School of Social Work Archives - UConn Today Thu, 01 Jun 2023 23:03:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Laura Curran Named as Next Dean of UConn School of Social Work Tue, 09 May 2023 16:01:59 +0000 Ziba Kashef Laura Curran, Ph.D., a highly regarded social work educator and researcher, has been selected as the 15th dean of the UConn School of Social Work.

Dr. Curran currently is the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Prior to serving as Vice Provost, Dr. Curran held the position of Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at the Rutgers University School of Social Work.

Laura Curran
Laura Curran (contributed photo).

She starts her new role as UConn School of Social Work dean on August 11.

Anne D’Alleva, UConn’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, announced Curran’s appointment in a letter today to the school’s faculty, staff, and students, noting she was a top choice from an “exceptionally talented pool of applicants.”

“Dr. Curran demonstrates a clear understanding of the mission of our School of Social Work, with a commitment to social, racial, and economic justice and the improvement of human well-being, both locally and globally,” D’Alleva says.

“She has led several DEI initiatives and has a record of interdisciplinary collaboration and understands the demands of research and faculty advancement. She is also a strong supporter of students, serving as a mentor for supervised research assistantships for social work graduate students over the last two decades.”

In her role as Vice Provost, Dr. Curran was responsible for strategic initiatives that support faculty leadership, mentoring, recruitment, and retention as well as directing the Center for Faculty Success.

She served as a key member of multiple high-level strategic planning initiatives including the Academic Master Plan, which encompassed initiatives addressing student, faculty, and staff well-being as well as inclusive pedagogy and teaching excellence.

Dr. Curran’s scholarship focuses on three main areas: social work and social welfare history; women’s perinatal health and well-being; and social work education. Her work has received funding from the New Jersey, Department of Health, the New York Community Trust, and the Association of Social Work Boards, among other entities.

“I am incredibly honored and humbled to join the UConn community and lead the deeply talented faculty, staff, and students at the UConn School of Social Work,” says Curran. “I hope to build on the School’s incredibly strong foundation, work in close collaboration with our state and community partners, further enhance our research portfolio and educational programs, and advance the school’s social justice mission.”

Dr. Curran will succeed Nina Rovinelli Heller, who plans to return to the faculty after eight years as the school’s dean.

“I am delighted to welcome Dr. Curran to our UConn SSW community,” says Dr. Heller. “She brings a strong and demonstrated commitment to social work education and research, faculty development, and student mentoring. This background, and prior work in the Rutgers’ Provost Office, position her well to work closely with colleagues across the university, our community partners, and to advance the national profile of the school.”

Dr. Curran earned her B.A. from Barnard College, an M.S.W. from Columbia University, and her PhD from UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare.

Prior to entering academia, Dr. Curran practiced as a social worker in the areas of community mental health and child welfare. She is currently an elected member of the Board of Directors of the Council of Social Work Education.

Dr. Curran comes to the UConn School of Social Work as it celebrates its 75th anniversary as a leader in graduate social work education and research, and its faculty reported $4.5 million in research expenditures in FY 22.

The School of Social Work is also tied for no. 36 by U.S. News and World Report annual rankings, placing it in the top 12 percent of graduate social work programs nationwide.

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2023 Commencement at a Glance Mon, 08 May 2023 11:30:50 +0000 Combined Reports

The members of the Class of 2023 arrived at UConn as part of a diverse and academically accomplished cohort, determined to make their mark on the state’s flagship public university.

They did that and more, navigating the challenges of an unprecedented global pandemic while setting new standards in sustainability, entrepreneurship, activism, and student scholarship. And, on their way to their next adventure, they got to celebrate the first NCAA men’s basketball national championship in nearly a decade.

This weekend, students in full regalia gathered with their classmates and processed together to Gampel Pavilion and the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts to hear their names called as they join the great community of graduates stretching all the way back to 1883. Thousands of people – from Connecticut, from New England, from the nation, from the world – joined together to celebrate our next generations of UConn Alumni.

Here are some special moments from those ceremonies, captured by UConn photographers Sydney Herdle, Sean Flynn, and Peter Morenus.

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Celebrating UConn’s Class of 2023 Fri, 05 May 2023 12:15:18 +0000 Tom Breen If there’s one thing the members of the Class of 2023 have learned to handle, it’s the unexpected.

There’s the good kind of unexpected – taking a class that steers you toward a brand-new major and different path in life; making friends with people from backgrounds totally different from your own; celebrating a national championship in the face of doubt and disbelief from the national basketball pundits – and then there’s the other kind, as in, say, a global pandemic that defines the first half of your college experience.

Fans celebrate at Gampel Pavilion after the UConn Men's Basketball team beats San Diego State University in Houston for the NCAA Men's championship title on April 3, 2023
That UConn feeling. (Peter Morenus/UConn photo)

But the graduates of 2023 have demonstrated the ability to navigate any change, no matter how vertigo-inducing it may seem, and emerge on the other side better, wiser, and ready for more. In the newly launched website dedicated to this year’s graduates, you will meet Huskies who are veterans, Huskies who are philanthropists, Huskies who are already well into professional careers, Huskies who are the first in their family to attend college, and Huskies who are carrying on a proud family tradition of earning a UConn degree.

A photograph from 1883, showing the six young men who would be the first to receive degrees from the institution that is now UConn.
The first students to ever receive degrees from the institution that became UConn, in 1883 (Department of Archives & Special Collections/UConn Library).

Reading their stories – the familiar memories of initially feeling intimidated by the size of the University community before finding a niche; the enthusiasm for work accomplished and plans made; the private jokes and lifelong bonds – gives us a sense of what it means to be a Husky in 2023.

Although many things have changed since that day in 1883 when six young Connecticut residents received the first degrees awarded in the institution’s history, the sense that all UConn’s riches can be contained within the experiences of each student has remained.

