The swan metaphor is an important one for me. It symbolizes grace in the midst of chaos.

Years ago, as a SWAT Operator, I referenced this symbol often and it’s stayed with me throughout the years as my career and life have transitioned multiple times. The swan swims with one leg paddling furiously while the other is tucked up tightly against its body. Just beneath the surface it struggles to stay the course, all the while the swan appears to move with grace and ease. I believe we are all in this space from time to time. Capable of navigating throughout the world and achieving beautiful things, while just beneath the surface it can feel like something quite the opposite.


Dr. McLeod has spent over two decades working to reduce violence, particularly that directed at people and communities with diminished capacities for self-protection. In addition to being a Professor of Social Work, he holds affiliate faculty status with the OU Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, the OU Center for Social Justice, The OU Carceral Studies Consortium, and the Institute for Community of Society Transformation as well as the Ruth Knee Institute for Transformative Scholarship. David is currently the Interim Director of the Anne and Henry Zarrow School of Social Work.

A former police detective who transitioned to become a forensic social worker, David has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in programs of social work, criminal justice, and preparing future faculty. His research is focused on the intersections of criminal behavior, gender, and trauma, as well as post-traumatic growth and trauma as an origin for purpose. Some of David’s current professional activities include investigations of forensic psychopathology and differential criminal behavior development, female sexual offending, female incarceration, child sexual abuse, forensic social work, intra-professional and multidisciplinary collaboration, domestic and relational violence, positive youth development, connections between trauma survivorship and positive identity development, artificial intelligence, and higher education.

In his State and National community service work, David is the President-Elect of the National Organization of Forensic Social Work, The Editor in Chief of the Journal of Forensic Social Work, Chair of the Oklahoma Children of Incarcerated Parents Advisory Committee to the Legislature, and serves in numerous other areas as well. He has multiple funded research projects underway, and his most recent publications include works on neuroscience, female sexual offending, trauma, domestic violence, and social work education, among other topics. He has won numerous teaching, service, and research honors and is a four-time recipient of the Anne and Henry Zarrow School of Social Work “Professor of the Year” award.

“In the broadest sense, my research is focused on the differential development of criminal behavior and on creating adaptive modernized strategies for early intervention that facilitate alternative developmental trajectories for at-risk populations..”


David Axlyn McLeod, PhD

University of Oklahoma

Associate Director & Professor | Anne and Henry Zarrow School of Social Work

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