Deborah Willis

A photo of Deborah Willis

Associate Professor

Social Work

206F Marshall


[email protected]


  • BA, Secondary Education, Sociology, Central Michigan University
  • M.Ed., Outdoor Teacher Education, Northern Illinois University
  • MSW, Administration, Children and Youth, University of Michigan
  • Ph.D., Sociology and Social Work, University of Michigan


Dr. Willis has spent more than 30 years as a practitioner, program administrator and evaluator in human services. Dr. Willis provided prevention services in New York City to families and taught in the Bronx and Queens early in her career. Working at the Family Assessment Clinic at the University of Michigan as a Civitas Fellow she was part of family assessment teams, delivered therapeutic services to children and adults who had experienced sexual abuse, and supervised MSW interns assigned to the clinic. As a researcher and evaluator, Dr. Willis served as a research associate at the Center for the Study of Youth Policy focused on providing support to state juvenile justice systems forced by the courts to reform and as an evaluator of child welfare services in Kent County. Dr. Willis joined The Guidance Center as the director of the Center for Excellence in September, 2003 where she served as the liaison between University researchers and The Guidance Center and directed evaluation and training for the agency. Dr. Willis also served as the director of programs at The Guidance Center from December, 2006 through December, 2009.


  • Faller, K.C., Meezan, W., Mendez, M.M., Tropman, J., Vandervort, F., and Deborah Willis. The Supervisor in Child Welfare. in Austin, M. and Hopkins, K. (Eds.) (2004), Supervision as Collaboration in the Human Services: Building a learning organization. Thousand Oaks, CA., Sage.
  • Schwartz, I., Willis, D., (1994). National trends in juvenile detention. In Ira M. Schwartz and William Barton (Eds.) Reforming Juvenile Detention: No More Hidden Closets. The Ohio State University Press. Columbus, Ohio.
  • Schwartz, I., Willis, D., and Battle, J. (1991). Juvenile Arrest, Detention, and Incarceration Trends, 19791989. Center for the Study of Youth Policy, University of Michigan, School of Social Work. Ann Arbor, Michigan.


Eastern Michigan University

  • SWRK 530 Social Work Research Methodology
  • SWRK 630 Action Research

University of Michigan

  • Introductory MSW research course
  • Introductory and advanced child welfare policy course
  • Evaluation and advanced policy analysis course



  • Detroit-Wayne County Community Mental Health Agency’s Children’s System of Care leadership
  • The Virtual Center of Excellence
  • Advisory Board for the Family Alliance for Change (a parent advocacy group in Wayne County)
  • the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute Advisory Board