Elizabeth A. Wahler, PhD, MSW

School of Social Work
Director of the School of Social Work
CHHS 496

Dr. Beth Wahler began as professor and director of the School of Social Work in September 2021. Prior to working at UNC Charlotte, she was the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the Indiana University School of Social Work. Dr. Wahler’s main research interests involve social work education, the impact of poverty and other factors associated with social disadvantage on the development and perpetuation of mental health and substance abuse problems, and interventions for improving the health and well-being of people living in poverty. Currently, she is focused on helping public libraries address the psychosocial needs of their patrons, including conducting needs assessments with individual library systems, identifying strategies for improving their capacity to respond to patron needs, and piloting social work practicum units or other social work collaborations. Dr. Wahler emphasizes community engagement in her work, previously partnering with a large community mental health provider in central Indiana to develop and lead the Behavioral Health Academy, which prepared students for practice with mental health, substance use, and co-occurring disorders and to become dually licensed as both a licensed clinical social worker and licensed clinical addiction counselor.

Prior to earning a doctorate, Wahler worked as a practitioner and supervisor for more than 14 years. Her practice experience was primarily with individuals living in poverty attempting to overcome substance use disorders, mental health problems, learning disabilities and intimate partner violence victimization.


  • Ph.D. in Social Work from the University of Kentucky
  • M.S.W. from the University of Kentucky
  • B.S. in Psychology from the University of Evansville


Dr. Wahler has taught across the social work curriculum, in the substantive areas of research, theory, practice, and policy, and at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels.

Research Interests/Areas of Expertise

  • Library-based social work practice
  • Social work education
  • Poverty
  • Substance use disorders

Awards & Honors

  • 2020   Top 10 “Dedicated and Deserving Social Workers” by Social Work Today
  • 2020    CSWE Council on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) scholarship award for “Sexual identity development and its impact on sexual well-being: Differences between sexual minority and non-sexual minority former foster youth” by Brandon-Friedman, Pierce, Wahler, Thigpen, & Fortenberry  
  • 2019    Feminist Mentoring Honoree, CSWE Council on the Role and Status of Women in Social Work Education
  • 2016   NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Summer Institute on Randomized Behavioral Clinical Trials Fellowship
  • 2016   Trustees’ Teaching Award (Indiana University)

Selected Publications

Library/Social Work Collaborations:

Wahler, E. A., Ressler, J. D., Johnson, S. C., Rortvedt, C., Saecker, T., Helling, J., Williams, M. A., & Hoover, D. (in press).  Public library-based social work field placements:  Guidance for public libraries planning to become a social work practicum site.  Public Library Quarterly.

Wahler, E. A., Rortvedt, C., & Saecker, T. (in press).  Public library patrons’ views of their psychosocial needs and how the library can help.  The Library Quarterly.

Wahler, E. A., Spuller, R., Ressler, J. D., Bolan, K., & Burnard, N. (2021). Changing public library staff and patron needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Library Administration. https://doi.org/10.1080/01930826.2021.2006985

Wahler, E. A., Provence, M. A., Johnson, S. C., Helling, J., & Williams, M. A. (2021).  Library patrons’ psychosocial needs:  Perceptions of need and reasons for accessing social work services.  Social Work, 66(2), 297-305. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/sw/swab032

Provence, M. A., Wahler, E. A., Helling, J., & Williams, M. A. (2020). Self-reported psychosocial needs of public library patrons: Comparisons based on housing status. Public Library Quarterly. https://doi.org/10.1080/01616846.2020.1730738

Wahler, E. A., Provence, M. A., Helling, J., & Williams, M. A. (2019).  The changing role of libraries:  How social workers can help.  Families in Society, 101(1), 34-43https://doi.org/10.1177/1044389419850707

Social Work Education:

McCarthy, K. M., Mariscal, E. S., & Wahler, E. A. (in press).  MSW student concerns about addressing clients’ substance use and misuse.  Journal of Teaching in Social Work.  

Wilkerson, D. A., Wolfe-Taylor, S. N., Deck, C. K., Wahler, E. A., & Davis, T. S. (2020).  Telebehavioral practice basics for social work educators and clinicians responding to COVID-19.  Journal of Social Work Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/02615479.2020.1807926

Wahler, E. A. (2019).  Improving student receptivity to research by linking methods to practice skills.  Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 39(3), 248-259doi: 10.1080/08841233.2019.1611693

Larimer, S., Sullivan, W. P., Wahler, E. A., & McCabe, H. A. (2018).  No more silos: Animating integrated care practice in the classroom.  Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 38(4), 363-378.  doi: 10.1080/08841233.2018.1503216

Wahler, E. A., & Badger, K. (2017).  Exploring faculty perceptions of student incivility in social work:  Results from a national survey.  Advances in Social Work, 17(2).  doi: 10.18060/20886

Wahler, E. A. (2012).  Identifying and challenging social work students’ biases.  Social Work Education, 31(8), 1058-1070.