How I Work: Social Work Research Edition

How I Work: Social Work Research Edition is a new series of interviews the SSWR Doctoral Student Task Force will be sharing. This series and the questions have been inspired and adapted from Lifehacker's How I Work series (thank you Lifehacker!). We will be briefly interviewing individuals in the social work research arena about how they go about their work. We hope these interviews will give new insights to social work doctoral students and provide them a window into the lives of professors, researchers, deans, etc. We welcome recommendations of individuals to interview. Head over to the Facebook page to post your recommendations.


By: Candra Skrzypek, LMSW, doctoral student at University at Buffalo School of Social Work

Dr. Melanie Sage

Dr. Melanie Sage

Dr. Melanie Sage is an Assistant Professor at the University of Buffalo University at Buffalo School of Social Work. Her research areas include the use of technology in social work education and practice, the intersections of technology and child welfare, family engagement in child welfare and child welfare practice with indigenous families. As a national leader at the intersection of technology and social work, Dr. Sage provides regular training for social work practitioners and educators in the ethical and effective use of technology and social media, serves as Chair of the board of husITa (a national non-profit that promotes the ethical and effective use of technology in human services) and is a co-chair of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare Grand Challenge, Harnessing Technology for Social Good.

I interviewed Dr. Melanie Sage for our series because she recently co-authored a book that is relevant for any doctoral student who wishes to use technology in the classroom. As a first-generation college student, I was also eager to hear about Dr. Sage’s experiences as she also identifies as a first-generation scholar. Prior to coming to the University at Buffalo, Dr. Sage worked for six years at University of North Dakota, where she was the BSW program director, and she has ten years of direct practice experience. Dr. Sage was able to offer a down-to-earth perspective on scholarship, applied research, persistency, and kindness.

Candra: What is your background and how you became a social work researcher? 

Dr. Sage: My mom was as child welfare worker and I thought that was really interesting, so that was my first goal. So I got my BSW and MSW and always loved being in school. Even in my MSW program, most my friends were like, “I’ll never be in school again!” and I thought “Oh, maybe…” I went to California to practice in child welfare and was a IV-E student and got a stipend to go back and do child welfare work. And work was hard, and turnover was high, and I saw that that made a big impact on families—the loss of workers. Or the workers who, for their own survival, decided they couldn’t do child welfare work anymore. The supervisors made a big difference on how they were doing in the field.

So my first ambition was that I wanted to make an impact on this problem and better support workers and agencies, and I wanted to teach. I was training new workers in the child welfare agency and I liked it. Portland seemed like it was a good place to live and I didn’t know much about what a researcher was at the time, or how doctoral programs were ranked, but I thought it was a way to become a better social worker. As a first generation PhD student, I didn’t really know anyone who went to college or have anyone to talk to about getting a PhD. I had always gone to regional schools. But I was persistent. I only applied to Portland and when I got there, I found out that getting a PhD was about research. So I worked at a research institute for a while as a PhD student, and it was more “ivory tower” than the work I hoped to do, and had a breakdown thinking the PhD track was a mistake for me.

I ended up connecting with the director of the Child Welfare Research Center. We went out for coffee and I cried and cried, and she said there was “applied research” and that I could do that if I wanted to. And that’s when I realized that doing stats and writing publications could be part of the holistic thing of doing research while also contributing to work that makes the world a better place. 

I got my first academic job and realized I really love research- I could be independent but also collaborative, and manage projects, elicit supports, bring in money to serve community solutions, and it is really creative work- to find a problem to be solved, consider possibilities, figure out the best ways to measure what’s going well and what’s not. It’s pretty exciting, really. And hard sometimes, dealing with real-world problems and trying to make a difference, especially when the going is slow or interventions don’t work in the way you hoped. But still, research is fun!

Right now I am really interested in the ways that technology can improve the lives of foster youth. Specifically, I’m interested in ways that tech can support healthy relationships, what it means to have a healthy online relationship, and how supportive adults can help youth navigate online relationships in positive ways, as allies.

Candra: What is one word that best describes how you work?

Dr. Sage: “For impact”—which is technically two words, but I would fight for that. When I’m working, I always think about, “How will this make a difference for somebody? How does this inform practice?”  I get bored with my work, or tired, when I’m doing something that I don’t feel like is doing good for somebody besides me. I think sometimes I’ve accidentally done things that sounds like a smart idea like, “A lot of people will cite this thing,” and it doesn’t make me as happy because it isn’t useful. That’s why I focus a lot on applied research. I call it being a “pracademic.” Improving practice will always be the reason I’m an academic.

Candra: What does a typical work day look like for you?

Dr. Sage: I’ve been here [in Buffalo] for two years. The first year was a lot of settling in. I shifted my research agenda and had to spend a lot of time connecting with people, reading, and doing some outreach. I just finished a book that took quite a bit of time. 

I’m not good with traditional hours—I’m a bit of a night owl. I work best around 2pm or so, so I do things like email or errands in morning and start work around 10am. I schedule thing that need a lot of attention, like meetings or writing time, around 2 or 3. I still haven’t developed a great writing schedule! I binge write… I will go to a coffee shop for hours. But some things that help are accountability (working with others) and setting deadlines with other people. I have always been a little service heavy—part of it is it is a reflection of my values, part of it is being excited about things and saying “yes” to everything that sounds fun (and that’s a lot of things), and part of it is not being able to say “no.” So I do a lot of guest speaking or things that take away from scholarship and I have to watch for that in my work. I am working toward better focus. 

Candra: What is your best time-saving short cut in your role as a social work researcher? 

Dr. Sage: I live by Google Calendar and sync it to my phone and my Outlook. And I have a bullet journal, so I have all my projects just on paper. I’m a big techy person, but this is my best way to keep my act together. Also, I don’t do too much alone. If you are stuck on thinking on something—talk with someone else. It’s stupid to try to sit around and try to figure it out on your own when you’re surrounded by so many smart people. I really enjoy collaborations and that took me a while to figure out because I’ve always seen myself as independent and I did not always have good experiences with “group work” but I’ve figured out that it can be good! And collaboration is important as a scholar.

Candra: What are your techniques for collaborating with colleagues? 

Dr. Sage: I would recommending that everyone has a professional learning network. I’ve developed so many collaborations on Twitter. Most of my important academic projects have started on twitter. Especially if you do not have colleagues who worked in your institute in your area or research. When I started working with technology and social work…. that’s how I met with Nancy Smyth and Laurel Hitchcock who I just finished writing a book with. Tell people: “I like what you like, can we talk?” people most always say yes. That has led to some great collaborations.

Also—a first-generation student thing—I think there is more imposter syndrome. You feel like you don’t belong with other people who are academics and are afraid to reach out. Most of my success in this work is not because I’m the smartest or most accomplished, but because I am bold. And I think that is common in first-gen students. Persistency.

Practically, things that have been helpful for me are settting up check-in meetings, usually via Zoom because I work with people across distances, and having goals. I am good at using online collaboration tools like Google docs, Dropbox, and Zotero. I love Zotero.

Candra: How do you keep track of what you need to get done?

Dr. Sage: Google calendar and bullet journaling. I have a good friend, Laurel, who I met on Twitter and she is very task-oriented and I am very dreamy. And she is very good with “OK what are the steps we need to get that done?”. I do work with a local non-profit where the director is an artist and a dreamer and I support their work by writing grants. So in that case, I am the one saying, “What are the steps? What is our mission?” You’ve got to figure out who is going to balance you on your team and what your role needs to be to bring balance to the team.

Candra: What is your least favorite work and how do you deal with it?

Dr. Sage: Grading papers. I really like teaching and I think teaching is really important. It is just a gift to enter into the lives’ of students and impart what you think about social work—what is important and complicated about our jobs, and about being human. If you do a good job of that, it can make a really big impact. 

