Q&A with Dean David Jenkins
David A. Jenkins, Ph.D., LCSW, is the newly appointed Dean of the Kent School of Social Work, and officially begain his new appointment with the Kent School in August 2016. He previously served as the Social Work Department Chair at Texas Christian University and MSW Program Director. Dr. Jenkins was also a professor at TCU since 1991. He was selected as a Hartford Faculty Scholar in 2007 and an ACE Fellow through the American Council on Education in 2010. Dr. Jenkins has served on the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) Board of Directors, co-chair of the CSWE Council on Sexual Orientation and Gender Expression, and as a member of the Council for Diversity and Social and Economic Justice, the Council for Leadership Development, and the Council on Conferences and Faculty Development. Dr. Jenkins received his BS and MSW from Louisiana State University and his Ph.D. from Florida State University.
What was the trajectory that led you into social work?
I grew up believing I was going to become a medical doctor, but learned in college that this was not a good fit for me. Not knowing much about options for study, I picked Business Administration as my new major. My father had newly acquired a business and I believed I might find some success working with him. After I had worked at the business a few years, my father decided to sell the business and I was again left wondering where to proceed. I decided to get some career testing and was encouraged to look into the field of Social Work. Having never really heard much about it, I went and interviewed a few people who were social workers. I quickly realized this was a good choice for me and soon enrolled in graduate school.
What practice experiences did you have prior to moving into education and administrative roles?
My Social Work practice experience has been mostly clinical. My specialization is in family therapy. I have often been interested in what micro practice therapies are effective and how best to intervene with clients. I worked in a marriage and family clinic, a group practice, and also in a family service center. I ran a drug and alcohol treatment facility and I also had my own counseling private practice.
Any particular populations of interest, research areas of interest?
Much of my research has focused on the marginalization of individuals and families. I have a particular interest in the lived experiences of gays and lesbians in their families. A related, newer project that has been rewarding is one where we are interviewing older transgender adults about their relationships.
Have you worked with undergraduate students in the past?
I have worked with undergraduates in many capacities. Much of my early career was focused on teaching undergraduates. These early courses were mostly social work courses, but I also taught in the Honors College. I have also worked with undergraduates as an academic advisor, served as the faculty advisor to some campus groups, and been a faculty representative for welcoming freshmen to campus.
Where was your previous school?
I previously worked at Texas Christian University (TCU) for 25 years. TCU is located in Fort Worth, Texas, and is probably most recognizable for their Horned Frog mascot. I may be wrong, but I don’t believe any other school in the country has this type of mascot.
What attracted you to the Kent School?
Actually many things attracted me to the Kent School. I knew Terry Singer (the previous Dean of the Kent School) and a couple of faculty members who all spoke highly of U of L and encouraged me to apply for the open position. I knew I wanted to find a place that valued both teaching and research and believed the Kent School did a nice job balancing these areas. I was attracted as I read that many of the faculty were extremely productive and were making an impact in their areas of research. Having a background in family therapy, I was attracted to the CFT Program at U of L. I had also visited Louisville in the past and liked the city. I was raised in the South and Louisville had a lot of the charm and feeling of my upbringing. All of these things attracted me to the Kent School.
What have you identified so far as your general plans for the Kent School?
I do have some general plans. Probably the easiest way to summarize what I would like to do is to raise the profile of the Kent School. I think we have an excellent series of programs, and I want to join the efforts of the faculty and staff to strengthen each of our programs. I am convinced that more people need to know about the great things happening here at the Kent School. I’m also trying to get to know the faculty and staff better and see if my early impressions fit with what they believe needs to happen at the school.
What do you love so far about Louisville?
Coming from Texas, my family and I have greatly enjoyed the summer weather. To me, this has been a mild summer. I have also enjoyed learning about and experimenting with all of the excellent places to eat. I do enjoy the friendly people of the city. Everyone has been extremely kind to us since we arrived.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
My husband, son, and I are all big fans of tennis. We like to play as often as possible. We also enjoy traveling. Whether I like it or not (and I mostly like it), fixing up our home has become a big part of my spare time.