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Steketee Picked to Lead School of Social Work

New dean is expert in obsessive, hoarding disorders


As SSW dean, Gail Steketee plans to launch a trauma certificate program to address problems faced by returning Iraq War veterans. Photo by Vernon Doucette

Gail Steketee, dean ad interim of the School of Social Work, will officially drop the “ad interim” from her job title on June 1. Steketee has been elevated to the top post following two nationwide searches by the University.

Steketee, who has been the provisional head of SSW since 2005, sat out the first search, launched two years ago, preferring to retain her faculty role and active research agenda.

“After our last search was not successful, it became clear that it was important to our faculty and administrative staff, and to the provost and the president, that I be a candidate for the role,” Steketee says. “I think that they felt I would be able to provide sensitive leadership for the School of Social Work from a position of strength in my academic career and my relationships with faculty and staff to move our many agendas forward over the coming years.”

“I am truly delighted that Gail Steketee will be our next dean of SSW,” says University Provost David Campbell. “Having worked with her for nearly three years in her role as dean ad interim, I know that she understands intimately the opportunities and challenges facing the school. She has developed, with the full support of the faculty, a strategic vision for SSW that combines maintaining its strong tradition of teaching and professional training while enhancing its efforts in research and scholarship.”

Steketee joined BU in 1986. She was named associate dean for academic affairs in 1996 and cochair of the clinical practice department in 2000. As a researcher, she has received several grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, including a $1.17 million award in 2005 to study compulsive hoarding. She has conducted numerous studies of the psychopathology and treatment of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic, and obsessive compulsive spectrum conditions, which include body dysmorphic disorder and hoarding. She has also written numerous articles and chapters on OCD, related anxiety disorders, and compulsive hoarding, and has published three books on OCD for clinicians and for sufferers and their families, as well as two books on compulsive hoarding.

As dean, Steketee plans to hold a faculty and staff retreat this fall to examine the school’s future priorities, which already include a plan to broaden the doctoral program in sociology and social work, giving it a more interdisciplinary social science focus that includes psychology and economics. The school will also finalize and launch a trauma certificate program to address the serious personal and family problems faced by returning Iraq War veterans.

“We have tremendous capacity in the areas of social work practice in aging, in substance abuse research and services, in working with trauma in its many forms, in child and family treatment, and in social work and public health,” Steketee says. “Besides these, we also have many other areas we might pursue — in social welfare policy, in mental health treatment of adults and children, in child welfare, in mentoring programs for youth, and many more. In many ways, the problem is one of riches and how to decide where to place our efforts and our resources. This is really a very good problem to have.”

Steketee also cochairs the Obsessive Compulsive Cognitions Working Group, a large group of international researchers developing and testing cognitive assessment strategies for OCD using multisite research methods. She was coprincipal investigator on a project to develop and test a cognitive therapy for OCD, and she joined colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital and Butler Hospital in Rhode Island to develop cognitive and behavioral treatments for body dysmorphic disorder, which is characterized by an excessive preoccupation with a real or imagined defect in one’s physical appearance.

Steketee earned an undergraduate degree from Radcliffe College and a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from Bryn Mawr Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research. Before joining BU, she was a research associate at Temple University Medical School’s department of psychiatry.

The School of Social Work is among the oldest schools of social work in the country and is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 20 graduate schools of social work and 8th nationally in faculty productivity among schools of social work with doctoral programs, according to a 2007 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

“Over the past 23 years that I have been a faculty member and administrator here, I have seen a substantial increase in the academic strength of the faculty and of our programs and in faculty capacity to garner substantial external funding for their nationally known work in many fields,” Steketee says. “Scholarship, teaching, and service are what Boston University stands for as a whole, and SSW is proud to be strongly committed to, and, I think, a fine example of, these goals.”

Steketee’s husband, Brian McCorkle (GRS’92,’99) is the director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Psychology in the Danielsen Institute at BU. Theior son, Brendan McCorkle, is a graduate of Boston University Academy. She attributes her long career at the University to the support of her "BU family."

Caleb Daniloff can be reached at cdanilof@bu.edu.

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