Joseph Ryan

Joseph Ryan

2018 Winner
President’s Award for Public Impact
School of Social Work


Ryan has committed his career to improving the lives of children in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems in Michigan and other states. His research on the risk factors associated with child maltreatment has been critical in helping state governments and social service agencies better prevent abuse.

Along with Brian Perron, professor of social work, Ryan Launched the Child Development and Adolescent Data Lab to help policymakers and social service agencies use data and empirical evidence to better inform their decisions.

Former Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Ryan to the Michigan Committee on Juvenile Justice in 2018. His work using data to study child welfare, education, juvenile justice and adult arrest has helped the state think more critically about child welfare and justice policies. He also helped the Illinois Department of Children and Youth Services evaluate programs for families and youth at risk.

“The social problems we face today are incredibly complex and will not be solved in isolation by policymakers, direct service workers, agency directors or the scientific community,” Ryan said. “The answers we pursue will only arise in productive and focused partnerships. The opportunity to help build these partnerships to improve the lives of vulnerable children and families is inspiring and incredibly rewarding.

“I feel honored to work at the University of Michigan, an institution that values public service and actively encourages and supports faculty to build bridges between research labs and communities around the world.

“Scientific inquiry and the advancement of knowledge are foundational activities on campus. This award reflects the university’s commitment to using that knowledge for the sole purpose of making life better for others.”

School of Social Work Dean Lynn Videka said Ryan is a great example of a scholar who makes a difference in people’s lives.

“Joe Ryan is a transformative public scholar,” she said. “His work informs better policies and services for the children of Michigan, Illinois and the nation. His research serves the public good for our nation’s most vulnerable children and it is an exemplar of strong university-government partnerships.”