UW News

March 20, 2023

Michael Spencer selected as next dean of the School of Social Work

UW News

University of Washington Provost Mark Richards announced that Michael S. Spencer has been appointed the Ballmer Endowed Dean of the School of Social Work beginning July 1, pending approval by the UW Board of Regents.

Spencer, who has been serving as interim dean since Jan. 1, succeeds Edwina Uehara, who has served as dean for 17 years and will return to the faculty.

Richards highlighted Spencer’s ongoing commitment to the school’s support of justice and equity to achieve lasting and meaningful change.

head shot of a man

Michael S. SpencerUniversity of Washington

“The UW School of Social Work plays a critical — and growing — role in supporting the behavioral health and human services workforce in our state. President Ana Mari Cauce and I are grateful to Dean Uehara for her outstanding leadership, and we are confident that Dr. Spencer will propel this work forward in a collaborative and thoughtful manner,” Richards said. “We look forward to his leadership and vision, especially in the areas of inclusion and social justice.”

Spencer joined the School of Social Work faculty in 2018 where he was associate dean of academic affairs and Presidential Term Professor as well as the director of Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander and Oceania Affairs at the Indigenous Wellness Research Institute.

“I am extremely grateful for the confidence and support from Provost Richards and President Cauce, and the faculty and staff at the School of Social Work,” Spencer said. “I will work tirelessly to build upon the legacy of Dean Uehara and to promote the values of social justice and anti-oppressive social work practice through innovation and impact.”

Spencer, a Native Hawaiian or Kānaka Maoli, has focused his research, teaching and service on health equity, including physical and mental health, access to services, the role of racism and discrimination, and culturally centered, community-based, participatory research. His current research examines the added benefit of integrating Native Hawaiian healers into primary care. He also works with colleagues at the University of Hawai’i to promote food security and well-being through the use of backyard aquaponics systems among Native Hawaiians.

Before joining the UW, Spencer was professor and associate dean at the University of Michigan School of Social Work. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, a master’s in social work from the University of Texas, Austin, and a doctorate in social welfare from the University of Washington. He did a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan in the National Institute of Mental Health’s Center on Poverty, Risk and Mental Health.