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.


James Herbert Williams, PhD., MSW, MPA

James Herbert Williams, PhD., MSW, MPA

James Herbert Williams, PhD., MSW, MPA
By: Kimberly Hogan, MA, MSW, Doctoral Student, Arizona State University School of Social Work

James Herbert Williams is the current Director of the School of Social Work and Arizona Centennial Professor of Social Welfare Services at Arizona State University and the Immediate Past President of SSWR Board of Directors.

James Herbert's research focuses on sustainable development, K-12 academic performance, youth violence, delinquency prevention, adolescent substance use, race and gender differences, and mental health service needs and utilization patterns in urban schools. His funded research has included grants from the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development; the National Institute of Mental Health; the Danforth Foundation; the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease; and the departments of Justice, Education, and Health and Human Services. James Herbert has also published extensively in the area of delinquency, youth violence, health promotion, disease prevention among African American women and conflict mediation, human security, and sustainable development in Northern Kenya.

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

James Herbert: Nonstop! Academia is never easy, but it is enjoyable and satisfying. I love what I do. When you love what you do, it is not work. I know it may sound cliché.  I get to spend your time with bright and energetic people. I get to pursue my intellectual passion. It is easy to work when I am doing something that brings me a great deal of satisfaction. 

Kimberly: What does a typical workday look like for you?

James Herbert: My day is usually filled with various meetings. When I was a faculty member, I focused on scholarship and teaching.  My day starts very early before my colleagues come to the office. I like to utilize this free time to plan my day, and it allows me to focus on my writing. I will take a break when I get home. However, I work on planning the activities that I want to get accomplished the next day.

Kimberly: How do you keep track of what tasks you need to complete?

James Herbert: I have a wonderful support team. I have been in administration since 2000, and I have been able to continue to publish. I am clear about allocating time for my scholarly writing projects separate from my administrative responsibilities.  You cannot be a successful administrator and have a scholarly career if you do not have good people as part of your leadership team.  

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

James Herbert: I read, hike, go to movies, theater, and opera. I also take weekend trips to refresh and gain perspective.  Being outside and engaging in different activities is when I have my best thinking. Once a year I take a nice vacation.  My last vacation was to Alaska.  

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

James Herbert: It is an ideal time to acquire knowledge to prepare yourself for a career in the academy.  A critical aspect for advancing our profession is training the next generation of scholars. Knowledge development is essential for our profession to address the pressing social issues.  It is important that schools of social work provide doctoral students with all the necessary resources and support that will allow them to be successful scholars and teachers.  It is also crucial for doctoral students to leverage all opportunities to ensure their success. Then it will be a mutually beneficial experience for the student, faculty, and school.  

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

Articles to read: 

Hartman C. A., Hageman, T. O., Williams, J. H., & Ascione, F. R. (2018).   Intimate partner violence and animal abuse in an immigrant-rich sample of mother-child dyads recruited from domestic violence programs. Journal of Interpersonal Violence33, 1030-1047. Advance online publication November 25, 2015. doi.org/10.1177/0886260515614281.

Williams, J. H. (2018). Race and poverty:  Growth areas for the social work research agenda. Social Work Research42, 67-72.

Lein, L., Uehara, E. S., Lightfoot, E., Lawlor, E. F., & Williams, J. H. (2017).  A collaborative framework for envisioning the future of social work research and education. Social Work Research41, 67-71.

Williams, J. H.  (2016). Where’s the evidence: Can we develop stronger research and scientific approaches to understand complex systems and interactions?  Social Work Research40, 131-133.

Kumssa, A., Williams, J. H., Jones, J. F., & Des Marais, E. A.  (2014). Conflict and migration: The case of Somali refugees in Northeastern Kenya. Global Social Welfare:  Research, Policy, and Practice1, 145 – 156.

Williams, J. H.  (2013). Disparities, disproportionalities, differences, and discrepancies.  Social Work Research37, 309-311.

Leveraging Bio-Cultural Mechanisms to Maximize the Impact of Multi-Level Preventable Disease Interventions with Southwest PopulationsU54 2U54MD002316, Community Engagement & Dissemination Core (PI, James Herbert Williams), Funded by National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, Totals Award for CEDC: $594,938.00; 09/01/2017-08/30/2022.

Children exposed to intimate partner violence:  Mental health correlates of concomitant exposure to animal abuse, 5 R01 HD066503; (PI, James Herbert Williams), Funded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development, Total Award: $1,548,493.00; 09/02/10 – 06/30/16.

Books to read:

Bain, K. (2004). What the Best College Teachers Do. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 

Bain, K. (2012). What the Best College Students Do. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 

Bowen, W. G.  (2013). Higher Education in the Digital Age. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 

Tobin, E. M., & Bowen, W. G. (2015). Locus of Authority: The Evolution of Faculty Roles in the Governance of Higher Education. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 

Tobin, E. M., Kurzweil, M. A. Pichler, S. C., & Bowen, W. G.  (2005). Equity and Excellence in American Higher Education. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press. 

Thyer, B. (1994).Successful Publishing in Scholarly Journals. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publication.