Students more and more are dealing with so many stressors. We have so many first-gen students in the classroom with so much going on outside of school. Getting an A is still so important to them. How do you balance all the hard things they bring? With their personal expectations about the grade specific outcomes of their work, but knowing that can’t match the expectations of time and attention? How can you be fair to the realities that everyone brings to an assignment and put a number on it? Some students have had training in academic writing since 6thgrade while it’s the first time for some. How do you grade in a fair way and what does fair mean? I use a lot of rubrics to help with that, but it never feels easy. 

Candra: How do you recharge or take care of yourself outside of work?

Dr. Sage: I try to work in a way where I feel like I don’t need to escape it. For example, my work with Stitch Buffalo combines my love of art and social justice. In terms of collaborations—I don’t work with people who are jerks. I work with people who I actually love, and who recharge me. My friend Laurel is one of those people, I am excited to meet up with her to work on a paper. In graduate school, I had a “battle buddy,” we would work together and workshop our papers and that got me through my dissertation, one long Saturday at a time.

In graduate school, even if you can’t choose all the projects you work on, I would encourage doc students to think about ways to get what they want out of the projects they are doing. It is OK to negotiate with the PI. I always ask students who are on projects with me, “What excites you?” Because I want them to work on things that excite them, it will make the work better. 

I also reupholster old furniture and enjoy thrift store shopping. I like making old things more beautiful. I love a great deal. I love art and traveling to new places. I had never been on a plane or out of my home state until I was 23. I feel so lucky that travel is part of my work now. I always try to get to a museum or see local art, murals, galleries when I go to an academic conference.

Candra: Who is a researcher (in social work or another field) who inspires you? Why?

Dr. Sage: Katherine Cahn is one of my PhD mentors, she saved me when I thought I was going to drop out of graduate school. She has built her whole career around high impact work in child welfare, and has written many technical reports, alongside scholarly papers. Most work her work has been sitting with the community and figuring out how to improve things. And she’s so graceful about dealing with complexity- we tackle really complicated issues in child welfare work.

Sonia Livingstone is a researcher in the UK whose work I follow. The UK is ahead of us in areas of the impact of technology on people, and Dr Livingstone approaches this work from “rights” and “affordances” perspectives when talking about youth online- it’s much more balanced and grounded than our fear-based perspectives of youth who use technology. So- I bring her work and language to some of mine. (It’s a good idea to look at how people in other countries or disciplines are approaching issues in your area of research- it’s an easy way to bring new perspectives to our discipline).

Candra: What is the best advice you’ve ever received? 

Dr. Sage: Our dean, Nancy Smyth told me, “Remember every time you say yes, you are saying no to something else.” That helps me make decisions.

Candra: What advice would you offer to social work doctoral students? 

Dr. Sage: Be persistent and don’t be afraid to reach out to someone who knows more than you do about something. Another thing- I tell my MSW students is that I like theory a lot and thinking about it, but at the end of the day, if your only core way of working with people is through a lens of honesty and kindness, that will get you really far. Lift up your fellow students. It’s easy to fall into the traps of competition or dark humor, and buy in to negative things people say about social work, which can be discouraging and weigh on us—even if it is a survival strategy. Just think of ways to lift each other up and call out what your colleagues are doing really well. I don’t buy in to the idea that we can just “choose to be happy” or that we should “smile more” but I do think the way we treat each other and ourselves makes a difference.

Candra: What are some projects or publications that you would like people to know about? 

Dr. Sage: I recommend our new book!  I am proud of it, it’s practical and useful- and most every job ad for new social work profs I see lately ask for experience or knowledge about teaching online. Here are a few things that people have told me have had important impacts on their teaching: 

Hitchcock, L., Sage, M., & Smyth, N. (2019). Teaching Social Work with Digital Technology. CSWE: Press: Alexandria, V. A. 

Hitchcock, L., & Sage, M. (2018). Professional learning networks for social workers in the digital age. Social Work Today, 18(2), 22. 

Sage, M., & Sele, P. (2016). Reflective journaling as a Flipped Classroom technique to increase reading and participation with Social Work students. Journal of Social Work Education.

Thanks for the interview! I love being a social work academic and I am excited about what the next generation of academics will bring to our work. 

How I Work: Social Work Research Edition

How I Work: Social Work Research Edition is a new series of interviews the SSWR Doctoral Student Task Force will be sharing. This series and the questions have been inspired and adapted from Lifehacker's How I Work series (thank you Lifehacker!). We will be briefly interviewing individuals in the social work research arena about how they go about their work. We hope these interviews will give new insights to social work doctoral students and provide them a window into the lives of professors, researchers, deans, etc. We welcome recommendations of individuals to interview. Head over to the Facebook page to post your recommendations.


Dr. Amy Ritterbusch

Dr. Amy Ritterbusch

By: Dominique Mikell, MA, doctoral student at UCLA – Luskin School of Public Affairs, Department of Social Welfare

Dr. Amy Ritterbusch is an Assistant Professor at the University of California Los Angeles Luskin School of Public AffairsDepartment of Social Welfare. She has led social justice-oriented participatory action research initiatives with street-connected communities in Colombia for the last decade and recently in Uganda. Her work involves the documentation of human rights violations and forms of violence exerted against homeless individuals, sex workers, drug users and street-connected children and youth, and subsequent community-driven mobilizations to catalyze social justice outcomes within these communities. Throughout her research and teaching career, she has explored different approaches to engaging students and community leaders through critical and responsible interaction between the classroom and street spaces in Colombia and Uganda through the lens of social justice-oriented PAR. Her research has been funded by the Open Society Foundations, the National Science Foundation, the Fulbright U.S. Program and other networks promoting global social justice.

I interviewed Dr. Amy Ritterbusch for our series because with summer around the corner, I believed it was the perfect time to reflect on how I can work with more passion and efficiency in the upcoming year. I was confident that Dr. Ritterbusch would be able to share insightful knowledge on both topics. Although new to the UCLA Luskin community, Dr. Ritterbusch has quickly been identified as not only an impactful scholar but also as a reflexive and powerful advocate for social justice in everything she does.  

Dominique: What is one word that best describes how you work? 

Dr. Ritterbusch: Sentipensamiento - I work from a space in which thinking and feeling collide. When I try to write or when I choose a research topic, I try to channel what I am the most passionate about in that moment. That is the way I have tried to work throughout my whole career. The term sentipensar links to the participatory action research (PAR) principle of simultaneously thinking and feeling from the heart which was described by Fals Borda. You think, and you analyze as you are feeling and as you are acting for social change. I understand PAR and a sentipensante ethos as my life philosophy, that is the way that I work, I teach, and I write. Sentipensante activists catalyze certain actions for social change and the idea of sentipensar does not emerge directly from social theory but rather from fishermen on the Atlantic coast of Colombia who explained to Fals Borda what gets them through the struggles of daily life en comunidades ribereñas. The etymology of the word goes back to social movements in the 60s and 70s in Latin America. This life philosophy resists ivory tower theorizing and draws its strength from social movements in the global South.  

I believe in an academy that theorizes and works for social change at the intimate scale of the body. At the street level. At the scale where we are moved by what we want to change in the world. That is what these fishermen on the Atlantic Coast said to Fals Borda, a Colombian sociologist and PAR theorist, and to Eduardo Galeano, a Uruguayan journalist and radical leader of thought who also met these fishermen during his travels. Eduardo Galeano set forth important literary work on social movements and decolonial, anti-capitalist resistance in Latin America, such as the Open Veins of Latin America(Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina),’ which, for me, visualizes the roar of social movements in Latin America. In this piece, he talks about the deaths, injustices, disappearances, incarcerations, forced displacements and the domination of elitist power structures through the metaphor of open veins. My work is also informed by feminist ethnographic thought such as the work of Ruth Behar, who discusses the practice of vulnerable writing and vulnerable observation, two terms that should present as a counter to classic armchair ethnographic work in The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology that Breaks Your Heart.  I read these pieces when working on my dissertation and they have shaped the daily movement of my feeling-thinking scholarship. Ruth Behar argues that you can’t observe from a distance. One of the lines I most love from Ruth Behar’s book is that she says vulnerability is about wearing your heart on your sleeve. So, when you write, if you can imagine writing with your heart on your sleeve, doing research with your heart on your sleeve, forming relationships for social justice movement with your arm on your sleeve. 

