Dean Michael Lawler with students

Interprofessional education, community service,
relevant and expanded research, and academic growth
and excellence are hallmarks of Dean Michael Lawler’s
contributions to the University of South Dakota
and the School of Health Sciences.

Since 2010, Michael Lawler has been a valuable member of the USD community. In that year he arrived from the University of California, Davis to lead and teach in USD’s Department of Social Work. The following year he became dean of USD’s School of Health Sciences (SHS).

With Dean Lawler at the helm, the national reputation of the SHS has risen, and for many good reasons. The leadership team at the school – department heads and others – was empowered to serve faculty and students and pursue meaningful community service. Student opportunities were expanded. Student diversity was strengthened. The school embraced the concept of interprofessional health care and education and positioned itself as a national leader seeking to grow that historic movement. Facility upgrades were successfully sought. Faculty witnessed their dean eagerly and skillfully contribute to teaching, outreach and service on top of his demanding administrative duties. Michael Lawler not only led the SHS, he led by example.

During his tenure, SHS enrollment rose from approximately 1,200 to 2,500 students. The SHS is now the fastest growing school at USD. Equally important, the school sends an average of 600 to 650 health care professionals into the workforce each year, many serving South Dakota communities.

Lawler broadened the research-related health care mission of the SHS. In FY 2010 the SHS submitted eight research proposals for funding assistance, and three received financial awards totaling $90,071. Just eight years later the SHS submitted 26 research proposals, and 21 were awarded funding that totaled $870,073.

In fall 2013 credit hour production at the SHS – reflecting the number of hours and classes taught by SHS faculty – was 15,064. And by 2018 credit hours taught through the SHS exceeded a whopping 29,000 hours, demonstrating an impressive upward trajectory of interest by students in the SHS curriculum.

Numerous program and degree additions during Dean Lawler’s tenure have contributed to the university and the SHS, as well as to South Dakota and the region.

Dean Lawler is returning to the western United States, his home region, where he’ll become president of Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences, a non-profit university located in Yakima, Washington.