Dean Allan Cole announced the appointment of Joan Asseff to serve as the next Assistant Dean for Master’s Programs at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work. Joan will assume this position in late summer 2024 following the retirement of Sarah Swords.

“I’ve had the privilege to work with Dean Swords since 2014 and she has had a marked influence on the way I think about aging and social work,” said Dean Cole. “I will miss her passionate and consistent approach to bettering students and her commitment to excellence, and I will remain thankful for all the contributions she has made during her time with us in the Steve Hicks School. Announcing Joan’s new appointment now allows Joan and Sarah to work collaboratively and at a pace conducive to a seamless transition in leadership.”

Dean Cole described Dean Swords as playing “an indispensable role at our School” and within the SHS community since 2010 when she first joined the SHS faculty, teaching practice and field courses. Her work elevated the standing of SHS master’s program quickly after she took on the appointment of assistant dean in September 2017, and her work as co-chair of the School’s reaffirmation of accreditation with the Council on Social Work Education was described by Dean Cole as being “instrumental in solidifying our academic credentials.”

Joan, a graduate of SHS (MSSW ’06), has been a full-time faculty member at SHS since 2017 and currently serves as a clinical associate professor. Her work co-directing the Gerontology Resources and the Aging Community in Education (GRACE) Program (along with Dean Swords) has helped improve the lives of older adults, their care partners, and social work students. Because of her many contributions, hard work with the St. David’s Foundation, and collaboration with faculty colleagues, our School has increased the number and quality of social workers serving older adults and their care partners.

Joan’s work with the St. David’s Foundation was also a basis for her helping launch and lead the Earl Maxwell Scholars Program, which allows approximately 10 MSSW students each year to complete practicums in agencies with no social worker on staff. Each Maxwell Scholar receives a $10,000 fellowship, and the funding from St. David’s also supports a full-time clinical faculty member who resources and educates students in these practicum settings.

Previously, Joan created an innovative pilot program aimed at eviction prevention with Main Street Renewal (MSR), where she supervised practicum students and conducted formative program evaluation to determine effective eviction prevention strategies for persons with low incomes renting single-family homes. The success of this program resulted in MSR hiring social workers to expand the program and services our students, with Joan, provided.

Joan has held leadership positions in gerontology, healthcare, housing stability, financial empowerment, program development, interdisciplinary collaborations, and mental health. She was a Director of Social Services for two extensive skilled nursing facilities in the Austin area. Joan is a licensed clinical social worker, a board-approved supervisor for the state of Texas, and a Health Interprofessional Education Fellow with UT’s Center for Health Interprofessional Education (CHIPE).

“Joan brings an exemplary record in social work practice, education, and leadership to her new role,” Cole continued. “Working closely with Associate Dean Rebecca Gomez and the Academic Affairs team, I am confident that her experience and penchant for innovation will serve our students and our School well as we build on the many strengths of our MSSW program. I look forward to her service in this new role, which will help advance our mission.”