Faculty image Paula Allen-Meares Dean Emerita of Social Work Professor Emerita of Social Work and Education


Paula Allen-Meares currently serves as Chancellor of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), Vice President of the University of Illinois, and John Corbally Presidential Professor.  She assumed the duties of Chancellor in January 2009, after signing a contract with UIC in June 2008, and she holds appointments at both UIC and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) in the Departments of Educational Psychology, the School of Public Health, and the Schools of Social Work.

Chancellor Allen-Meares received her BS degree from the University at Buffalo, the State University of New York, in 1969, and her M.S.W. and PhD degrees from UIUC in 1971 and 1975 respectively.  She went on to earn the Management Institute Certificate from Harvard University, completed the Executive Development Center’s Senior Administrator Seminar at UIUC’s College of Commerce and Business Administration, and received the Management of Managers Certificate from the University of Michigan’s School of Business Administration.  In November 2013, she received the Executive Education Certificate from the Women’s Director of Development Program in Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.  In 2004, she was honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University at Buffalo, and in 2012, the University at Buffalo awarded her an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters.

From 1971-78 Allen-Meares was a social worker in the Urbana Public Schools, and from 1978-93 she served as a faculty member at UIUC, where she rose through the ranks to become Dean of the School of Social work in 1989.  She joined the University of Michigan faculty in 1993 as Professor and Dean of the School of Social Work.  She was appointed Norma Radin Collegiate Professor of Social Work in 2000, Professor of Education in 2003, and remained Dean of the School of Social Work until June 2008.  During her tenure at U-M, Allen-Meares was a founding dean of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWG), the Detroit Center; chair of the University Health Sciences Council; a founding member of the National Center for Institutional Diversity; and served on the University of Michigan Health Systems Clinical Council for 10 years.  She worked closely with the State of Michigan on collaborative projects, training, and research; completed two major fundraising campaigns for the School; and won several major grants and an RO1 from the National Center on Poverty, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, the Skillman Foundation, and the National Institute of Mental Health.  The School of Social Work’s endowment grew from less than $1M in 1993 to $42.3M in 2008, and its externally funded interdisciplinary research awards exceeded $100M.  When she retired from active faculty status, the Regents of the University of Michigan named Allen-Meares Professor Emerita of Social Work, Professor Emerita of Education, and Dean Emerita.

Professor Allen-Meares' research interests include the tasks and functions of social workers employed in educational settings; mental health issues among vulnerable and low-income communities; psychopathology in children, adolescents, and families; adolescent sexuality; premature parenthood; and the professional aspects of social work practice.  Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, the Skillman Foundation, and the University of Michigan.  Until 2013, she was Co-PI of the UM/UIC/TAC’s Good Neighborhoods Initiative, funded by the Skillman Foundation.  The Illinois State Board of Education recently awarded her a grant of $833,090 to fund the Health Science Learning Exchange from August 2012 to July 2017.  In 2013, a project entitled “UIC Behavioral and Biomedical Science Bridges to Baccalaureate Program”—for which she serves as PI and Neimeyer, Opacich, Zerwic, Kay, & Davis as Co-PI—was awarded a $1.4M grant by the National Institutes of Health to run through 2018.  This grant represents her 24th consecutive year of external research funding. 

Dr. Allen-Meares is author or co-author of more than 160 publications—including journal articles, books, and book chapters—and serves on the editorial boards of several scholarly journals and publications.  Her influential volume on education and human services, Cross Cultural Research (Oxford University Press), has been adopted as seminal in the field.  Her research is cited around the world--South Africa, South Korea, Australia, China, and Europe--and she has been invited to present papers and lectures from Accra, Ghana, to Tokyo, Japan.  In 2013, Oxford University Press published a second edition of The School Services Sourcebook: A Guide for School-Based Professionals, co-edited with C. Franklin and M.B. Harris.  Forthcoming in both hardcopy and as an e-book is the 7th edition of Allen-Meares’ Social Work Services in Schools.  Earlier editions of this volume have been translated into Japanese, Korean, and Chinese.

For over three decades, Professor Allen-Meares has been elected to leadership positions in national professional organizations that promote the advancement of the profession.  In the National Association of Social Workers, she was selected to sit on the Council of Editors Board and the Communications Board from 1990 to 1996; from 1993 to 1997, she served as the Communications Committee Chair, appointed by the NASW President.  Her work for the Council on Social Work Education included membership on the National Research Advisory Committee for the Minority Research Fellowship Program from 1995 to 1998; the Development Fundraising Committee from 1995 to 2000; the Publication Committee from 1997 to 2000, as an ex-officio member; and the Commission on Information Management and Research (CIMR) from 2003 to 2005.