This week, thousands of people – from Connecticut, from New England, from the nation, from the world – will join those six original graduates, all the subsequent generations of Huskies: doctors, teachers, public servants, WNBA All-Stars, astronauts, inventors, comedians, folk singers, puppeteers, pharmacists, nurses, civil rights lawyers, journalists – anything and everything that can be done with a first-class education, a will to succeed, and a moral foundation rooted in a diverse, dynamic community.

So, congratulations to the Class of 2023, and remember: as of now, you may no longer be students, but you’ll always be Huskies Forever.

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Data Experts at School of Social Work’s National SOGIE Center Take Lead Role in Supporting Justice-Involved LGBTQ+ and Two-Spirit Youth Thu, 04 May 2023 11:01:56 +0000 Tom Breen The National Council of Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) received a newly established $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to establish a National Resource Center to support LGBTQ2S+ youth and their families. The National Center for Youth with Diverse Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Expression (National SOGIE Center), based at the UConn School of Social Work’s Innovations Institute, is partnering with NCJFCJ in the development of this National Resource Center to support essential youth justice reforms and address the needs of underserved populations within youth justice systems across the U.S. The Center will advance positive youth development practices and be a clearinghouse on policies and practices related to justice impacted LGBTQ2S+ youth. They will also support the workforce within youth justice systems by providing comprehensive training and technical assistance.

Building on the Biden Administration’s support for LGBTQI+ rights, OJJDP Administrator Liz Ryan has stated “Our Office and our programs embrace all youth. We honor every young person’s right to live their truth—openly and in safety.” In receiving this newly established grant, NCJFCJ partnered with the National SOGIE Center, and with the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, the Gault Center and the Tribal Law and Policy Institute. The National SOGIE Center, a partnership of multiple organizations, coordinates a national approach to addressing the needs of LGBTQ+ youth involved in public systems and their families.

The National SOGIE Center’s work on this grant is led by the Innovations Institute team of Marlene Matarese, Principal Investigator, and Angela Weeks, Director. Matarese and Weeks will lead the development of content for justice and community stakeholders around best practices when working with LGBTQ2S+ populations to be disseminated through webinars, office hours, tools. Matarese explains The National SOGIE Center’s interest in this project, “We have been developing innovative programs for LGBTQ+ youth in child welfare that serve to create positive outcomes for young people and their families. We are now turning our attention to youth justice systems, using our experience and our understanding of LGBTQ+ populations to ensure best practices, policies, and protocols are utilized, and to support the workforce interacting with young people.”

National consultants on SOGIE data collection, Matarese and Weeks conducted a pivotal study in 2021 with the Division of Children and Families in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, finding that fully 32% of youth in foster care in the Midwest were identifying as LGBTQ+—almost four times the national average of youth ages 13 to 17. This study built on two previous studies in Los Angeles in 2014 and New York in 2020 and highlights a nationwide overrepresentation of LGBTQ+ youth in public systems. Matarese and Weeks have recently launched a learning community with the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors for leaders in youth-serving systems to learn how to collect SOGIE data safely and respectfully to better understand and serve the populations in their care.

Weeks notes, “Our data show a disproportionate number of Black and brown youth who identify as LGBTQ+ within child welfare and behavioral health; this overrepresentation is even greater in the youth justice system. Young people involved in these public systems are often harmed by racism, anti-LGBTQ+ bias, and a lack of trauma-informed care. Across our systems work, we try to address disparities through that lens. Through this new center, we strive to positively impact these young people through the support, training, and resources we provide to the adults who serve them.”

The more likely that child welfare and behavioral health systems can provide affirming support for young people of diverse SOGIE, the less likely they will be to encounter the youth justice system. For those young people who do enter the justice system, the National SOGIE Center are working to train the workforce to address the needs of young people to ensure they receive support toward a brighter future.

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Inaugural InCHIP Dissertation Assistantship Award Supports Public Health Research Thu, 20 Apr 2023 11:10:27 +0000 Danielle Faipler The University of Connecticut’s Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP) has announced the recipients of its first-ever Dissertation Assistantship Award.

The assistantship aims to fill a gap at UConn by providing support to graduate students in the social sciences as they complete dissertations related to human health. In addition to the financial support, awardees will benefit from InCHIP’s network by working alongside InCHIP investigators who are leaders in the fields of public health and applied social and behavioral research.

“We are excited to have received many outstanding applications for InCHIP’s inaugural Dissertation Assistantship Award and thrilled to congratulate Maritza Vasquez Reyes and Jude Ssenyonjo on their impressive proposals,” says Tricia Leahey, Ph.D., Interim Director of InCHIP. “Their social justice and global health research projects are innovative, timely, and have the potential for significant public health impact.”

Maritza Vasquez Reyes, a Ph.D. candidate in the UConn School of Social Work, is one recipient of the InCHIP Dissertation Assistantship Award.

Maritza Vasquez Reyes, a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Social Work, will work with her major advisor, Caitlin Elsaesser, associate professor in the UConn School of Social Work, to examine how youth organizations support well-being and sustain youth engagement in positive social change.

Vasquez Reyes worked as a medical social worker and case manager at Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie, NY for 12 years. Her research interests include economic and social justice, particularly poverty and inequality issues and policies, community organizing, and international social work. Vasquez Reyes feels passionate about social change at the local, national, and international levels and plans to pursue an academic career in social work and critical youth studies.

“My upbringing in a developing country, years of schooling in the fields of social work and sociology, and my experience as a medical social worker and in research all led to my interest in scholarship addressing the wellbeing of youth of color who live in neighborhoods with high rates of violence,” said Vasquez Reyes. “This award will provide me with the support to focus on my dissertation data analysis and writing, enabling me to graduate next year.”

Image of Jude Ssenyonjo
Jude Ssenyonjo, a Ph.D. candidate in Allied Health Sciences Health Promotion Sciences program in the College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources, has received the InCHIP Dissertation Assistantship Award.

