Since coming to USD in 2010, Lawler served as chair and professor of the university’s Social Work Program. He has three decades of experience as a social work practitioner, administrator, educator and researcher, and served more recently as director of the Center for Human Services, co-director of the Center for Public Policy Research and department chair at the University of California-Davis.

“Dr. Lawler brings a wealth of experience to this position and we’re excited that he will lead the School of Health Sciences, its programs and our students, in their pursuit of excellence,” stated Dr. Rodney Parry, dean of the Sanford School of Medicine at The University of South Dakota.

In addition to being the principal investigator for a number of federal, state, tribal and county grants, Lawler developed several outreach, education and research centers at UC Davis to address social welfare policy and practice. His published articles, book chapters, and public policy papers address a range of social welfare issues including child maltreatment, child-parent relationships, juvenile justice, and human services education.

Lawler received the 2011 Career Achievement Award from the National Staff Development and Training Association, an affiliate of the American Public Human Services Association. He was awarded the 2010 James H. Meyer Distinguished Achievement Award by the UC Davis Academic Federation and was a finalist for the 2010 Pro-Humanitate Literary Award presented by the Center for Child Welfare Policy of the North American Resource Center for Child Welfare. He earned a Ph.D. in human development from UC Davis, master of social welfare degree from University of California-Berkeley, a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Lewis and Clark College, and he is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. He and his wife, Kimberly, have an adult son attending college.

A photo of Lawler is available for download at

USD’s School of Health Sciences has nine programs offering bachelor of science degrees in alcohol and drug studies, dental hygiene, health sciences, medical laboratory technology, nursing, and social work; an associate of science degree in nursing; master of science degrees in occupational therapy, physician assistant studies, and social work; master of arts in addiction studies; and a doctorate of physical therapy degree.

For more information about The University of South Dakota’s School of Health Sciences, please visit or call (605) 677-6572.

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