Dominique: What is your background? How you did you become a social work researcher? 

Dr. Ritterbusch: I am drawn to social work through my understanding of what a participatory ethics and radical research praxis entails. While my interest in the geopolitics of space and the spatiality of collective work and social movements led me to radical and feminist geography, I also am committed to an engaged scholarship that radicalizes and decolonizes and pushes beyond traditional academic dissemination practices and toward radical, community-engaged pedagogies and research praxis. 

Dominique: What does a typical work day look like for you? 

Dr. Ritterbusch: I bike to work and once I get here, I do something to get motivated. Sometimes I read, but often I listen to music to get to a feeling-thinking place of inspiration. Artists like Lauryn Hill, Herencia de Timbiquí, or ChocQuibTown. Then I move into either a space of preparing for teaching, reviewing student work or finding refuge in writing and research. I listen to music or reading something to channel my productive rage about the current state of injustices surrounding us, where I can write about these injustices, violence and exclusions with my heart on my sleeve. Then I try to write until I get interrupted.  I really like getting interrupted. I love contact with students because it is so energizing. 

Dominique: What is your best time-saving short cut in your role as a social work researcher? 

Dr. Ritterbusch:My accountability group helps me stay focused and saves time. It is an online group of scholars who know each other personally and who have created a shared excel sheet in which we share quarterly priorities. At the end of each day we report what was and was not accomplished and plan for the next day.  Shout out to Lindsay Mayka for leading and energizing this space! It is really helpful because within that document there is a weekly goal setting system and a daily goal setting system. 

Dominique: How do you keep track of what you need to get done? 

Dr. Ritterbusch:So, my accountability group helps me keep track of things that I have accomplished. In our shared excel sheet we have cells that are for quarterly, weekly and daily goals. So, the way it is broken down you think about the big goals for the academic year, then you break it down into months, then weeks, then days and you must fill all of that out in the shared excel sheet. Then when you get to cross things out it feels so good. For the immediate things that I don’t want to forget or the ideas that I just want to have visually in my office, I have sticky notes. I am not sure the number of sticky notes I have is healthy, but that is what I do for now (pre-tenure). 

Dominique: What is your least favorite work and how do you deal with it? 

Dr. Ritterbusch: Dealing with the exploitative legacies of researchers who have rampaged communities throughout the world. I am heartbroken by the way the dominant and persistent institutional culture of the academy perpetuates inequalities and violence, both within university spaces and in ‘community-based’ research spaces.  We need concrete action for restorative justice in the communities the academy has historically colonized, and we need to decolonize our campuses by returning stolen land, refusing violent pedagogies and exploitative research and by contributing to a radical consciousness building that fuels movement toward a more just society.  We also need   It is perpetual heartbreak that I encounter daily in the classroom and in the contact zones of research as I try to change the things around me that are in my control. 

Dominique: How do you recharge or take care of yourself outside of work?

Dr. Ritterbusch: Well the bike commute serves as a daily processing space away from social media and the toxicity of the daily news. I also engage with music as a means of creating contextual reminders to strive for a daily balance between work and following practices of self- and collective care within the movements I accompany as an activist-scholar. 

Dominique: Who is a researcher (in social work or another field) who inspires you? Why?

Dr. Ritterbusch: I was drawn to social work because of the social justice principles that underpin the historical emergence of the discipline. Social work and social welfare more broadly, aims to not only create new intellectual leaders for social welfare, but also to support next generations of social workers on the frontlines of inequality and violence throughout the world. As I worked for social justice throughout Colombia for the last ten years, some the most revolutionary conversations that I have had in my lifetime were with young social workers changing lives throughout the country, in geographically excluded rural and indigenous communities, in river communities spanning throughout Latin America and in the depths of inequality and marginalization in the principal metropolis of Medellín, Buenaventura, Bogotá, Cali and Cartagena. I am so inspired by their work and struggle in the face of state persecution and living in conflict-affected and structurally marginalized communities. These are people who I have met quite literally in the trenches in rural and urban areas. I asked these young social workers where they studied social work.  Some graduated from the National University in Bogotá while others were trained in faith-based social work programs which emerged from the Latin American liberation theology tradition. These social justice champions were doing incredibly committed, long-term social change work in the depths of injustice in Colombia. I really admire this work and over time I longed to have more contact with more radical students emerging from such traditions. 

Dominique: What advice would you offer to social work doctoral students? 

Dr. Ritterbusch: Find spaces of collective inquiry in your program where you can engage in spaces of intellectual encounter and resistance regarding what you are the most passionate about – you want to get the most out of these years of uninterrupted self and collective inquiry in your life. Find a space where you can engage in sentipensamiento for social justice. 

Dominique: What are some projects or publications that you would like people to know about?

Dr. Ritterbusch:

Ritterbusch, A. E. (2019), Empathy at Knifepoint: The Dangers of Research and Lite Pedagogies for Social Justice Movements. Antipode. doi:10.1111/anti.12530

Ritterbusch, A. (2012).  Bridging Guidelines and Practice: Toward a Grounded Care Ethics in  Youth Participatory Action Research. The Professional Geographer 64(1), 16 – 24. doi:10.1080/00330124.2011.596783

Dominique: Thank you so much for allowing me to interview you Dr. Ritterbusch. I know I learned a lot from you and believe others who read our series will benefit as well! 

SSWR Doctoral Student Spotlight

The SSWR Doctoral Student Members Task Force is launching a new series featuring research conducted by doctoral students. The series is intended to bring awareness and attention to the research being done by social work doctoral students, as well as important issues in the field. One spotlight piece will be featured each week on the SSWR Doctoral Student Member Blog & Facebook Page during the spring 2019 semester. 


Gary Kwok

Gary Kwok

Project FORWARD (Facing Obstacles in Relationships and Work with Action, Resources, Direction)

Student Researchers: Delores A. Owens and Gary Kwok 

About the Researchers: Gary is a 5th year PhD Candidate in the School of Social Work at Adelphi University. Using a strength-based approach, his research intersects LGBTQ communities, racial identities, adolescence development, and mental health disparities. On his free time, Gary likes to watch cooking shows and imagine how they would’ve tasted.

Delores A. Owens, MPH, MPA is a PhD Candidate at Adelphi University School of Social Work. Her research interests include: health disparities among low socioeconomic status populations, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women, girls at risk or involvement in the juvenile justice system, youth culture and interpersonal relations [abuse] and social media

Delores A. Owens

Delores A. Owens

Description of the Study: Project FORWARD is a federally funded partnership to evaluate intervention programs targeting behavioral health, family violence prevention, criminal justice, economic stability, and job development among youth and young adults.

Purpose: The purpose of the project is to understand the programs from the perspective of different stakeholders (e.g., clinicians and clients) and provide recommendations to improve services to all partners.

Methodological Approach: We incorporated a mixed method approach. We surveyed participants and used the quantitative data to assess the efficiency of the program. We also interviewed and hosted focus groups with service providers on various aspects of the programs. 

Findings: We noticed that there may be a possible gap between intervention curriculum and the participants. Particularly, we found that the current dating violence prevention curriculum lacks up-to-date materials on the current relationship cultural (e.g., sexting, dating languages, etc.). 

Anticipated Implications: We anticipate that the results will inform all the stakeholders on the current state of the programs. It also gives us insights to how to tailor interventions to better serve the clients in the communities. 

