Longtime educator, social work professional tapped to lead College of Health and Human Services as interim dean

Contact: Erin Flynn

Dr. Jennifer Harrison

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Dr. Jennifer Harrison, professor and director of Western Michigan University's School of Social Work, has been named interim dean of the University's College of Health and Human Services. The appointment is pending Board of Trustees approval.

“We are very appreciative of Dr. Harrison's willingness to serve in this capacity,” says Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Under her leadership, I am confident the college will continue to progress and support the mission of the University.”

Academic affairs will launch a national search this fall with the goal of having a permanent dean identified and in place by July 1, 2024.

Jennifer Harrison

Harrison first joined Western as a part-time instructor in 2006 while also working as program manager for Integrated Services of Kalamazoo (known then as Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services). She joined Western as a full-time faculty member in 2011. Throughout her tenure in Western's School of Social Work, where she has been director for the last four years, Harrison has served as both faculty specialist and traditionally ranked faculty.

In addition to social work, Harrison is also a chemical addictions counselor. Her clinical work focuses on individuals with co-occurring needs involving mental and substance use disorders. Her research includes international social justice and peer services in behavioral health. Those interests drive her work as co-principal investigator—alongside colleagues Drs. Carla Adkison-Johnson, Ann Chapleau and Bridget Weller—on two projects funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration focused on the interprofessional behavioral health workforce: The Interprofessional Peer Education and Evidence Recovery  program, which provides training for current and future behavioral health professionals, and the Michigan Youth Prevention and Recovery for Opioid Use Disorders program. Harrison also worked with Chapleau to develop and find funding for a secure outcome measure called Goal Scaling Solutions.

Her record of collegiality and interdisciplinarity also earned her the 2019 College of Health and Human Services Interprofessional Collaboration Award as well as a fellowship with the Mid-American Conference Academic Leadership Development Program.

With an emphasis on field work and hands-on learning, Harrison has been lauded for her work with students. She received the 2014-15 College of Health and Human Services Teaching Excellence Award as well as earning the inaugural New York Times in Education Award for Innovation and Education Abroad in 2018 alongside Dr. Timothy Palmer, professor of management, for incorporating the Times in the Social Justice and Sustainability course they co-taught in India. The same year she won the Faculty Global Engagement Award at Western. Harrison also received the Gary L. Belleville Student Supervisor of the Year Award at Western in 2021-22 and was named runner up for 2022 Student Employee Supervisor of the Year by the Midwest Association of Student Employment Administrators.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.