Jude Ssenyonjo is a Ph.D. candidate in health promotion sciences at the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. Under the supervision of Michael Copenhaver, a professor in the Department of Allied Health Sciences (College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources), Ssenyonjo’s dissertation will examine HIV prevention among female sex workers in Uganda and evaluate the efficacy of a behavioral intervention to promote Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), HIV testing and counseling, and condom use.

“Uganda is still one of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa with a disproportionately high HIV prevalence compared to other nations and the incidence of HIV in female sex workers is significantly higher than the national prevalence. This prompted my interest to engage in this research to understand the barriers to safer sex practices and engage female sex workers to design a tailored health intervention using PrEP, HIV testing, and promoting condom usage to reduce the prevalence of HIV in this sub-group,” said Ssenyonjo. “The Dissertation Assistantship will support my research and provide a platform to showcase my academic work in behavioral science research.”

Ssenyonjo has 22 years of experience in public health, designing and implementing intervention strategies and social and behavior change (SBC) programs in HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Tuberculosis, family planning, nutrition, and maternal and child health and Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).

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New Scholars in Aging Program Prepares Social Work Students to Serve Growing Older Adult Population Wed, 19 Apr 2023 11:30:31 +0000 Ziba Kashef Shalamiesha Gilbert ’23 MSW had not thought about using her social work degree to work specifically with older adults until she took a course in Social Gerontology at the School of Social Work (SSW) in the Fall of 2020. During her first year of graduate school, she had interned at an elementary school and enjoyed it. But the gerontology course piqued a new interest.

Then, a chance encounter with one of her professors at the grocery store led Gilbert to sign up for a newly launched Scholars in Aging program at the SSW.  A stipend-based internship program, Scholars in Aging prepares Master of Social Work (MSW) students with specialized classroom and field training to serve the growing number of adults aged 65 and older in a range of diverse community and institutional settings.

Countdown to Commencement word mark

The School of Social Work established the Scholars in Aging program, with the support of donor and alumna Judith Zachs ’77 MSW, in 2022 because of a growing need for social workers to serve the increasing older adult population. The number of individuals aged 65 and older in the United States is projected to nearly double by 2060, rising from 16% of the population to 23%. The program also addresses a state workforce need, as Connecticut has the 6th highest population of older adults in the nation.

“As the world’s population gets older, the need for Scholars in Aging has grown,” says Zachs, who has devoted her professional social work career to gerontology. “This program is both the beginning and the future to educate students and experienced social workers to meet the needs of our growing senior population.”

Gerontology consultant to the program Kathryn Betts Adams agrees. “The rapidly aging population here in Connecticut, as in many other parts of the United States, provides a dramatic demographic imperative to increase services, housing, livable communities, health care, and mental health care for older adults. In order to do that, we must educate and train the workforce to serve current and future older adults in community, health care, and residential settings, and also advocate for and help shape aging-friendly policies at organizational and government levels.”

‘They Still Want to be Treated the Same’ 

While taking the course that sparked her passion for working with seniors, Gilbert and fellow students participated in a program called Tea @ 3 Community. Facilitated by the nonprofit group For All Ages, the program pairs students with older adults who they call to chat with for an hour once a week.

“I really liked the senior I was paired with, and I could see myself working with the senior population,” she recalls. “So, for my second year, when I did field education, I really wanted to work with seniors. For me, my personality, their personality, just clicks.”

Gilbert’s current field placement is in the adult and family services division of West Hartford Social Services. For 15 hours a week, she helps seniors with a range of needs, such as applying for Medicare, finding transportation, accessing Meals on Wheels, and getting tech support. In addition to doing occasional home visits, she also runs a Memory Café, a monthly meet-up for older adults with dementia and their caregivers to socialize in a “judgement-free” space, at the Bishop’s Corner Senior Center in West Hartford.

“They don’t want to be treated like babies,” she says of her clients. “They want to be seen as equals, even if they might have some memory loss. They still want to be treated the same.”

The Scholars in Aging program, which has a small cohort of eight students, also brings student scholars together weekly to discuss readings and issues affecting seniors. “It’s really nice to have a small intimate group to talk to, or to hear about other people’s cases,” she says. “It’s really supportive and really informative.” Through her coursework and internship, she’s learned that older adults are more diverse economically and socially than she realized and have challenges that range from evictions to substance misuse.

In addition to her coursework, Gilbert recently took a course sponsored by the town of West Hartford and is now a Certified Dementia Practitioner. The program has convinced her to continue serving older adults when she graduates. “I would like to work with the aging population. That’s my ultimate goal,” she adds.

‘We’re All Going to Age One Day’

Like Gilbert, Jhanelle Bailey ’23 MSW, also did not initially envision serving older adults as a future social worker. Since she had interned at a public school while getting her bachelor’s degree, she wanted to try a different setting, such as a hospital that served various populations, for her required field education experience. Her field advisor suggested Masonicare, a Connecticut-based provider of health care services and senior living. That field placement qualified her for the Scholars in Aging program.

In her coursework, Bailey has gained insight into the needs of older adults as well as the gaps in research about the senior population, particularly elders of color. “There’s a lack of research when it comes to sub-populations of older adults. I’ve also learned about how prominent the issue of isolation is when it comes to older adults and how impactful that was especially with the COVID pandemic,” she says.

At Masonicare, Bailey starts the day conducting group psychotherapy sessions. If a new patient arrives, she performs a biopsychosocial intake, gathering information from the individual, family member, or guardian to determine what services they may need. She also checks in with existing patients one-on-one. Her day typically wraps up with discharge planning, which might involve making calls to long-term care facilities to find space for departing patients.

“When it comes to long-term care, especially for people with dementia, there are not a lot of facilities in Connecticut that have space available for the older adult population,” she notes. “For one patient, sometimes I’m calling up to ten facilities trying to get someone to say, yes, we have beds available.”