Challenges Encountered: One of the lessons we learned was strategizing ways to maintain an acceptable response rate in longitudinal research with adolescents. Various strategies must be involved including: timing (e.g., recruiting in the summer vs. follow up during summer recess), using online survey platform, having a healthy working relationship and constant communication with their teachers, and so forth. 

SSWR Doctoral Student Spotlight

The SSWR Doctoral Student Members Task Force is launching a new series featuring research conducted by doctoral students. The series is intended to bring awareness and attention to the research being done by social work doctoral students, as well as important issues in the field. One spotlight piece will be featured each week on the SSWR Doctoral Student Member Blog & Facebook Page during the spring 2019 semester. 


Exploring the Interaction of Student Loan Debt and Longevity Planning within the Context of the Family

Julie Miller

Julie Miller

Student Researcher: Julie Miller

About the Researcher: Julie Miller, MSW, is a fourth year doctoral candidate at Boston College and a Research Associate at the MIT AgeLab. She earned her MSW from UC Berkeley and her Bachelors of Science from Northeastern University.

Description of the Study: Julie's doctoral dissertation explores how student loans are experienced by individuals and within families. Her work focuses on ways in which borrowers of different ages perceive and prioritize retirement and longevity-planning in light of student loans and loan debt and how families navigate student loan accrual and repayment.

Inspiration for the Study: As people live longer lives, economic security across the life course is especially vital. The burden of student loans may drive some individuals and families further down the socioeconomic ladder rather than up.

Methodological Approach: My dissertation uses qualitative and quantitative data collected at the MIT AgeLab through a concurrent triangulation mixed methods study design.

Findings: Preliminary results suggest that, particularly among women, planning for future financial security for oneself and/or family members may be less achievable with the presence of student loan debt. In addition, student loan repayment can influence family dynamics, including willingness and ability to provide intergenerational transfers to aging parents and dependent children.

Anticipated Implications: My dissertation highlights gaps in knowledge that policymakers, practitioners, and social work scholars can begin to address with current and potential student loan borrowers.

Challenges Encountered: I collected my own data for my dissertation, so some challenges stemmed from developing survey and focus group instruments- learning how to ask the right questions and testing and re-testing. Other challenges arose when integrating mixed methods and wanting to do all of my data justice.

Questions or comments for Julie? Email her at: millabj@bc.edu

SSWR Doctoral Student Spotlight

The SSWR Doctoral Student Members Task Force is launching a new series featuring research conducted by doctoral students. The series is intended to bring awareness and attention to the research being done by social work doctoral students, as well as important issues in the field. One spotlight piece will be featured each week on the SSWR Doctoral Student Member Blog & Facebook Page during the spring 2019 semester. 


 

Teaching Advocacy to Second Year Masters of Social Work Students in Clinical Field Placements

Michael J. Rogers

Michael J. Rogers

Student Researcher: Michael J. "Mick" Rogers, MSW, LCSW, Smith College School for Social Work

About the Researcher: Mick served children and their families for 35 years and college students for 5 years as an LCSW.  In that time he has had more than 100 MSW II interns and has an ongoing interest in both field instruction and clinical supervision . In addition, Mick volunteered for three state's Societies for Clinical Social Work (including as Board President). He currently chairs the Ethics Committee and the CEU Committee of CSCSW. 

Description of the Study: This qualitative study interviews two groups of 2nd year, strong, clinical field instructors at a state university who either prioritize teaching advocacy skills at the higher, specialist-year level or prioritize other learning opportunities over these advocacy skills. This research uses a narrative approach to listen for, analyze, and explicate: 

(1) best practices in teaching specialist level advocacy skills at micro, mezzo and macro levels, (2) the field instructors’ motivators that affected their prioritization,

(3) obstacles to prioritize the teaching of these skills, and 

(4) strategies that field instructors used that overcame the obstacles.

In order to further objectivity and promote efficiency, this researcher uses NVivo for Mac (v. 12.2.0 ) to best document what the field instructors actually say, to transcribe, code and note the field instructors’ interviews, and to code in a manner where a field instructor’s quote can reflect several different themes and similarities and differences between the interviewees could be identified, examined and analyzed.

Inspiration for the Study: I am concerned that administrative needs for maximizing revenue -- especially since the Great Recession -- has led MSW II field instructors (FIs) to de-prioritize the teaching of higher-level advocacy skills and give a higher priority to teaching short term interventions. I hope to find that FIs, despite administrative pressures, are staying true to social work's values and teaching micro, mezzo and macro advocacy at an advanced level to interns in clinical settings.

Methodological Approach: A narrative approach that interviews two different types of expert nominated FIs (Hi and Lo prioritizers of teaching advocacy).

Implications: FIs will be in a better position to pushback and use this research to stay true to social work's unique identity

Challenges Encountered: The "strong field instructors in clinical settings" were nominated by the Social Work Faculty. I would not have enough nominated FIs if the Field Director did not take an active role in encouraging her peers to respond to my e-mail request. 

Twenty 1-1/2 hour interviews created a mountain of transcription and coding. In hindsight, I wish I structured each interview to be between 45" and one hour.

Some FI's used the terms "advocacy" and "macro" synonymously. The researcher needed to differentiate and define micro, mezzo and macro advocacy.

Some nominated field instructors were surprised that the faculty saw them as being in "clinical" settings (school social work, medical social work, hospice work.) I had to clarify that they qualified before they would agree to be interviewed.

Questions or comments for Michael? Email him at: mrogers@smith.edu

SSWR Doctoral Student Spotlight

The SSWR Doctoral Student Members Task Force is launching a new series featuring research conducted by doctoral students. The series is intended to bring awareness and attention to the research being done by social work doctoral students, as well as important issues in the field. One spotlight piece will be featured each week on the SSWR Doctoral Student Member Blog & Facebook Page during the spring 2019 semester. 


Erum Agha

Erum Agha

Health and Behavioral Health of Refugee Women Resettled in the United States

Student Researcher: Erum Agha, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill 

About the Researcher: Erum is a 4th year doctoral student. Her research focuses on identifying and addressing health and behavioral health needs and disparities of refugee women, their health service utilization, and interventions to address unmet health and behavioral health needs. Erum is also a clinician and enjoys trail running.

Description of the Study: Erum's 3-paper dissertation will examine the incidence and prevalence of mental illness among refugee women, seek refugee and provider perspectives on health and behavioral health needs and analyze a national data set to explore service utilization patterns by urban and rural origins.

Inspiration for the Study: Erum's research agenda is motivated by improving the living conditions of the most vulnerable and marginalized groups in our society and addressing the worst global humanitarian refugee crisis in history through research.

Methodological Approach: Erum is conducting a systematic literature review, a qualitative study and using quantitative methods and a national data set to examine health, behavioral health and service utilization among refugee women.

Findings: Erum's research will explore the prevalence and incidence of mental illness among refugee women and service utilization patterns based on urban and rural origins. Her qualitative study is projected to provide valuable information upon which future assessments and interventions for behavioral health of resettled Syrian refugee women can be based.

Implications: Uniformity of assessment of immediate refugee needs, and systems in place to address long-term needs is the first step in improving the health of resettled refugees. Increasing awareness of behavioral health by implementing policy level programs including public education has the potential to change attitudes and is the next step.

Challenges Encountered: Conducting research with refugees is challenging given their high mobility and language and cultural barriers. Use of trained interpreters, providing cultural training for researchers, seeking refugee perspectives, and developing and implementing culturally relevant interventions will increase engagement and improve outcomes for refugees.

Questions or comments for Erum? Email her at: erum@live.unc.edu

How I Work: Social Work Research Edition

How I Work: Social Work Research Edition is a new series of interviews the SSWR Doctoral Student Task Force will be sharing. This series and the questions have been inspired and adapted from Lifehacker's How I Work series (thank you Lifehacker!). We will be briefly interviewing individuals in the social work research arena about how they go about their work. We hope these interviews will give new insights to social work doctoral students and provide them a window into the lives of professors, researchers, deans, etc. We welcome recommendations of individuals to interview. Head over to the Facebook page to post your recommendations.


