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Lecturer to focus on social work and climate-change disaster response

March 9th, 2023

Tonya Hansel headshot

Tonya Cross Hansel is interested in how populations are affected by trauma – whether medical, technological or climate-induced – and how social workers can help people recover.

Hansel will give the third Ada Schmidt-Tieszen Social Work Lecture at Bethel College March 20 at 11 a.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium as part of the regular convocation series. The public is invited.

Her lecture topic is “Climate Change and Severe Weather Events: Social Workers’ Present and Future Roles in Disaster Response and Recovery.”

Hansel is currently associate professor of social work, and program director of the doctorate of social work, at Tulane University in New Orleans.

Hansel is a social worker with expertise in research, statistics, disaster mental health, trauma and maximizing outcomes for social service agencies.

Her interest in research began as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in The Gambia, West Africa, where she spent two years after graduating in 2000 with a Bachelor of Social Work degree from the University of North Texas in Denton.

As a volunteer, Hansel helped coordinate research addressing the social problems associated with transmission of HIV and AIDS.

Hansel completed master’s (2005) and doctoral degrees (2007) in social work from Tulane.

While Hansel was working on her Ph.D., her research interests broadened to include terrorism and its impact on divorce rates.

Hansel joined the faculty of the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center Department of Psychiatry in 2007. She held the positions of clinical associate professor and director of clinical evaluation and research, before joining the faculty at Tulane in 2018.

Her research efforts currently center on evaluation of general trauma services, disaster response work in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (2005), and a better understanding of technological disaster following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Together, these experiences have allowed Hansel to focus on measuring traumatic experiences and implementing systematic recovery initiatives that are effective at reducing negative symptoms, but also at emphasizing the importance of individual and community strengths that contribute to recovery.

As program director for the doctorate of social work at Tulane, Hansel plans to extend research methods and data analytic techniques to the curriculum, creating a practical foundation for the future of applied researchers.

Her March 20 lecture at Bethel is free and open to the public.

The Ada Schmidt-Tieszen Lectureship was endowed by former students, friends and family to honor longtime Bethel Professor of Social Work Ada Schmidt-Tieszen, who retired in 2020. Lectures are held on campus each March in recognition of National Social Work Month.

Bethel is a four-year liberal arts college founded in 1887 and is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Known for academic excellence, Bethel ranks at #14 in the Washington Monthly list of “Best Bachelor’s Colleges,” and #24 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings of “Best Regional Colleges Midwest,” both for 2022-23. Bethel is the only Kansas college or university to be named a Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) Campus Center. For more information, see

About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.