On other days, she might sit in on a court hearing in which decisions are made about how to handle a patient’s finances or refusal to take medication. This varied and practical experience differs from her prior internship placement where she mainly shadowed her supervisor. “I’m actually working as a social worker. I am implementing different types of interventions with a patient or just connecting with them through one-on-one sessions,” she says.

Bailey has also benefited from meeting with other students in the program to share their experiences. “We talk about different cases that we might encounter and brainstorm what we could do to either support that student or just help them process whatever they’re going through,” she notes.

The program has confirmed her plans to continue working with older adults after graduation. “My primary goal when searching for jobs is to make sure that I am working with older adults or the aging population,” says Bailey. “I want to make sure that I make some form of contribution because we’re all going to age one day.”


The program — which is open to MSW students who have chosen the Individuals, Groups, and Families concentration — provides a stipend to students upon completion of coursework and field education requirements in each semester during the last year of their program.

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UConn Research Announces First Recipients of Seed Funding For Inclusive Research Initiatives Thu, 30 Mar 2023 11:25:23 +0000 Matt Engelhardt Six projects have been granted UConn’s first-ever seed funding dedicated to research and collaborations the address societal issues such as equity and inclusion.

UConn Research recently announced the recipients of the JEDI Research initiative. The awards advance innovative research, scholarship, and creative work on topics contained in the acronym – Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

Selected interdisciplinary projects include investigations into traffic safety inequities in environmental justice communities and alternative approaches for school safety. Other awarded submissions explore discrimination experienced by transgender and non-binary youth, establishing a memorial and museum at the former Mansfield Training School, and researching the practice of ethnic studies across the United States.

“Congratulations to our first cohort of researchers to earn these prestigious awards, which reflect so much of what UConn represents as an institution,” says Pamir Alpay, interim Vice President for Research, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship. “These projects break down disciplinary silos to embrace critical research topics of growing relevance to our state, nation, and the world.”

Three projects received $20,000 in funding for scholarly or creative expansion, designed to support JEDI-themed projects in the fine arts, the development of scholarly book projects focusing on equity and diversity, and the establishment of innovative partnerships among disciplines. Two projects received $60,000 in funding, reserved for larger scale research projects so they can be better positioned to seek greater funding in the near future.

UConn Research announced the JEDI Research Initiative last May – coincidentally just after Star Wars Day. Research Development Services Manager Matthew Mroz said the initiative was successful in its mission to generate creative interdisciplinary proposals from faculty, as evidenced by the quality of the awarded submissions and the number of disciplines that participated in the program.

The 2021-2022 JEDI awardees are:

Emma Amador, History – $19,638
Bright Futures: Antonia Pantoja and the Practice of Ethnic Studies in US History

Alaina Brenick, Human Development and Family Sciences – $19,997.19
Validating a measure of school-based interpersonal and institutional discrimination experienced by transgender and gender non-binary youth

Brenda Brueggemann, English – $20,000
The UConn – “Mansfield Training School” Cross-Institutional History:  A Memorial and Museum

Kiel Brennan-Marquez, Law Instruction and Research – $20,000
Reimagining School Safety—in Connecticut and Beyond
Co-PIs: Sukhmani SinghSchool of Social WorkMiguel de FigueiredoSchool of LawKen BaroneInstitute for Municipal and Regional PolicyAndrew ClarkInstitute for Municipal and Regional PolicyCasey Cobb, Neag School of Education

Sukhmani Singh, Social Work Instruction and Research – $59,998.64
An Intersectional Examination of the Educational Trajectories of Youth Sentenced to Probation

Davis Chacon Hurtado, Civil and Environmental Engineering – $60,000
Equity in livability: An exploratory analysis of spatial equity in roadway safety and driver behavior using naturalistic driving data
Co-PIs: Alexandra PaxtonPsychological SciencesJohn IvanCivil and Environmental EngineeringKerry MarshPsychological Sciences

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UConn School of Social Work Celebrates 75th Anniversary Tue, 21 Mar 2023 11:35:06 +0000 Ziba Kashef This year, the UConn School of Social Work commemorates 75 years of graduating social workers committed to social, racial, and economic justice for individuals, families, and communities, both locally and globally. The School’s signature Master of Social Work (MSW) degree program is the longest-running and highest-ranked MSW program in Connecticut, and among the top 12% of social work graduate programs nationwide.

“The School of Social Work continues to stand strong among the nation’s leading graduate schools for social work,” says Dean and Zachs Chair Nina Rovinelli Heller, who has served as dean for eight years. “We also continue to be responsive to the evolving needs of our students, the community, the state, and the field of social work with offerings, programs, and cutting-edge research that address the most challenging human service issues of our times.”

Honoring the Past

The history of the School of Social Work has been chronicled twice, first by one of its early and longest-serving deans, Harleigh Trecker. His work, which covered the School’s first 30 years in 838 pages, detailed how the University and the social work profession collaborated to establish the School, starting with early discussions in the late 30s.

The School of Social Work was initially conceived as a one-year graduate program with courses to be offered in Hartford and New Haven. Delayed briefly by World War II, plans for the School would not be denied and it officially opened in 1946 under then-University President Albert Jorgensen. That year, it had just six full-time and 16 part-time students enrolled in the MSW program and a single full-time faculty member. One student received his MSW in 1948.

Esther Pahl ’52 MSW, who was one of the School’s first eight MSW graduates, has fond memories of her time at UConn. “The outstanding study and training that I received at UConn School of Social Work not only prepared me for a professional career as a practitioner but also encouraged academic growth to ready me for an outstanding career in the helping profession,” she says. During her years as a student, she recalls the School did not have its own building, so classes were taught at Hartford Public High School by mostly visiting professors from Trinity College, the University of Chicago, Boston University, and Yale.