Mary Ellen Brown, PhD, MSW, MPA, LCSW
Assistant Professor at Arizona State University School of Social Work 
Area of research:
Equitable community development, social determinants of health and health disparities, community resiliency, participatory action research 

Mary Ellen Brown, PhD, MSW, MPA, LCSW

Mary Ellen Brown, PhD, MSW, MPA, LCSW

Mary-Ellen Brown is an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions at Arizona State University. Through varied experiences in Dr. Brown's academic and professional history, she has a robust background in research and evaluation, community health, positive youth development, and neighborhood planning and revitalization. Dr. Brown's scholarship is focused on the effects of poverty and violence as related to the resiliency, health and well-being of underserved communities, including Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, and urban Native American populations. 

Dr. Brown's areas of specialized research include examining social determinants of health embedded in components of equitable community development, community health, and systems that perpetuate poverty and community stress and trauma. This line of investigation includes a special emphasis on developing valid and reliable measures for determining the effectiveness of community-engaged prevention and intervention efforts in promoting positive health outcomes to combat minority health inequities and related risk factors.

Kimberly: One word that best describes how you work?

Mary-Ellen: Collaboratively

Kimberly: What is your background and how you became a social work researcher? 

Mary-Ellen: I graduated with my undergraduate degree in psychology, with the goal of becoming an art therapist and working with children. It was this desire that drew me to pursue my MSW. However, once I started the MSW program I was blown away by all the many ways social workers impact people and communities, and was immediately drawn to our profession’s historical roots in the settlement house movement and our traditions of advocacy and empowerment. After nearly a decade in the field working with youth at risk of educational failure and their families in under-resourced communities, I knew I wanted to expand my ability to build community by studying neighborhood conditions in our most vulnerable communities and designing and testing community-level interventions. I became a social work researcher so I could be a scholar activist, to study social issues and develop actionable, innovative and evidence-based solutions alongside community members using community-based participatory research, and so that I could teach and help prepare future generations of social change agents.

Kimberly: What does a typical work day look like for you? 

Mary-Ellen: A typical day for me starts out before the sun is up, with coffee and quiet, working on my writing goals for the day – spending several hours on whichever new manuscript or revision is the current priority. Next I’ll work through my emails and then review my to-do list of research, teaching, or service-related tasks, and take care of the priority to-dos. The rest of the day usually consists of a few conference calls with colleagues at other universities or out of state community partners related to collaborative papers, upcoming presentations, or current research projects. I also typically have a few meetings with my project staff, students, and community partners – on campus and out in the community. These meetings are often related to planning for or progress on data collection and analysis, mentorship and student development, securing resources, or connecting with and strengthening relationships with community partners. I’ll wind down the day back at my computer, responding to emails, finishing tasks I was unable to complete earlier, and spending another few hours on current writing projects.  

Kimberly: What is your best time-saving short cut in your role as a social work researcher? 

Mary-Ellen: My best time-saving short cut as a social work researcher is collaboration, not working in a silo and thinking I need to do it all myself. I’ve always believed that when we align and leverage our strengths as researchers, within and across disciplines, we not only strengthen the rigor of the research but also more significantly impact communities. In my research I recruit graduate level students and other junior faculty members in social work to partner in my grant-funded projects, as well as more senior faculty members in social work and other disciplines within and outside of my university. When you integrate a variety of perspectives and expertise through transdisciplinary action research, the collective capacity allows you to do more with your scholarship than you could do alone– and to do so more efficiently and more effectively.  

Kimberly: What are your techniques for collaborating with colleagues? 

Mary-Ellen: Techniques for collaborating with colleagues include relationship-building, establishing a common agenda, and communication. You must build a relationship with colleagues in order to determine if you are compatible for collaboration. You don’t need to share the same opinions or ideas with your colleagues to effectively collaborate – in fact it is best if you do think differently – but you do need to ensure your personalities and working styles match well enough that you get along and would enjoy working together. Once I’ve identified a potential colleague to collaborate with we talk about our common scholarship goals  - to see where our research interests align and what kind of outcomes we would like to achieve together (e.g. dissemination through manuscripts, presentations, etc.), and set a common agenda based on these goals for the collaborative relationship. The other and most important technique for collaboration involves communication; once the relationship is established it is imperative to communicate regularly, effectively, and transparently. It is important to be up front with your colleagues about your strides and struggles with respect to your role in the work, in order to ensure everyone is on the same page, heading in the same direction, and you are able to help one another troubleshoot when necessary to keep the collaboration on track for success.

Kimberly: How do you keep track of what you need to get done?

Mary-Ellen: I’m an obsessive organizer. I am a fan of colorful spreadsheets, sticky notes on mirrors, white boards, electronic calendars and to-do lists... I’m always looking for more effective ways to organize my work. 

My current system involves a combination of things: First, I keep a separate folder for each month of the year in Dropbox. For every task that involves a firm or self-imposed deadline I save a document related to that task in the folder of the month it is due with the date of the deadline in the title of the saved document. This could be for funding or fellowship opportunities, conference abstracts, manuscripts, article reviews for journals, grading deadlines, service commitments, research-related tasks, etc. At the end of each month I review the folder for the month ahead and use my whiteboard to map out the critical tasks and their related deadlines, and keep this visible near my desk. At this time I also place a reminder in my Outlook calendar of each key deadline for that month on the date it is due. 

Next, I review my whiteboard each week, usually on Sundays, and use the electronic to-do list on my phone to create daily lists of the work to be done for the upcoming week in order to complete each task. Oftentimes I will also block out times on my Outlook calendar for the week ahead so I can realistically set goals for what I can complete that week in light of my other commitments for the week (meetings, teaching, travel, etc). Also, In my calendar I color-code my teaching, research, writing, service, and self-care related activities so that I can look back each month and assess whether I am spending too much (or not enough) time in any one area and make adjustments accordingly.

Kimberly: What is your least favorite work and how do you deal with it?

Mary-Ellen: My least favorite research-related work is completing paperwork and forms (e.g. travel expense forms, grant reporting forms, IRB forms, etc.). I recognize that these are necessary and important tasks, but I’d rather be spending my time facilitating a focus group, creating or conducting a survey, analyzing data, or out in the community meeting with residents and other community partners. I manage the paperwork by reminding myself that these tasks are important for transparency and accountability in research, and when appropriate I share the responsibility for completing these tasks with other project staff and colleagues. I’m also a big believer in rewards as motivation, so if I have an especially daunting or time-consuming paperwork task to complete, I incentivize it by planning a reward for myself when it is completed. 

Kimberly: How do you recharge or take care of yourself outside of work?

Mary-Ellen: I recharge by spending time with my family and my dogs. I have several hobbies, including painting and jewelry making, and I make time for those hobbies regularly. I also practice meditation and journaling. When I started my own doctoral program I was an avid runner and I practiced yoga regularly; I’m currently working on getting back into these activities because physical exercise is so important to promoting positive mental health and wellbeing. 

Kimberly: Who is a researcher (in social work or another field) who inspires you? Why?

Mary-Ellen: I have so many academic heroes that have inspired me over the years. One that I would like to highlight for those interested in neighborhood-level research is Dr. Mary Ohmer, in the School of Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh. She is a pioneer of the Consensus Organizing framework, which has been an inspiration for me since my studies many years ago on community organizing. Her recent book on Measures for Community and Neighborhood Researchis a fantastic resource for exploring methodological issues and identifying useful measures for neighborhood and community scholarship. (Ohmer, M.L., Coulton, C., Freedman, D., Sobeck, J. & Booth, J. (2019). Measures for Community and Neighborhood Research.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.). 

