Our diverse leadership team represents an array of backgrounds, life experiences and perspectives coupled with a lifelong passion for serving our region’s most vulnerable populations. Within this environment, the leadership team works to advance our research, educational and service mission, as well as bolster our School’s standing within the UW academic community and among our social work peers.  


Michael S. Spencer, Professor and Ballmer Endowed Dean in Social Work

The first Native Hawaiian dean at the UW, Spencer was appointed to this leadership position on July 1, 2023. He recently served as director of Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Oceanic Affairs at the Indigenous Wellness Research Institute, a School of Social Work-based research center. He is a presidential term professor and co-chair for Close the Health Gap and Eliminate Racism initiatives as part of the Grand Challenges for Social Work.


Paula Nurius, Associate Dean for Transdisciplinary Scholarship

Grace Beals-Ferguson Scholar and Professor Paula Nurius, associate dean for transdisciplinary scholarship, brings a history of national leadership roles—currently she is on the board of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare—in addition to interdisciplinary training and collaboration building. Her research focuses on the processes and effects that stress and trauma have on vulnerable and socially disadvantaged populations. She is considered one of social work’s top 25 female scholars based on her scholarship impact.

Val Kalei Kanuha, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

Teaching professor and associate dean for academic affairs, Kalei Kanuha has worked as a community-based researcher and consultant with organizations in Hawaiʻi and the continental U.S. for the last 45 years. She lectures widely on violence against women and social justice issues. Her research and community interests include the use of indigenous, culturally-based interventions for family and domestic violence; intimate violence in women's same-sex and queer relationships; and innovations in alternative, community-based justice. Kanuha also serves as the assistant dean for diversity, equity and inclusion.


Ben de Haan, Associate Dean for Social Service Innovation & Partnerships

For more than 30 years, Ben de Haan has been bringing together leaders and policymakers in academia, child welfare, justice systems and related fields to make changes and improve the lives of vulnerable children, adults and families. He was the founding director of the School’s Partners for Our Children before assuming the position of associate dean for social service innovation and partnerships.

Rona L. Levy, Associate Dean for Research

Professor Rona Levy’s work has brought a behavioral medicine and social work perspective to the medical field by exploring psychosocial aspects of health, especially in areas of chronic pain, intergenerational transmission of illness behavior, childhood and adult obesity prevention and treatment, and behavioral medicine. As associate dean for research she supports all phases of research activities for members of the School’s community.

David Takeuchi, Associate Dean for Faculty Excellence

A sociologist with postdoctoral experience in epidemiology and health services research, David Takeuchi has written extensively on issues related to the unequal distribution of health and illness in society. As associate dean for faculty excellence, he works to identify ways for faculty, researchers and doctoral students to establish new research programs, enhance career trajectories and uncover new scholarship opportunities.


Margaret Spearmon, Director for Community Engagement

Margaret Spearmon provides leadership that deepens the School’s commitment to community, particularly around such innovative efforts as the Washington State Behavioral Health Workforce Development Initiative and the Othello-UW Commons, a community collaboration space in Southeast Seattle. In 2019, she received the prestigious UW David Thorud Leadership Award for her commitment to diversity and inclusionary leadership and for her track record of creativity and innovation.


Vicki Anderson-Ellis, Assistant Dean of Finance & Administration

Vicki Anderson-Ellis has managed the School’s financial health for more than 12 years with oversight of a $77 million annual budget. She has a demonstrated history of working in higher education and managing a wide range of budgetary and administrative challenges from student aid and building improvements to research funding and federal training grants. 


Julie Sun, Assistant Dean for Advancement

As assistant dean for advancement, Julie Sun works with donors and alumni to ensure that the next generation of social work leaders and practitioners has the means to sustain and advance the School’s legacy of innovation, advocacy and impact.