The School of Social Work's former location at the Greater Hartford campus, prior to UConn Hartford's move to the capital city.
The School of Social Work’s former location at the Greater Hartford campus, prior to UConn Hartford’s move to the capital city (Peter Morenus / UConn Photo).

The second chronicler of the School’s history is Professor Emerita Ruth Martin ’70 MSW, who began organizing an oral history project to mark the School’s 50th anniversary in the late 90s. Martin enlisted 27 of her students over the summer of 1997 and spring of 1998 to interview 41 individuals with deep knowledge of the School, including professors, deans, administrators, alumni, staff, as well as former professors and deans. They shared their perspectives on everything from the School’s early years, student life, milestones, programs, philosophy, and the future.

“Working on an oral history of the UConn School of Social Work in time for the 50th anniversary was a privilege that allowed my students and I to learn and reflect on the differing perspectives that built the school and profession,” says Martin. “As an alumna of SSW, I was able to appreciate my cohort’s contributions and the influence of the tumult of the 60s. The School has been a huge part of my journey.”

The oral history chapter on milestones included references to notable developments in the School’s first five decades, including but not limited to: the 20th anniversary of the Community Organizing sequence, which continues today as a program concentration; early links to state government agencies such as the Department of Social Services and Department of Children and Families; first courses on women and on aging; creation of the Institute for the Advancement of Political Social Work Practice (now the Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work) and first campaign school; start of the Puerto Rican Studies Project; and first courses for people with disabilities, gays and lesbians, and people with HIV; among many others.

The School has inspired long service by several deans, faculty members, staff, and alumni. Professor Louise Simmons, who has been at the School for 46 years, and worked under eight deans, recalls the days before the University had computers. She initially worked in the Field Education office and later directed a service-learning program called Urban Semester in addition to teaching.

Simmons observes that over the years, the School has placed a greater emphasis on faculty research, now a key pillar of the School’s strategic plan. It has also brought in more young faculty members and greater diversity, including faculty researchers who address racial justice, international issues, and LBGTQ issues. “We express diversity in different ways,” she says. “There are connections with different parts of the local community. The school is healthier for that now because we consider those issues to be very important.”

An undated brochure for the School of Social Work.
An undated brochure for the School of Social Work (Department of Archives & Special Collections/UConn Library)

The School is distinguished, she says, by its specialized concentrations for master’s students, which include Individuals, Groups, and Families Practice; Community Organizing; and Policy Practice. “We have a very strong macro program,” she says. “Some alumni have been in the state legislature, speaker of the house. Others have gone on to play important roles in advocacy and policy groups.”

Celebrating the Future

Today, the School has greatly expanded to encompass a Bachelor of Social Work program and a Ph.D. program, which is the first and only public Ph.D. social work program in New England; it celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. Some 403 students are enrolled in all three programs, and more than 8,700 alumni are recognized social work leaders throughout the region and nationally.

For several years the School was based at the UConn Greater Hartford campus in West Hartford, and is now situated in the heart of downtown Hartford, the state’s capital city. This location, close to a diverse urban center and accessible to hundreds of human service agencies statewide, allows the School to maintain its strong public service commitment and provide a wide range of hands-on field internship experiences for students.

Most recently, the School welcomed Innovations Institute, an interdisciplinary translational research center that greatly expands its national footprint, particularly in the area of child welfare. The Institute brings $12 million in grant funding and partnerships with 42 local and state governments to improve supports, systems, services, and outcomes for children, youth, and families across the country.

“The Institute strengthens our commitment to academic-public agency partnerships,” says Heller. “Their expertise in policy, finance, intervention design and installation, along with translational research, is core to the mission of SSW, and for the profession, and aligns with our strategic goals of increasing research, providing life-transformative experiences, and increasing community engagement.”

In April, the School will celebrate its 75th anniversary with a special event in Hartford. A 75th anniversary page also highlights achievements of just a few of the School’s distinguished and influential alumni.

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Social Work Researcher Seeks to Re-engage Black and African American Older Adults Isolated by COVID-19 Tue, 07 Mar 2023 12:30:18 +0000 Ziba Kashef School of Social Work Assistant Professor Rupal Parekh has long been interested in studying the impact of social isolation and loneliness on the health and well-being of Black, Hispanic, and immigrant older adults. When the opportunity to apply for a National Institutes on Aging (NIA) grant presented itself, she pursued it to study a persistent problem resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic: the isolation of a vulnerable community of older African Americans in Hartford.

“Black and African American older adults were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” says Parekh, whose pilot study is supported by part of the $7 million NIA Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center grant awarded to UConn Center on Aging. The data show that African Americans have higher rates of infection and death from the virus. Their continued isolation only compounds the risks to their well-being.

Parekh says the research shows a direct relationship between isolation and negative health outcomes for older adults, such as falls, depression, and poor management of chronic illnesses like heart disease. Her conversations with community partners, including church pastors and providers at senior centers in the Hartford area, revealed that many Black older adults had stopped going to senior centers and to church during the height of the pandemic due to fear of exposure to COVID-19 and other concerns.

The church is the center of social engagement for many Black and African American older adults. Although most churches and senior centers have opened up their doors again, some older adults may still be fearful and uncertain about going back. As such, many remain disengaged.

That’s a focus of my research: how we can create age-friendly communities so that all people can have meaningful opportunities to stay engaged — Assistant Professor Rupal Parekh

“I wanted to better understand the barriers and facilitators of engagement to churches and senior centers among Black and African American older adults, and work with the churches and the senior centers to develop an intervention to re-engage this population,” she adds. Parekh and the research team are collaborating with Co-Principal Investigator Christine Tocchi, assistant professor of nursing at UConn School of Nursing.

With the grant Parekh and her team are trying to better understand how to provide meaningful opportunities for engagement post-COVID-19. To delve into this under-researched area, she plans to first conduct focus groups with key stakeholders, including staff and volunteers at both senior centers and churches that serve Black and African American older adults. Those stakeholders will help define engagement and disengagement from their perspective.