Kimberly: What is the best advice you’ve ever received? 

Mary-Ellen: The best advice I’ve ever received was from my mother, who once told me “You can do everything that you want to do, you just can’t do it all at the same time.” I have to remind myself of this message frequently. 

Kimberly: What advice would you offer to social work doctoral students? 

Mary-Ellen: In addition to the above, the advice I’d offer social work students is to practice lots of self-care and to enjoy graduate school. Doctoral studies are generally intense pressure cookers, whether you are in the coursework or the dissertation phase. Between the pressure to perform and to become the expert in your given area, it is easy to get overwhelmed with stress and to neglect your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Be intentional with your self-care regimen; block off time regularly in your calendar to practice self-care and treat it as you would any other important appointment. Enjoy your time in the doctoral program, and spend time with your peers in your cohort outside of class and studying. Reach out and talk to someone if you are struggling and in need of support. And finally, if you are experiencing imposter syndrome, just know that everybody else experiences that at some time or another too.

Kimberly: What are some projects or publications that you would like people to know about? 

Mary-Ellen: Right now I am the PI on three federally funded initiatives, two in Arizona and one in Louisiana. These are US DOJ Innovations in Community Based Crime Reduction and US HUD Choice Neighborhoods initiatives, which are concerned with comprehensive, place-based, community-driven transformation. Our transdisciplinary, cross-university research team is working alongside residents and other community partners using community-engaged, action research frameworks to assess social drivers of crime and social determinants of health and health inequities in order to develop and test a continuum of community-driven solutions over the next three years. For social work scholars interested in engaging community partners in research designs I suggest reading my recent publication with co-author Dr. Katie Stalker, titled “Assess Connect Transform In Our Neighborhood: A framework for engaging community partners in community-based participatory research designs” in the Action Research Journal (Advance online publication. doi:10.1177/1476750318789484). Here is a link to a blog about this article.

SSWR Doctoral Student Spotlight

The SSWR Doctoral Student Members Task Force is launching a new series featuring research conducted by doctoral students. The series is intended to bring awareness and attention to the research being done by social work doctoral students, as well as important issues in the field. One spotlight piece will be featured each week on the SSWR Doctoral Student Member Blog & Facebook Page during the spring 2019 semester. 


Examining the DSM-5 Latent Structures of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in a National Sample of Student Veterans

Student Researcher: Malisa M. Brooks, University of Utah

Malisa M. Brooks

Malisa M. Brooks

About the Researcher: As a 2nd year doctoral student, my research interests include the assessment and treatment of sexual trauma in civilian and military populations, posttraumatic stress disorder, and using translational research to bridge research and clinical practice communities to improve treatment outcomes for trauma survivors. In my free time I play softball and basketball, and hike in the Wasatch Mountains with my 3 kids.

Description of the Study: This study conducted a confirmatory factor analysis to examine the latent structures of posttraumatic stress disorder on a national sample of student veterans; a population which had not yet been examined in this context. Multiple models were tested to see which would emerge (quantitatively) as "best-fitting" for this specific population.

Inspiration for the Study: This study began as an assignment for my SEM course, but as we began getting unexpected results, it turned into a much larger (and long term) project.

Methodological Approach: Survey data were gathered using Qualtrics Online Survey Software and analyzed for descriptive statistics using SPSS version 25. Mplus was used for confirmatory factor analysis.

Challenges Encountered: Learning to trust myself, my training/skill set, and the process was more challenging than I expected. Just because unexpected results are found, doesn't mean they are wrong; sometimes we are just breaking new ground!

Questions or comments for Malisa? Email her at: malisa.brooks@utah.edu

REMINDER: Call for Application: SSWR Doctoral Student Committee

The Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) is seeking applicants for its Doctoral Student Committee. This committee originated as a task force in 2014 and was created to ensure that doctoral students’ needs, interests, and priorities are accurately reflected in SSWR doctoral student programming. In December 2018, the SSWR Bylaws were amended by a vote of the SSWR membership and the task force became a standing committee of SSWR. We are interested in building a committee that reflects the diversity of social work doctoral students, their research areas, and their institutions. All social work doctoral students are welcome to apply.

Students are eligible to serve on the committee if they are a current doctoral student in social work/social welfare and will be for at least some of the 2019-2020 academic year and can commit to ~5 hours a month of committee work, including one conference call per month. Students must maintain current membership in SSWR if they are selected to serve on the committee, but do not need to be prior to applying. Attendance at the annual conference is not required. 

The current term will be from March 1, 2019 to January 31, 2020. Committee members are afforded opportunities for leadership development, involvement in the planning of conference events and year‐round initiatives for doctoral student members, experience serving on a national committee, and networking with doctoral student colleagues. Committee members will serve on one of three existing subcommittees: Mentoring, conference, or communication. More subcommittees may be added, depending on need and student interest. 

The application will close on February 15, 2019. Selected doctoral students will be notified by March 1, 2019. Questions can be directed to Emma Carpenter, SSWR Board of Directors Doctoral Student Representative, at eccarpenter@wisc.edu. 

Link to application: https://goo.gl/forms/jmE6ZZwQQhCW1OyQ2

SSWR 2019 Conference Reflection

L-R: Catherine Kramer, Kyle Ganson, Kess Ballentine, & Emma Carpenter

L-R: Catherine Kramer, Kyle Ganson, Kess Ballentine, & Emma Carpenter

Wow! I can’t believe that it’s been almost 2 weeks since SSWR! The conference is always such a blur. 

I think we forget sometimes that SSWR is not just a 4-day conference but a whole organization. As the doctoral student representative on the board, my job is to make sure the needs of doctoral students are represented and taken into account. Not just at the conference, but across the year. I take this job seriously and I want to make sure the work I’m doing to the Board benefits SSWR’s doctoral student members. 

At the luncheon this year, I chose to focus on making sure doctoral students knew about the work that I, along with the newly formed doctoral student committee, is doing. My goal with the luncheon was to give doctoral students a space to come together and meet their peers across the country and the world. At the beginning of the luncheon, I asked people to sit with new people and to invite folks they didn't know to join their table. And you all did! It was inspiring to see new connections being made and to hear great conversations about the conference, doctoral student life, and the amazing research you all are doing. 

For those of you who couldn’t be there, I want you to know that there are exciting things happening and ways to get involved in SSWR all year along! And while some amazing work has happened to date, there is still work to do. The doctoral student committee started as a taskforce in 2014, and recently became an official committee of SSWR. I am so glad that the needs of doctoral students are being taken seriously! This year, we will continue to create content designed for doctoral students in Social Work/ Social Welfare programs—like our This is How I Work Series and the Doctoral Student Spotlight. We will also continue to work on mentoring initiatives—like working on Coffee with a Scholar of the 2020 conference to match even more students with mentors and trying to create peer mentoring connections. We have such an amazing network of students, and I’m excited to leverage that network in new and exciting ways. 

I also know there is a lot of work to do to ensure that ALL of the doctoral student members feel included and represented in SSWR. This year, we are making a strong effort to recruit a diverse group of students, to better represent students of color, and to ensure programs reflect their needs. If you have ideas about programs you would like to see, please reach out to myself or other members on the committee. If you are interested in joining this effort, please consider applying for the committee. We truly are the future of SSWR, and we can start building that future now. 

Happy 2019, doctoral students! I hope to be connecting with you all soon! 

Emma Carpenter, MSW
PhD Program in Social Welfare 
School of Social Work
University of Wisconsin, Madison 

 

Call for Applications: SSWR Doctoral Student Committee

The Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) is seeking applicants for its Doctoral Student Committee. This committee originated as a task force in 2014 and was created to ensure that doctoral students’ needs, interests, and priorities are accurately reflected in SSWR doctoral student programming. In December 2018, the SSWR Bylaws were amended by a vote of the SSWR membership and the task force became a standing committee of SSWR. We are interested in building a committee that reflects the diversity of social work doctoral students, their research areas, and their institutions. All social work doctoral students are welcome to apply.

