For the first time in a decade and a half, the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work (GCSW) will have a new leader. Professor Alan J. Dettlaff of the University of Illinois at Chicago has been selected to serve as dean of the GCSW.

Dettlaff comes to Houston by way of Chicago and the Jane Addams College of Social Work, where he has served as an associate professor since 2012. A former supervisor at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services in Fort Worth and case manager at the AIDS Resources of Rural Texas in Weatherford, Dettlaff has research interests in children and minorities in the child welfare system, as well as training the next generation of child welfare professionals.

Dettlaff succeeds Professor Ira Colby, who led the college for 15 years. Colby stepped down in 2014 to pursue research and return to the faculty. Professor Emeritus Paul Raffoul, formerly the associate dean for administration and information technology, has been serving as the college’s interim dean.

“I’m very excited to welcome a young, ambitious and nationally known social work educator as our new dean,” Raffoul said.

“His research on issues such as immigrant Latino children complements works ongoing at the college and will further build our reputation as a highly ranked social work institution providing a quality education to diverse populations.”

Working busily to prepare for a May 16 start date, Dettlaff took a few minutes to discuss his plans.

Q. What persuaded you to become dean?

Well, the Graduate College of Social Work is a nationally recognized program in a Carnegie-designated, Tier One research university. The faculty, staff and students have demonstrated tremendous success, and this position offers an incredible opportunity to build upon their accomplishments.

Q. Any immediate objectives?

I’m looking forward to learning the culture of the college and meeting with the faculty, staff, students and members of the Houston community. My hope is that we will all then move forward together to enhance the national prominence of the college.