By enlisting the community’s input in the development of the research, Parekh and her colleagues ensure that the project is community-based and participatory. The researchers aim to recruit seniors from both churches and senior centers, and reach a diverse group in terms of gender, to explore potential similarities and differences. “What we’ve heard is that churches have seen fewer men show up because there was a social aspect to church before for men that is no longer there,” Parekh notes. Some seniors have also lost friends to COVID.

Input from the community will also help Parekh and the research team refine other aspects of the project, which include both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. The former method involves a survey. “The quantitative questions are different assessment tools that we will be using to measure depression, physical activity, and participation to name a few factors,” she explains.

The qualitative piece consists of one-on-one, in-person interviews with seniors, which will be conducted by Master of Social Work students who are also African American and Black. The interviewers will explore participants’ engagement and disengagement in everyday activities pre- and post-COVID and look for common themes that will assist in the development of an engagement intervention. The student investigators will maintain research diaries to record notes and impressions in addition to analyzing interview transcripts.

When the data from focus groups and individual interviews are analyzed, Parekh’s team will then organize a workshop to present the findings to the older adults with the aim of “co-developing” interventions that churches and senior centers could implement. A solution might involve, for example, a carpooling service for those who have been missing church because they don’t have transportation or a buddy system for those who don’t have friends at a senior center or church anymore.

“These are the potential types of interventions that we can develop to encourage folks to go back to church and go back to some of these social activities that were meaningful to them,” says Parekh.

The ultimate goal of the work is to re-engage older adults to the activities that sustained them pre-COVID and reduce their isolation, particularly in BIPOC communities, which Parekh has witnessed up close as a former clinical social worker and as the daughter of immigrants. “That’s a focus of my research: how we can create age-friendly communities so that all people can have meaningful opportunities to stay engaged throughout their lives,” says Parekh.

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UConn Nursing, Social Work Awarded $6M to Address Workforce Shortages in Critical Fields Wed, 01 Mar 2023 16:00:35 +0000 Ziba Kashef The UConn School of Nursing and the UConn School of Social Work (SSW) have been awarded more than $6 million through the new CT Health Horizons program to address statewide shortages in social work and nursing.

The funding is from CT Health Horizons, a higher education program designed to address statewide shortages in social work and nursing. Beginning this spring, and over three years, the SSW, which was awarded more than $2 million, will use the funds to increase the number of social workers in Connecticut trained to serve the mental health needs of children and adolescents while the School of Nursing, which was awarded $4 million, will use the funds to increase the number of registered nurses to meet the School’s mission of advancing the health of individuals and communities.

“The School of Social Work is committed to addressing the mental health crisis affecting children and adolescents across our state,” says SSW Dean and Zachs Chair Nina Rovinelli Heller. “The CT Health Horizons award helps us both to support and prepare more students interested in youth mental health and to serve the state’s workforce needs.”

School of Nursing Dean Deborah Chyun adds that the funding comes at a crucial time for the state’s health care workforce.

“The School of Nursing is deeply appreciative that the state has recognized the critical shortage of nurses in Connecticut and has made funds available through the CT Health Horizons project,” Chyun says.

In the School of Social Work, funds will be used to provide $1 million in student stipends, hire faculty, and support two targeted SSW strategies: to increase the number of Spanish-speaking, Master of Social Work (MSW)-level social workers in the state, and to boost the number of social workers in public schools.

To serve the growing Latina/o/x community in the state, the SSW will launch Connecticut ¡Adelante!, a program for Spanish-speaking, bilingual social work students. In addition to preparing these students to provide mental health services, the program will also build the linguistic and cultural competencies of students to serve a growing population of Latina/o/x children and families in Connecticut. Students will receive a stipend each semester they remain in the program.

Exterior views of the School of Social Work (SSW) with students walking out of the building.
Exterior views of the School of Social Work (SSW) with students walking out of the building. Sept. 15, 2022. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

Connecticut ¡Adelante! will offer specialized courses in Spanish as well as field internships at local organizations that focus on Spanish-speaking families. The combination of education and hands-on training will prepare students to support mental health needs and improve the lives of Latinos in the state.

The program will also leverage the SSW’s long-term partnerships with Connecticut state departments and social service agencies – such as the Department of Children and Families, Wheeler Clinic, and Connecticut Children’s – to develop employment opportunities for students.

“The goals of Connecticut ¡Adelante! are to meet the mental health needs of children and families and to continue to create workforce pipelines for our graduating bilingual social work students to remain in Connecticut,” says Milagros Marrero-Johnson, director of strategic programming at SSW.

The second strategy supported by the CT Health Horizons grant focuses on school social work. Building on existing partnerships with two school districts, the award will allow the SSW to educate and train more social workers to serve in public schools.

The goals are to have social work students support school social workers in addressing the mental health needs of students, increase the number of social work students prepared to enter the field of school social work, and support those school social workers working with our social work students.

The project will help strengthen the school social worker pipeline by putting more social work students, particularly advanced-year MSW students, in Bloomfield Public Schools and Hartford Public Schools. In these school settings, the students will learn about existing mental health programs and work closely with teachers to implement mental health interventions such as conflict resolution. They will also support school social workers with behavioral and educational assessments.

In this way the students will gain greater exposure to school-based teams and strategies while also getting more deeply immersed in the complexities of school social work and mental health interventions. They will also participate in a webinar and complete a course on school social work they will need for certification.

“These funds could not come at a more critical moment,” says Amy Gorin, UConn’s Vice Provost for Health Sciences and Interdisciplinary Initiatives. “Our School of Social Work will put the CT Health Horizons award to immediate use to support and train students committed to helping the lives of Connecticut residents.”

