohen, the dean of Davis School of Gerontology, according to the letter.
“We expect her to call on her extensive experience to deepen the school’s mission of teaching and research focused on the most vulnerable in our society, to provide leadership in community engagement and to achieve cross-disciplinary academic distinction,” Zukoski wrote.