AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas at Austin has selected Allan Cole to serve as dean of the Steve Hicks School of Social Work. Cole, who currently holds the Bert Kruger Smith Centennial Professorship in Social Work, will begin his new appointment on June 13. He will succeed Luis Zayas, who will step down after 10 successful years as the school’s dean.
“I am thrilled to welcome Allan to his new position as dean of the Steve Hicks School of Social Work, which is widely regarded as one of the nation’s top 10 institutions for social work education and research,” said UT Austin President Jay Hartzell. “Allan is a strong, compassionate and strategic leader with a deep devotion to service in support of others, especially those who are marginalized or suffering from illness. I can think of no better champion for the Steve Hicks School to lead us forward and serve our exceptional community and others in the years ahead.”
Cole holds degrees from Davidson College, Columbia University and Princeton Theological Seminary, and he is a nationally recognized authority on chronic illness, health humanities, bereavement and the study of spirituality and religion in social work. Much of his scholarship and advocacy centers around caring for people living with Parkinson’s disease.
Before joining the UT Austin faculty, Cole was a faculty member at the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary for more than a decade and served as dean for four years. At UT Austin, he served as the Steve Hicks School’s associate dean for academic affairs from 2014 to 2016 and senior associate dean for academic affairs from 2016 to 2021. In these roles, he helped advance some of the school’s most important priorities, from enhancing the curriculum and championing a diverse and inclusive learning environment to managing the extraordinary challenges of COVID-19.
In addition, Cole currently serves as the deputy to President Hartzell for societal challenges and opportunities. In this role, he is identifying, coordinating and utilizing university resources to build long-term partnerships with nonprofit organizations, elected officials and members of the local business community in an effort to tackle key social challenges that affect the campus and Austin community, such as homelessness and affordable housing, as well as challenges related to mental health. Cole’s experience and expertise in these ongoing efforts will help align the School of Social Work in new, innovative ways with the university’s vision for community engagement and impact.
“I am honored to have the opportunity to lead the Steve Hicks School of Social Work and to champion our world-class community of outstanding students, faculty, staff and alumni,” Cole said. “We are one of the finest schools of social work in the nation, and that’s because of our people and their shared commitment to our mission. I care deeply about this community and about building on our diversity, excellence and passion to advance our mission and contribute to the public good.”
Cole’s scholarly publications are related to the fields of social work, counseling and the psychology of religion. He also serves on the board of trustees at Headwaters School and the board of directors at Power for Parkinson’s, a Central Texas nonprofit that supports the physical and artistic well-being of those living with the disease.
“After an extensive national search, Allan rose to the top because of his tremendous leadership experience over the past decade, his commitment to increasing equity, diversity and opportunity in our community, and his deep understanding of the Steve Hicks School’s position — and potential impact — as a positive force for society,” said Sharon L. Wood, executive vice president and provost. “I am extremely pleased to welcome him to this new role and to see him advance the school’s mission in the years ahead.”
Cole will succeed Zayas, who has served as dean since 2012. Zayas has led the school during a period of significant transformation and success, raising over $50 million for student scholarships, endowments and programs, and recruiting and retaining top scholars in social work and allied fields.