The community will benefit by having a greater number of social work students placed in their schools for their field education experiences at a time when many youth are struggling with social-emotional challenges. The project will increase eight-fold the number of MSW students prepared to serve as school social workers, and also boost the number of BSW students exposed to this increasingly in-demand form of social work practice.

Storrs Hall is seen from the opposite side of Swan Lake.
UConn School of Nursing. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

“This program strengthens the relationship between the UConn School of Social Work and public school systems by working with public schools to address current student mental health and well-being needs,” says Joanne Corbin, SSW associate dean for academic affairs. “Importantly the program ensures that the School of Social Work is preparing students in the areas of most need in the state.”

In the School of Nursing, $1.2M will provide much-needed scholarship support for the school’s accelerated students, who otherwise as second-degree students, have exhausted other sources of support and have limited access to funding. These 122 student recipients will complete their nursing degrees in one-year, along with their classmates, will contribute 150 or more nurses to the workforce each year.  They serve as an important source of nurses who are so urgently needed in the state.  This support will allow them to focus on their rigorous curriculum and ease their financial burden, including their need for outside work.

Nursing faculty, who are in short supply across the country, will also be recruited through this initiative. With $2.8M in funding, UConn will be able to hire an additional seven new faculty, allowing the School to increase its student enrollment. The UConn School of Nursing is highly competitive and has to turn away more than 1,500 applicants each year for lack of faculty and access to clinical sites.

“The nursing shortage demands immediate attention and this CT Health Horizons award will provide a much needed infusion of financial support for students and funds to hire new faculty,” says Gorin. “Our highly regarded School of Nursing will utilize these funds to educate a diverse nursing student body committed to improving the health care of Connecticut residents.”

Dean Chyun concludes that “the University of Connecticut School of Nursing is extremely grateful for the assistance of CT Health Horizons as we strive to meet the healthcare needs of our citizens.”

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$10 Million for National Early Childhood Intervention Personnel Development Equity Center Awarded to UConn Tue, 21 Feb 2023 20:30:31 +0000 Lauren Woods UConn School of Medicine’s Mary Beth Bruder, Ph.D. has been awarded a $10 million federal grant by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education, to provide technical assistance to increase equity in the delivery of early childhood intervention services to infants and young children from diverse backgrounds who have disabilities or developmental delays.

The new Early Childhood Intervention Personnel Development Equity Center is national in scope, and will be working with state systems of early childhood intervention, and institutions of higher education (IHE) who prepare the workforce to provide these services.

The Center is charged with assisting state systems to create more equity in early childhood intervention access, participation, and outcomes for all infants, young children, and their families, especially those who have traditionally been underserved because of racial, ethnic, and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds. The Center will also be creating equity-based curriculum for IHE and state in-service personnel preparation programs who prepare early childhood intervention teachers, therapists, and specialists. The curriculum will be competency based and aligned with practice standards to ensure the early intervention workforce will be able to create and provide appropriate and effective service models that will be welcoming to families and their children from diverse backgrounds.

Mary Beth Bruder.
Mary Beth Bruder (UConn Health Photo)

Another focus of the center is to work with IHEs to recruit students into early childhood intervention personnel preparation programs who are more representative of the population served. That is, students who have diverse racial, ethnic, and/or linguistic backgrounds, and will graduate and become teachers, therapists, and specialists and serve infants and young children with disabilities or developmental delays who are also diverse.

“This large, federal grant funding will grow, diversify, and truly strengthen the nation’s early childhood workforce and provide more equitable interventions for infants and young children with disabilities and their families,” says Bruder, a leading early childhood intervention expert and professor at the UConn School of Medicine and the UConn Neag School of Education.

The latest U.S. Department of Education data show that children of color and diverse backgrounds are less likely to be receiving services than those in all other racial/ethnic groups combined. In addition, the personnel entering the early intervention and preschool special education fields do not reflect the demographics of these young children and families being served, with most personnel being predominately white.

“UConn, other universities, and over 40 national professional organizations are working with us on the center, as the work is so important,” Bruder says. “The combined efforts of all our partners will be needed to improve the current disparities in service delivery that is experienced by families and their children because of their diversity. Likewise, IHE programs have long recognized the importance of attracting, supporting and preparing students from racial, ethnic, and linguistically diverse backgrounds across the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree levels, and supporting them to enter and stay in the early childhood profession.”

According to Bruder, this is a daunting task, as many of the structural and systemic barriers to equity for those with diverse racial, ethnic, and linguistic backgrounds have been tolerated for too long. Dismantling these barriers through improved training curricula for a diversified workforce is the first step in societal change for infants and young children and families who have intersecting characteristics of disability and other defining characteristics such as race, ethnicity, and primary language that has compounded the disparities they have experienced. Providing equitable access and participation in early childhood intervention services and supports is the first step to improving and having long term impact on their quality of life.

This February, Katherine Neas, the Assistant Secretary of Education for Special Education and Rehabilitation Services in the U.S. Department of Education, participated in the UConn School of Medicine two-day summit about the newly awarded Early Childhood Intervention Personnel Development Equity Center. This new federal funding stems from President Biden’s June 2021 Executive Order on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce to strengthen it by drawing further from the full diversity of our nation.

The new Early Childhood Intervention Personnel Development Equity Center is part of UConn’s longtime federally funded cross-campus Center of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research and Service (UCEDD) based at the School of Medicine, which is also directed by Bruder.

Since the 1980s, it has been devoted to helping those with disabilities and their families to enhance their quality of life. Funded by the Federal Developmental Disabilities Act, the goal of UConn’s UCEDD, one of 67 centers nationwide, is to help persons with disabilities to live as independently as possible, be productive members of society, work in paying jobs, and have the greatest quality of life possible. Bruder and her team achieve this through multidisciplinary scientific research, evidence-based intervention practices, and community-based service delivery and ongoing policy reform, while also training future researchers, community leaders, and others in helping people with disabilities navigate challenges facing them.

