SHS Community, 

I am pleased to share news that President Hartzell will recommend to the Board of Regents that the following colleagues be promoted, effective August 16, 2024:

Carmen Valdez, Ph.D., promotion to full professor

Kasey Claborn, Ph.D., promotion to associate professor, with tenure

Starla Simmons, LCSW-S, promotion to clinical associate professor

Deborah Cohen, Ph.D., MSW promotion to research associate professor 

Dr. Carmen Valdez, who serves a joint appointment as associate professor in the Department of Population Health in Dell Medical School, is the chief of Dell Med’s Division of Community Engagement and Health Equity. She is also the faculty director of the Community-Driven Initiatives Program, where she supports local residents to tackle issues affecting health in their community.  She has co-led community and academic coalitions that leverage social capital, community experience, and university research and resources to address health equity for minoritized and marginalized populations. She has a special research interest in understanding family stability and stress in the context of social policy, where she examines the role of immigration and health policy, neighborhood, and family factors on immigrant personal and family health, as well as developing community-based, family-focused interventions for Latino immigrant families.

Dr. Kasey Claborn is the Director for the Addiction Research Institute and serves as Co-Director for the Southwest Addiction Technology Transfer Center. Dr. Claborn has been the Principal Investigator for several projects funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the Health Resources and Services Administration, to which she has received more than $14 million dollars in external funding for her research. Dr. Claborn’s research focuses on improving the addiction system of care through community based participatory research methods and system science. She also is one of the developers of TxCOPE, an innovative and award-winning digital platform that improves data collection and inform real-time overdose community response efforts in Texas.

Prof. Starla Simmons serves as the Director of the Earl Maxwell Scholar Program at SHS, and brought with her more than a decade of experience as a school social worker before joining our school full time in 2018. She has worked as the liaison and coordinator for Austin ISD’s School Mental Health Centers, providing consultation and operational support for school-based therapy services at 19 middle and high schools, and is a skilled and experienced facilitator. She has also served as Interim Executive Director for Black Mamas ATX, and as Board Chair for Mama Sana Vibrant Woman.

Dr. Deborah Cohen is a mental health services researcher and policy expert who serves as an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Dell Medical School and as a research assistant professor in the Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health. Prior to her work at The University of Texas at Austin, she served as a community mental health administrator and clinician for over 10 years. Cohen’s research focuses on understanding and reforming community mental health system policies, programs, and practices. Her work centers on the transition to adulthood and reforming disability policy to ensure that older youth and young adult mental health needs are met.

I am grateful to work among such talented and committed colleagues who engage in such meaningful research and vibrant teaching to advance human flourishing. I have learned a great deal from each of them and they each make our school stronger.

Now please, join me in congratulating our colleagues for their well-deserved promotions. 

Warmest regards,

Allan Cole
Dean, Steve Hicks School of Social Work