Michael Lawler

Michael  Lawler

Michael Lawler MSW, PhD


Dr. Lawler brings 35 years of professional experience in health and human services, including 24 years as a successful leader and administrator in higher education, to our rapidly expanding health sciences university.

As the Dean and Professor of the School of Health Sciences at the University of South Dakota (USD), Dr. Lawler led ten academic departments and helped to cement the USD School of Health Sciences as a national leader in interprofessional health sciences education. Alongside internal and external partners and colleagues, he helped to create new programs and research centers, doubled student enrollment, improved graduation rates, increased student scholarships, grew funding for faculty and student research, elevated financial reserves, and raised $65M to construct a new teaching and research facility for USD’s Doctor of Occupational Therapy and Doctor of Physical Therapy programs — the very programs we aim to add next.

Prior to joining USD in 2010, Dr. Lawler worked at the University of California, Davis (UCD) for 16 years, serving as Director of the Center for Human Services, Co-Director of the Center for Public Policy Research, and Chair of UC Davis Extension. At UCD, he partnered with a wide array of stakeholders, including all 58 California counties, state agencies, tribal governments, and federal agencies, as well as business leaders, to secure $130M of extramural funding to create several self-supporting research, practice, and education centers focused on developing policies and practices in health and human services. He remains a faculty affiliate of the UCD Center for Public Policy Research.

In addition to his academic leadership, Dr. Lawler has authored and co-authored more than 80 publications and served as the United States Principal Investigator of Children’s Worlds: International Survey of Children’s Well-Being, an international research project that assesses the health and well-being of children in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and South America. Additionally, he is an appointed member and chair-elect of the American Psychological Association’s Committee on Children, Youth and Families.