Dr. Allen-Meares was elected President of the Society for Social Work and Research from 2002 to 2004.  In 2005, she was inducted into the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, where she co-chaired Section X, and served on IOM’s Membership Committee, Member Awards Committee, Health Disparities Interest Group, and the Sarnat Prize Committee.  She was a member of the Board of Trustees of the William T. Grant Foundation from 1999 to 2008, and she is a New York Academy of Medicine Trustee and Fellow and a member of the Royal Academy of Medicine, London, England.   She actively participates in the Chicago Civic Consulting Alliance, the American Council on Education’s Commission on Inclusion, and the Executive Committee of the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities.  In 2013, Today’s Chicago Woman included her on its list of “100 Women of Influence,” and Crain’s Chicago Business featured her in an article highlighting “2013 United Business Leaders of Color.”

She attributes her preparation for the multiple roles she plays as Chancellor to her seminal years at the University of Michigan.  U-M’s commitment to excellence, its entrepreneurial culture, and the autonomy she was given as Dean of the School of Social Work have all contributed to her success in leadership.  Among her many roles at U-M, several leadership experiences were especially influential, including her work on the Health Systems Clinical Council from 1993–2003; her membership on the Office of the Vice President for Research Discovery Review Committee in 1997; and her service on the Athletic Director Search Committee in 2000.  Also salient was working with a small group of other deans to found the U-M National Center for Institutional Diversity (NCID) and the U-M Institute for Research on Women and Gender, the Detroit Center.  Her fundraising skills were honed at U-M as well.  In addition to completing two major fundraising campaigns as Dean, she helped raise funds to create the Vivian A. and James L. Curtis Center, and her dedicated fund-raising efforts brought to completion the construction of a new building to house the School of Social Work.

Her achievements as Chancellor at UIC reflect the importance of her formative time at Michigan.  Between 2009 and September 2013, Chancellor Allen-Meares spearheaded the following initiatives at UIC: 

1. Chancellor's Discovery Fund for Multidisciplinary Pilot Research Projects

2. Chancellor's Supplemental Graduate Fellowship Program

3. Global Learning Certificate Program

4. UIC National Academies Committee Initiative and UIC Faculty Awards Website

5. Chancellor's Lecture and Event Series

6. Chancellor's Undergraduate Research Awards

7. Chancellor's Cluster Initiative to Increase Diversity and the Interdisciplinary Culture at UIC

8. Chancellor's Innovation Fund

9. Chancellor's Initiative in the Humanities


Chancellor Allen-Meares has also overseen major capital improvement projects on the UIC campus and presided over the dedication of these new facilities:

·      Lincoln Hall Grand Reopening Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, 8/2009

·      College of Business/Douglas Hall Grand Reopening Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, 8/2011

·      Advanced Chemical Technologies Funding Release, 8/2012

·      Mile Square Health Center Groundbreaking, 12/2012

·      CWB Foundation – College of Medicine at Rockford, 1/29/13

·      Dedication of ProCare Dental Group Implant & Innovations Center & DENTSPLY Implant Clinic, 4/8/13

·      JUMP Trade Simulation and Education Center Dedication– College of Medicine at Peoria, 4/25/13

·      M. Christine Schwartz Experiential Learning Laboratory, College of Nursing, Lobby and Seminar Rooms, 6/13/13

·      Curtis Granderson Baseball Stadium Groundbreaking, 9/2013

·      Recognition of the Rick and Loan Hill Department of Bioengineering Naming, 9/2013


And in her role as Chancellor, Allen-Meares prepares yearly “State of the Campus” videos to update the UIC community:

                2013-14 State of the Campus Part 1: Our Goals and Challenges (2:21)

                2013-14 State of the Campus Part 2: Supporting Students (2:29)

                2013-14 State of the Campus Part 3: Supporting Faculty (3:09)

                2013-14 State of the Campus Part 4: Health Disparities (2:16)

                2013-14 State of the Campus Part 5: Our Global Presence (1:22)

In 2012, under Chancellor’s Allen-Meares’ leadership, UIC completed a major fundraising effort, the Brilliant Futures Campaign.  The Campaign raised $676M, $26M more than its set goal.

