Curious about the faculty behind our programs? Our faculty spotlights give you a chance to learn more about their backgrounds, qualifications, hopes for their programs, and a little insider info about their field of study.


Dr. Charnetta Gadling-Cole is the chair of the department of social work as well as the program director of the master of social work program, appointments she began in August 2019. We reached out to her to learn more about her background, her hopes for the program, and why someone like you should consider the field of social work. 

Why did you choose Concordia?

The fact that Concordia is a Christian university attracted me to the position. I have served as a professor at Liberty University and loved the culture of integrating Christian values and beliefs into my courses.

I also enjoy developing/implementing programs and policies. When my appointment began, the MSW program was going through the final stages of the initial accreditation process. I felt that there would be a platform to develop/implement exciting and innovative opportunities for students and faculty.

What do you love most about Concordia so far?

I love working with my students! I currently teach undergraduate research and I am so impressed with their dedication and enthusiasm in regards to their chosen topics. Most recently, the students presented their research topics and they were very impressive. To see how their knowledge has grown since the first day of class made me smile. I am also very impressed with the level of support provided as it relates to supporting program expansion ideas and recruitment/marketing of the social work programs.

What are your goals for the program as the new director?

My primary goal is to develop new program options including offering online courses and integrating teacher/scholar opportunities for our students and faculty. We are focused on growing student enrollment specifically in our MSW program, extended, and Ann Arbor campuses. I am so grateful to have the support of the School of Health Professions dean and administration.

What can students take away from this program? What kind of opportunities does it create for graduates?

The purpose of the social work profession is to promote human and community well-being. We prepare graduates for baccalaureate and master’s level social work practice within the context of faith, service, and social justice. Our social work programs are guided by a person-in-environment framework where students develop a global perspective, respect for human diversity, and knowledge based on scientific inquiry.  

Our graduates develop an understanding concerning the importance of social and economic justice, the prevention of conditions that limit human rights, the elimination of poverty, and the enhancement of the quality of life for all persons, locally and globally. Many social workers obtain positions in a variety of organizations including the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education, and the Department of Justice as case managers, clinicians, program/policy developers, and administrators to name a few. Social workers also serve in the United States Congress.

What’s your educational and career background?

I earned my PhD in social work from Howard University, a master of social work from the University of South Carolina, and a bachelor’s in psychology from Johnson C. Smith University.  

I have over 20 years of administrative experience which includes grant writing, program/policy development, quality assurance, accreditation oversight, and fundraising. I have worked as a case manager, social worker, and consultant for the Department of Family and Children Services, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, and Child Protective Services Programs. I also served as a consultant for churches through Florida’s Faith and Community Based Initiative in Duval County for which I developed and implemented programs and obtained funding. 

While matriculating through my MSW program, I earned certification as a qualified developmental disability professional (QDDP) working in the Mecklenburg County Schools and developing and implementing programs throughout the state of North Carolina for developmentally disabled individuals and their families. I have also worked as a consultant for nursing homes throughout the southeast region.

During my appointment as an academic administrator, I spearheaded an initiative to develop and implement a professional development school project (PDSP). PSDP provides college prep programs and services to high school students and recent graduates who have education and mental health issues to foster successful transition into the university.

What are some of your favorite career highlights and/or achievements?

I have served as a Fellow at the National Institute of Health (NIH) focusing on cancer research protocols and bioethics, Prince Georges County Government, and the Gerontological Society of America. I was appointed as a Frederick Douglass Visiting Scholar at West Chester University, a University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Geriatric Education Center Faculty Scholar, a UAB Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center: Health Disparities Research Training Program Scholar, and a Michigan Center for Urban African American Aging Research Summer Scholar. I was also appointed as a scientist in numerous NIH funded centers and served as a founder/director for an Office and Center for Global Social Service Research.

I have extensive experience working with faith-based and nonprofit agencies nationally and internationally, including South Africa, Kenya and Haiti. My scholarly work includes books (Caregivers for Persons Living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya: An Ecological Perspective and African American Caregivers: Seasons of Care), refereed journal publications, and presentations in the areas of family group conference models, HIV/AIDS, gerontology, and international social work. I am also the editor-in-chief for the Journal of Gender, Information and Development in Africa (JGIDA) and an African American Women book series editor. 

What’s the most interesting thing about social work that the general public might not know?

Many people think that social work is simply working in child welfare and there is a notion that we focus on taking custody of kids or providing financial assistance. However, social work is classified into three categories of practice: macro social work, mezzo social work, and micro social work. These three categories determine the scope of practice for the social worker.

Macro-level social workers work at the community and systems-level, whereas mezzo-level social work focuses on neighborhoods, small groups, and institutions. Micro-level work focuses on families or individuals. At times, macro-level, mezzo-level, and micro-level social work overlap as individuals, small groups, and larger communities often affect each other.

What’s the one key lesson from your courses/work here at Concordia that you hope students take away from interacting with you and learning from you?

I hope my students understand that social work is truly a calling. I want them to understand the importance of being culturally sensitive while staying true to their values and beliefs. I pray that my students learn to appreciate the importance of social work as it relates to research which is the foundation for the development of programs, policies, and theories.

Why should students study social work?

Social workers are change agents that make a difference in the lives of individuals, groups, and society as a whole. Social workers advance changes in social policy, promote social justice, and foster human and global well-being. The need for social workers continues to grow; there is much work to be done with the opportunity to truly make a difference.

Lastly, why should students consider Concordia?

Students who matriculate through Condordia’s social work program will graduate with the skill sets needed to be competent social workers. They will know how to navigate systems and empower vulnerable populations to meet the global needs of communities. Students will know how to successfully incorporate holistic practices that are inclusive of spirituality, understanding the importance of Christian values and beliefs.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in social work and learning from Dr. Gadling-Cole here at Concordia, we offer both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. You can learn more about our bachelor’s in social work or our master’s of social work by visiting their program pages. 

If this story has inspired you, why not explore how you can help further Concordia's mission through giving.