Social Work welcomes Sheryl Kubiak as ninth dean

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Sheryl Kubiak, a licensed clinical and macro social worker whose research is advancing policy and practice in the area of jail diversion and smart decarceration, has become the ninth dean of the Wayne State School of Social Work. Joining the faculty as a full professor, she will also serve as director of the school’s new Center for Behavioral Health and Justice, which will house her grant-funded research and provide local communities, organizations, and behavioral health and law enforcement agencies across Michigan with an array of expert support in diverting individuals away from the criminal/legal system and toward treatment when appropriate.

Kubiak comes to Wayne State from the Michigan State University, where she was a professor in the College of Social Science’s Department of Social Work and former Director of the Ph.D. program. Prior to that, she was a research associate in the Institute for Research on Women and Gender and the Substance Abuse Research Center – both at University of Michigan, where she received her M.S.W. and Ph.D. in Psychology. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work with a minor in business administration from Madonna University.

Kubiak’s research focuses on the intersections between criminal/legal systems and behavioral health, specifically the use of diversion programs and the integration of substance abuse and mental health treatment into the criminal /legal system. Since her first foray into this arena 30 years ago, when she developed and administered a long-term residential re-entry program in Detroit for pregnant women addicted to crack cocaine, she has received funding from national and state agencies as well as private foundations to research and evaluate projects. Funders have included the National Institute of Mental Health, National Science Foundation, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Michigan Department of Corrections, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Wood Johnson Foundation, Skillman Foundation, and Ethel and James Flinn Foundation.

Among her many professional contributions, Kubiak has served as a member of peer review panels for National Institute of Mental Health and Fulbright Awards. Currently, she is the principle investigator on a cross-site evaluation of pilot diversion programs statewide under the auspices of the Governor’s Diversion Council and of a prison reentry project for those with opioid addictions. She is also a gubernatorial appointee to the state’s Criminal Justice Policy Commission.

Kubiak’s research will greatly bolster the School of Social Work’s ten-year initiative to advance the Grand Challenges for Social Work, a national effort by social work researchers and practitioners across the country and beyond to eradicate 12 pressing societal problems, including mass incarceration that have led the United State to claim the world’s largest proportion of people behind bars and/or experiencing the unintended consequences of a conviction (i.e., employment opportunities, voting rights).

“Many individuals and families in Detroit experience hardship related to the criminal/legal system and I am committed to enhancing public safety while simultaneously minimizing the ongoing consequences for those diverted or returning from jails and prison,” Kubiak said. “We have to be able to use the data we produce to assist community leaders in making informed decisions that provide long term benefits to the entire community. I am so pleased to continue my work in Detroit and to lead an incredible group of scholars, educators, staff and students at Wayne State School of Social Work.”

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150 years in the heart of Detroit