Curriculum Vitae


I was honored to serve as the Dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Michigan for 15 years, and I treasure these years as seminal to my growth as a university administrator and leader.  The high standards of excellence at U-M and the vision of then President Jim Duderstadt to cultivate a welcoming and diverse campus environment guided my aspirations as Dean and helped lay the foundation for my future work as Chancellor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Following the retirement of the visionary Emeritus-Dean of the School of Social Work, Harold R. Johnson, I arrived in Ann Arbor in February 1993, optimistic and energetic despite the winter weather.  The objective at the top of my list of goals was creating more interdisciplinary faculty appointments and a broader research agenda in the School of Social Work.  My vision was to expand the intellectual depth and breadth of the School’s programs.  During my tenure, the School’s joint doctoral program deepened its relationships with the social sciences, and the partnerships we developed with federal, state, and global entities further sparked the cross-pollination of ideas.     

Another central task was to address the realities of a difficult fiscal climate.  I was inspired by the ideas of then University of Michigan Provost Gil Whitaker, whose memory I hold dear.  He set forth the principle of “innovation by substitution,” a call to eliminate activities that no longer added value and to replace them with value-added improvements.  Through collaboration and inter-unit relationships, we all learned to be creative with limited resources.

An immediate goal was also to continue Dean Johnson’s dream to construct a new building for the School.  He had worked tirelessly to set the stage for this achievement.  The faculty was on board, and I had tremendous support from Central Administration and the Regents.  Emeritus Professor Jesse Gordon, who had a deep interest in architecture, facilitated the building process with creativity and devotion.  I, too, was committed to the success of this endeavor and put my full efforts into raising funds for the construction.  The majestic new edifice housing the School of Social Work was ultimately completed in 1998.  From my office window, I could see the stately façade of the President’s residence, the monumental William L. Clements Library, and the busy surrounding streets, always hustling and bustling with bicycles, automobiles, and students on foot.  Everyday at my desk, I experienced the heartbeat of the campus.

My fundraising work continued throughout my tenure as Dean.  Although I read a number of books on the topic, seeking advice from people who had done an outstanding job of raising money was crucial.  What better way to learn than from dedicated mentors?  Over the years, these mentors also became friends:  President James Duderstadt, Provost Gil Whitaker, School of Business Dean Joseph White, Associate Vice President of Development Chacona Johnson, Provost Nancy Cantor, and all the members of U-M’s Central Development.   With their guidance and under my 15-year leadership, the School’s endowment grew from less than $1M in 1993 to $42.3M in 2008, and our externally funded interdisciplinary research awards exceeded $100M.  I also successfully negotiated with U-M’s central administration to create several prestigious collegiate professorships.   In addition to the three endowed chairs mentioned below, six new collegiate professorships funded during my tenure also grew the SSW faculty in size and diversity.  

These initiatives resulted in the establishment of landmark intellectual achievements in the School of Social Work, including:

1995 Research Center on Poverty, Risk, and Mental Health, funded by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health

1996 Harold R. Johnson Endowed Chair, funded through U-M hospitals and multiple donors

1997 Marion Elizabeth Blue Endowed Chair in Children and Families, supported by the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Family                              Foundation

1998 Sol Drachler Chair in Jewish Communal Services, established through the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, with additional funds from the U-M President and SSW

We were also awarded an RO1 from the National Center on Poverty and received several major grants from federal, state, and foundation sources, including the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, the Skillman Foundation, and the National Institute of Mental Health. 

Other generous contributions, which tripled financial aid resources for students, made possible more scholarships, fellowships, and research assistantships to support a student body that by 2008 had grown to 26% students of color.  Financial support for talented students who otherwise could not afford graduate work is a central tenet of social equality.  Following a highly successful $16.5M fundraising campaign that year, Eileen Gambrill’s endowment help support the Schools’ doctoral students, while the Mervin and Helen Pregulman scholarship supported students in the MSW program. 

Our global reach was also growing.  During my last year at SSW, 3% of our students were international, and the School’s global connections were further strengthened when our social work students selected field placements in Chile, Ecuador, Ghana, and India.  Several international trips I took with Michigan alumni and others also helped instill the spirit of U-M in the hearts of people around the world. Our adventures took us on fascinating visits to Israel, Europe, Scandinavia, the Mediterranean, Russia, and China.  We gained a global perspective that now defines the 21st century.     