Students are eligible to serve on the committee if they are a current doctoral student in social work/social welfare and will be for at least some of the 2019-2020 academic year and can commit to ~5 hours a month of committee work, including one conference call per month. Students must maintain current membership in SSWR if they are selected to serve on the committee, but do not need to be prior to applying. Attendance at the annual conference is not required. 

The current term will be from March 1, 2019 to January 31, 2020. Committee members are afforded opportunities for leadership development, involvement in the planning of conference events and year‐round initiatives for doctoral student members, experience serving on a national committee, and networking with doctoral student colleagues. Committee members will serve on one of three existing subcommittees: Mentoring, conference, or communication. More subcommittees may be added, depending on need and student interest. 

The application will close on February 15, 2019. Selected doctoral students will be notified by March 1, 2019. Questions can be directed to Emma Carpenter, SSWR Board of Directors Doctoral Student Representative, at eccarpenter@wisc.edu. 

Link to application: https://goo.gl/forms/jmE6ZZwQQhCW1OyQ2

SSWR Doctoral Student Task Force Content Information

In conjunction with the SSWR 2019 Annual Conference, we’d like to provide some information on how you can get involved in the content you’ve been reading on this blog and our Facebook page.

We are looking for contributions for both our How I Work and Doctoral Student Spotlight series. Here are brief descriptions of each series and how you can contribute:

How I Work

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A series of interviews with individuals in the social work research arena about how they go about their work. We hope these interviews will give new insights to social work doctoral students and provide them a window into the lives of professors, researchers, deans, etc. Follow this template for your submission.

 

Doctoral Student Spotlight

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A SSWR Doctoral Student Task Force series featuring research conducted by doctoral students. This series is intended to bring awareness and attention to the research being done by social work doctoral students, as well as important issues in the field. One spotlight piece will be featured each week on the SSWR Doctoral Student Member Blog & Facebook Page during the spring 2019 semester. 

We invite doctoral student members to submit a brief piece describing their research using this survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VFF6KPC

Eligibility Criteria:
(1) Doctoral student in a social work or social welfare program.
(2) Current SSWR member.
(3) Submission of completed piece by the collection period deadline.

COLLECTION PERIOD ENDS: February 4, 2019 at 11:59pm

 

If you have questions about participating in either of these series, feel free to reach out to Catherine Kramer (ckramer@albany.edu) or Kyle Ganson (kyle.ganson@simmons.edu).

Tips for Attending the SSWR 2019 Conference

We asked fellow doctoral students for some tips on attending the SSWR conference. Here’s what they had to say:

  1. Find out when the Special Interest Groups (SIGs) are, and roundtables, in your area(s) of interest and attend. You’ll meet other scholars in your field and hear about the newest areas of research.  Here’s the list of SIGs and the Schedules: https://secure.sswr.org/2019-conference-home/special-interest-groups/

  2. Attend the membership meeting, Saturday afternoon at 5:45. This is a great place to learn about what’s going on in SSWR. Especially if you are a dues paying member, this is an important way to stay involved in the organization. 

  3. Attend the Doctoral Student Luncheon. Saturday, January 19 from 12:30 to 1:45. Lunch is provided for all doctoral students. Even if you didn't register ahead of time, you can still come! This is a great opportunity to meet fellow students and learn about all of the ways doctoral students can get involved with SSWR between conferences. 

  4. Attend sessions outside of your interest too! You never know who you may meet.   

  5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions in sessions or ask presenters afterwards. If you really enjoyed a session, follow up with the speakers via email after the conference.  

  6. There will be cocktail hours hosted by various schools on Friday evening. This is a great networking opportunity! This can definitely be intimidating, here are a few strategies to make it more comfortable: 

    1. Ahead of time, identify a goal for yourself whether it be a number of people you would like to introduce yourself to or a few individuals you would like to meet.

    2. Consider using the question “What project are you working on now that is exciting you?” to start conversations.

    3. Attend receptions with a “buddy” for a friendly face and accountability around your networking goals. 

  7.  Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Conferences can be overwhelming, especially for those of us who are introverts. Don’t be afraid to take a break from the conference hotel, go for a walk to get some fresh air, or spend time by yourself to recharge. 

  8. Take advantage of being in San Francisco. Take an afternoon off to explore the city, try a new restaurant, etc. 

  9. Incorporate a poster session into your plan. These sessions can allow for in-depth discussion and be a great place to meet to build your network. 

  10. Have your elevator speech ready: What are your research interests? Where are you in school? How far along are you? What are your goals? Etc. You may only have a few minutes with a few important people.  

We hope you enjoy the conference!

SSWR Doctoral Student Spotlight

The SSWR Doctoral Student Members Task Force is launching a new series featuring research conducted by doctoral students. The series is intended to bring awareness and attention to the research being done by social work doctoral students, as well as important issues in the field. One spotlight piece will be featured each week on the SSWR Doctoral Student Member Blog & Facebook Page during the fall 2018 semester. 


Assessing Refugee Poverty Using Capabilities Versus Commodities

Mitra Naseh

Mitra Naseh

Student Researcher: Mitra Naseh, Florida International University

About the Researcher: Mitra Naseh is a PhD candidate (4th-year) and graduate assistant at the FIU. Her research is focused on refugees’ wellbeing. Mitra has several journal papers and book chapters on refugees’ welfare and is the co-author of the second edition of the Best Practices for Social Work with Refugees and Immigrants.

Study Description: This study is among the first to calculate poverty among one of the world’s largest refugee populations, Afghans in Iran. More importantly, it is one of the first to use capability and monetary approaches to provide a comprehensive perspective on Afghan refugees’ poverty and deprivation. 

Inspiration for the Study: I am an activist and as long as I can remember I have been involved in the humanitarian field, advocating for refugees’ rights.

Methodological Approach: I utilized basic needs poverty lines and the World Bank’s absolute poverty line for the monetary poverty analyses and the global Multidimensional Poverty Index for the capability analyses of poverty.

Findings: Nearly 50% Afghan households were income-poor, approximately 2% of the households had less than USD 1.25 per person per day, and about 28% were multidimensionally deprived. Results suggest that 60% of the income-poor households were not multidimensionally deprived, and about 32% of the multidimensionally deprived households were not income-poor.

Implications: In the absence of a prior published study on Afghan refugees’ poverty in Iran, this study provides a baseline. More importantly, it highlights some of the shortcomings of monetary poverty assessments, despite income levels higher than poverty lines, a considerable number of Afghan refugee households were multidimensionally deprived.

Challenges Encountered: Afghan refugees in Iran are considered a politically sensitive population and data collection for this study was extremely challenging.

Questions or comments for Mitra? Email her at: mahma024@fiu.edu

SSWR Doctoral Student Spotlight

The SSWR Doctoral Student Members Task Force is launching a new series featuring research conducted by doctoral students. The series is intended to bring awareness and attention to the research being done by social work doctoral students, as well as important issues in the field. One spotlight piece will be featured each week on the SSWR Doctoral Student Member Blog & Facebook Page during the fall 2018 semester. 


A Trial of Confident Body, Confident Child

Student Researcher: Leslie Meskin, Florida Atlantic University

Leslie Meskin

Leslie Meskin

About the Researcher: Leslie Meskin is part of the inaugural cohort of Social Work Doctoral Candidates at Florida Atlantic University.  Leslie has been a clinician in a variety of settings since 1996. Her research interests include the prevention of eating disorders, cultural adaptation of behavioral health interventions and interprofessional education and practice.

Description of the Study: My capstone project is an uncontrolled repeated measure of Confident Body, Confident Child (CBCC), a two-time, two-hour manualized resource designed to help parents foster healthy eating patterns and body satisfaction in their young children. CBCC is an evidenced-based program that yielded significant results in decreasing risk factors associated with body dissatisfaction in children in a large randomly controlled trial in Australia.

