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Clark Named New Head of School of Social Work

James Clark arrives at UC with a strong background in translational research and an eagerness for collaboration. An expert on child welfare and forensic mental health, he will join UC’s School of Social Work at the College of Allied Health Sciences as its director.

Date: 8/20/2012
By: Katy Cosse Photos By: Dave Collins
An expert on child welfare and forensic mental health, James J. Clark, PhD will join UC’s School of Social Work at the College of Allied Health Sciences as its director.
James Clark, PhD
James Clark, PhD

Clark comes to UC from the University of Kentucky, where he served as the Constance Wilson Professor of Mental Health. During his time there, he led the UK College of Social Work as the director of its PhD program and, more recently, as the associate dean for research.

At UK, Clark and colleagues received a $1 million grant from the Commonwealth of Kentucky to develop science-to-practice approaches to helping maltreated children and teens—a project which eventually led to the creation of the Center on Trauma and Children at UK. 

A proponent of translational research, Clark has worked not only as an academic but as a clinician and researcher in adult and child forensic mental health, focusing on the relationship between mental health systems and the justice system. 

Clark co-chairs a National Child Traumatic Stress Network committee developing a tool for judges to use to determine whether a maltreated child or juvenile defendant has a significant traumatic history and may need specific assessment or treatment. His current research focus is in the use of biographical studies for defendants in capital murder cases. 

Though he grew up in upstate New York, Clark’s interest in social work began in the Applachian region, after high-school mission trips to communities in West Virginia and rural Kentucky.

“I think part of what led me to study social work was trying to make sense of the things I had seen on those trips,” he says. “It was emotionally powerful, but I didn’t have the conceptual framework to understand it. Social work and the related fields were a way for me to begin to understand what I had seen and what people were going through.”

Clark studied social work first at Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., and then went on to earn a Master’s in Social Work at the University Kentucky and to receive his PhD from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. 

Since then, he has authored and co-authored two books, contributed chapters to nine books and authored over 30 refereed papers. Within the last five years, Clark has attracted more than $3 million in external research funding as principal investigator and co-investigator on a variety of research projects. 

He says he was drawn to UC by the outstanding reputation of the School of Social Work and its plans for growth.

“I realized this was a school that had been doing very fine work for many years with a robust program,” says Clark, “but one that is moving into developing their research program and infrastructure. That was very appealing to me. I’m very much looking forward to collaborating with the faculty, Dean Elizabeth King and the community to explore the next steps for the school.”

Clark says the school already has new faculty working collaboratively with other disciplines at the Academic Health Center—he hopes to build those collaborations and grow the school’s federal research funding. 

He also says UC’s 2019 plan played a large part in his decision to come to UC.

“The 2019 vision is inspiring,” says Clark. “I wanted to be part of a university that was committed to research, to the community and insisted on academic rigor in all of its programs. I’m looking to that vision to animate the direction of the School of Social Work.”