The pleasures and rewards of collaboration made my service as Dean especially gratifying.  There was a lot of “we” in the accomplishments that moved our agenda forward.  In the words of an old Swahili proverb, “A boat doesn’t go forward if each one is rowing their own way,” and SSW’s achievements were propelled onward in cooperation with many others.  I had the privilege of serving under five outstanding U-M Presidents—Jim Duderstadt, Homer Neal, Joe White, Lee Bollinger, and Mary Sue Coleman—and Provosts who inspired me--Gil Whittaker, Berni Machen, Lisa Tedesco, Nancy Cantor, Paul Courant, and Teresa Sullivan. I worked with stellar faculty, staff, and students, as well as stakeholders across the state and the nation.  I still value the partnerships SSW formed with foundations, state and national agencies, institutes, and communities.

These connections generated a diverse interdisciplinary research profile for the School, one that focused on health disparities and aging, child and family welfare, poverty, substance abuse, broader health issues, and policy development.  SSW also  helped shape dual degree programs with law, public policy, and urban and regional planning; and researchers in the School collaborated with their colleagues in disciplines from psychology and the health sciences to anthropology, education, and business.  There were few barriers to interdisciplinary thinking at U-M.   If you were keen on the cross-fertilization of ideas involving other fields and professions, Michigan was one of the best places to be.

My years at Michigan were defined by rewarding hard work.  I kept a tape recorder by my bed so that I could make a note to myself in case some idea occurred to me in the middle of the night.  Although my work ethic was passionate, I tried never to ask more from others than I asked of myself.  As a personal goal, I wanted to be a role model.  If I asked the faculty to publish, to secure grants, and to work with doctoral students, I believed I should engage in these activities as well on a smaller scale.  As Dean, I published 25 journal articles, eight books, ten book chapters, and wrote many op-eds and editorials.  I received major grants from the Skillman Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Global Program on Youth and was one of the lead contributors to the National Institute of Mental Health’s Center on Poverty, Risk, and Mental Health.

Our School’s students never ceased to impress me.  I was especially happy to witness the growth of student organizations.  The Rainbow Network was devoted to endorsing equal rights and mutual support for LGBT students and advocated for improved communication and education through activism.  Christians in Social Work Administration was revived in 2006 and met weekly for prayer and Bible study, connecting with other Christian groups and discussing the link between faith and issues of social justice.  The Global Social Work group focused on problems of social justice affecting people around the world, while the Non-Traditional Student Network established a community for students over the age of 31 and students who were married or parents.  One of the highlights of my years at U-M was interacting with all the students in the School. I advocated for their initiatives whenever I could, like the Doctoral Student Organization’s workshop, called Conversations Across Disciplines (CASD).  When I left Michigan, Reem Shaijah, then President of the SSW Student Union, was kind enough to write that I had been an “inspirational force” for MSW students and had bestowed on them “kindness, motivation, and encouragement.”  Of all the words of praise I received on my departure from Michigan, these words continue to remind me that a University’s primary educational mission is to inspire a new generation of thinkers and doers.

In 1994, the year after I was appointed Dean of SSW, U.S. News and World Report ranked Michigan’s School of Social Work the best in the nation.  With this honor came one of my most arduous challenges: striving to retain the School’s prestigious ranking while still finding ways to improve on the best of the best.  In this endeavor, I was blessed with a world-class faculty devoted to studying the most urgent social issues of the day, a roster of exceptional master’s and doctoral students, and a cutting-edge curriculum.  As championship Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson famously said, “The strength of the team is each individual member.  The strength of each member is the team.”

With the help of all those who contributed to SSW’s excellence from 1994 to 2008, the School was able to retain its consistently high ranking during my tenure as Dean.  My friend and colleague Joe White graciously put it this way:  “Paula has achieved the nearly impossible:  keeping a top-ranked school at the very top of its game for fourteen years.  We like the term ‘good to great’ in America, but in this case, make that ‘great to even greater.’” 

In high school, I aspired to become a physician.  But my counselor bluntly told me there was no way an African American woman could become a doctor and advised me to pursue the more “realistic” vocation of teaching, considered at the time the professional pinnacle for women.  How outmoded my high school counselor’s advice seems today!   The arc of my education and career has spanned the transformative decades of American history that signaled profound change for both women and people of color.  Yet, while we are all inevitably products of history, we are also, and more crucially, agents of history.  During my fifteen years at U-M, as the new millennium dawned, my personal history intertwined with the history of Michigan’s School of Social Work and its remarkable community, and we labored together to foster our country’s ever-growing values of inclusion and achievement.  Today, as Chancellor of the University of Illinois at Chicago, I cherish my dynamic years at U-M, the friendships I still enjoy, and the values that continue to guide my vocation.


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