Inspiration for the Study: Our society seeks to decrease high levels of body dissatisfaction but does not address its development. There is a need to intervene earlier to try to halt or minimize the development of body dissatisfaction rather than intervene once it is established.

Methodological Approach: This study aims to explore the effects of parental participation in the CBCC program. The participants in this study are parents of two to six-year-old children.

Challenges Encountered: A challenge to my implementation of the CBCC program was that many parents were not able to participate in the program due to language obstacles. Currently, the CBCC program is only available in English.

Questions or comments for Leslie? Email her at: lmeskin2016@fau.edu

 

SSWR Doctoral Student Spotlight

The SSWR Doctoral Student Members Task Force is launching a new series featuring research conducted by doctoral students. The series is intended to bring awareness and attention to the research being done by social work doctoral students, as well as important issues in the field. One spotlight piece will be featured each week on the SSWR Doctoral Student Member Blog & Facebook Page during the fall 2018 semester. 


Addressing Alcohol's Role in Campus Sexual Assault

LB Klein

LB Klein

Student Researcher: Lauren "LB" Klein, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

About the Researcher: LB Klein, MSW, MPA is a third-year doctoral student in UNC-Chapel Hill's School of Social Work and fellow with the Prevention Innovations Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. Her research centers gender-based violence prevention, intervention, and policy with a particular focus on LGBTQ communities and implementation science.

Description of the Study: Addressing Alcohol’s Role in Campus Sexual Assault is a community participatory action research project to integrate research and practice evidence to help prevention specialists begin to answer the frequently asked question: How should our campus address alcohol in our sexual assault prevention efforts?

Inspiration for the Study: Campuses are urged to address alcohol’s role in campus sexual assault. However, there is limited guidance for sexual assault prevention specialists on how to do so.

Methodological Approach: This study used a critical feminist community participatory action research approach that included a systematic review, semi-structured interviews, and consultation with an expert advisory group.

Findings: This study yielded critical findings about practitioner challenges, gaps in existing literature and interventions, innovative and promising practices, recommendations for partnership and messaging, and vision for the future.

Implications: Campus-based prevention educators have critical insight into how to navigate university systems to effectively address alcohol's role in campus sexual assault.

Challenges Encountered: Integrating research and practice in an emerging field that lacks evidence-based intervention is both challenging and rewarding.

Questions or comments for LB? Email her: lbklein@unc.edu

SSWR Doctoral Student Spotlight

The SSWR Doctoral Student Members Task Force is launching a new series featuring research conducted by doctoral students. The series is intended to bring awareness and attention to the research being done by social work doctoral students, as well as important issues in the field. One spotlight piece will be featured each week on the SSWR Doctoral Student Member Blog & Facebook Page during the fall 2018 semester. 


Skye Allmang

Skye Allmang

Getting Stuck or Moving Out: An Examination of Precarious Employment Trajectories and Self-Reported Health in Young Adults

Student Researcher: Skye Allmang, University of California, Los Angeles

About the Researcher: Skye Allmang is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Social Welfare at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She holds a Master of Public Policy from Brandeis University and a Master of Social Welfare from UCLA. Her research focuses on youth employment issues, with a particular interest in addressing barriers to employment.

Description of the Study: My dissertation uses nationally-representative, longitudinal data to examine the relationship between changes in employment quality over the course of young adulthood and a range of health-related outcomes, including general health, mental health, and behavioral health outcomes.

Methodological Approach: I am using latent class analysis to identify four precarious employment trajectories. From there, I am conducting descriptive analyses, as well as analyses based on general linear models.

Implications: Findings are expected to have implications for the development of effective social programs and policies to prepare young adults to successfully enter and maintain employment within the current context of the U.S. labor market.

Questions or comments for Skye? Email her: skye.allmang@gmail.com

SSWR Doctoral Student Spotlight

The SSWR Doctoral Student Members Task Force is launching a new series featuring research conducted by doctoral students. The series is intended to bring awareness and attention to the research being done by social work doctoral students, as well as important issues in the field. One spotlight piece will be featured each week on the SSWR Doctoral Student Member Blog & Facebook Page during the fall 2018 semester. 


Eliminating Classroom Isolation for Immigrant Students

Student Researcher: Kerri Evans, MSW, LCSW, Boston College

Kerri Evans

Kerri Evans

About the Researcher: Kerri Evans is a doctoral student at Boston College and her research focuses on creating welcoming school environments for immigrant students. Previously, she earned an MSW from the University of Maryland, and spent eight years working at the intersection of immigration and child welfare as a macro social worker.

Description of the Study: In this study I aim to better understand the facilitators and barriers to inclusive classrooms for immigrant students. Using the Health Behavior in School Children 2009-2010 data, I will assess the predictors of peer support in the classroom for immigrant students at the individual and school level.

Inspiration for the Study: When working, immigrant adolescents often spoke about the struggle to make friends, avoid bullying, and feel welcome in school. Throughout my career, I aim to improve school climate for newcomers.

Methodological Approach: Utilizing cross-sectional data (1,068 immigrants in US schools), I assess the influence of urbanicity, bullying prevention programs, bullying victimization, school counselors, and demographics on classroom peer support with HLM analyses.

Findings: Preliminary results show that bullying victimization (p<.001), race (p<.001), and age (p<.05) are significant predictors of peer supports in the classroom across all immigrant students and all schools.

Implications: With the immigrant population in the US on the rise, social workers need to advocate and strive for better inclusion and integration of immigrant children. Better understanding the predictors of positive peer support in the classroom can help staff to design interventions and assist youth in expanding their social networks.

Questions or comments for Kerri? Email her: kerri.evans@bc.edu

 

SSWR Doctoral Student Spotlight

The SSWR Doctoral Student Members Task Force is launching a new series featuring research conducted by doctoral students. The series is intended to bring awareness and attention to the research being done by social work doctoral students, as well as important issues in the field. One spotlight piece will be featured each week on the SSWR Doctoral Student Member Blog & Facebook Page during the fall 2018 semester. 


Abigail Palmer Molina

Abigail Palmer Molina

Low-Income Mothers' Perceptions of Help-Seeking for Depression: A Thematic, Discourse Analysis by Language Group

Student Researcher: Abigail Palmer Molina, University of Southern California

About the Researcher: I am a third year PhD student and my research aims to promote the wellbeing of low-income young children and families, particularly by advocating for the expansion of two-generation programs. My research also examines how parental mental health and emotion regulation impact parenting and treatment engagement among low-income families.

Description of the Study: Maternal depression poses a threat to the well-being of poor minority mothers and their young children, yet disparities remain in treatment utilization among this population. Providing group treatment in early childhood settings may address this concern, but researchers must explore potential barriers to engagement, particularly those related to cultural/linguistic differences.

Inspiration for the Study: Among Head Start families, 38% identify as Hispanic and 25% report that Spanish is their primary language, so it is important to understand the perceptions of this particular group.

Methodological Approach: Focus groups were conducted to explore perceptions of help-seeking among English and Spanish-speaking mothers of Head Start children. Thematic and discourse analysis strategies were used to examine differences across groups.

Findings: Results revealed divergent beliefs about causes of depression and striking differences in the processes of group formation across language groups. Spanish-speaking groups engaged in self-disclosure and mutual support, enabling the development of rapport, whereas English-speaking groups engaged in less supportive talk, and used more techniques to distance themselves emotionally.

Implications: Findings demonstrate the importance of providing safe spaces for Spanish-speaking mothers to seek and offer support to one another, particularly due to participants’ experiences of social isolation. Findings also support the development of flexible group interventions and indicate that interventions should address participants’ experiences of poverty and other stressors.

Questions or comments for Abigail? Email her: acpalmer@usc.edu