Each year, UConn UCEDD trains dozens of graduate students from different professional disciplines and an additional dozen doctoral student scholars in early childhood and disability studies at research universities across the country.

“At UConn, inclusion and belonging is woven into everything we do,” says Bruder. “Our new Early Childhood Intervention Personnel Development Equity Center will be improving the early childhood intervention system and its equity for all children with disabilities including those from diverse backgrounds. We will ensure the future workforce we train, and who cares for children with disabilities, better reflects these children’s demographics.”

In addition to the UConn School of Medicine, The Early Childhood Intervention Personnel Development Equity Center is a collaboration with UConn, the Neag School of Education and the School of Social Work, the Georgetown University Child Development Center (UCEDD), the Federation of Children with Special Needs and the Division for Early Childhood, Council for Exceptional Children, and a large network of other IHEs and for profit and non-profit organization partners.

Dr. Jeffrey F. Hines, the chief diversity officer of UConn Health, applauds the ongoing work of Bruder and her newly established Equity Center’s importance.

“People are best served by people who can identify with those serving them,” says Hines. “A more diversified workforce will help children with disabilities and their families of diverse backgrounds how to navigate. This diversification will create a culture of inclusion to benefit the children and families being served.”

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Q&A: Meet the School of Social Work Ph.D. Student Jenna Powers Tue, 31 Jan 2023 13:03:25 +0000 Ziba Kashef Jenna Powers is a Ph.D. student at UConn School of Social Work (SSW) and an instructor of Master of Social Work (MSW) courses in policy and research. After attending the SSW’s Campaign School for Social Workers she decided to pursue her doctorate here.


How would you describe your research interests?

A:  I have two separate but similar areas of research, both based on the idea that the people with lived experiences of the social issues we’re studying as social workers are the experts. My research focuses on engaging them as experts in informing our practices and our policies.

One area of my research is political social work. That involves social workers and their clients being involved in political decisions, whether that’s social workers running for political office or being engaged in voting and engaging their clients in voting as well. The other area of research is engaging foster youth in the programs and policies around child welfare.

One study that I’m working on with Assistant Professor Nate Okpych is CalYOUTH, a longitudinal study in California. My research with that project looks at youth involvement in case planning decisions. Are their case workers involving them in decisions about their future goals and how to achieve those goals? Who’s being engaged in those conversations and why? How can we make it so all youth are involved in case-planning decisions?

What is the focus of your dissertation?

A:  This idea of foster youth being engaged in decisions is a very new area of research. My dissertation is the third case study looking at what’s called a youth advisory board. Almost every state has a youth advisory board, and the goals are to engage foster youth in program development and policy-making decisions. I’m looking at Maine’s advisory board, which has a unique structure. They don’t call it a youth advisory board but an advisory team because they’re focused on youth being equal partners with adults and how youth voices are engaged in decision-making processes.

A key finding is the idea of all youth having access to a seat at the table. That structure in and of itself opens access for youth who might not be your stereotypical leader or might not even know that they are yet interested in leadership positions. It really meets the youth where they’re at, and provides opportunities for them to be involved, which changes how programs and policies are shaped because more youth and youth from more diverse backgrounds are engaged in those decisions.

How are you exploring that and what is it that you hope to learn?

A: This is such an understudied area, there are more questions than answers at this point. I would like to see more of a model across the United States that works toward a best practice and evidence-based program development.

Speaking to the methods, I conducted qualitative interviews with participants with a variety of perspectives and expertise, including youth who attended Maine’s youth advisory board, former youth who have remained engaged in the program, and the staff.  With the youth participants, I used this under-utilized method of qualitative research, which is called direct scribing. I’m the fourth researcher that I know of to use and evaluate this method of interviewing. What it involves is youth being more in the driver’s seat in the interviews rather than the researcher coming with specific questions and expertise. It allows youth to tell their story from their own voice and perspective. They also are heavily involved in informing my analysis as well.

What are your future career goals and how do they relate to your dissertation?

A: I have accepted an offer as an Assistant Professor in the Western Carolina University Department of Social Work. A major thing that I was looking for when applying to schools and what informed my decision to accept their offer is that I want my work to be meaningful and to create change. I want my research to better the lives of the populations I’m studying, and there is space built into my position so I have the ability to use my research to impact change. I’m just as much a scholar as I am a community member in this department, which is really important to me.

Why did you choose UConn School of Social Work?

A:  UConn was my top school because of the Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work. I was an MSW student at the University of New England (UNE). By chance I learned about the Humphreys Institute’s Campaign School through an independent study. I attended as part of my independent study and it was completely life changing. That was the first time I was taught about the importance of social workers and their clients being involved in political decisions. That really changed my career path. It is what brought me to UConn to get my Ph.D. and study with the other researchers involved with the Institute and move that area of social work forward.

After I was an MSW student I stayed at UNE as a staff member. A huge part of what I did was bring the Campaign School up to Maine and that was the first time that the Campaign School was replicated in another state. Fast forward seven years later, it’s been replicated all over the country, which is exciting.

What advice would you give students interested in pursuing their Ph.D. in social work here?

A:  My advice would be the same advice that I give my BSW and MSW students: take advantage of your role as a student and remain open minded about what your interests might be. In the beginning of the program, don’t rule out anything because you don’t know what you don’t know. Remain open to all possibilities because you never know where your true passion and expertise might lie.

I also have to say Impostor Syndrome is a huge thing in graduate school. What UConn specifically offers is finding your people and your support system. Those people can help build your confidence and be cheerleaders that you can trust and be vulnerable with. They’ll have your back and they are right there with you to help you get to the finish line.

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School of Social Work Celebrates 10-Year Initiative to Improve Services for Connecticut Families Tue, 17 Jan 2023 12:10:58 +0000 Ziba Kashef A decade ago, UConn School of Social Work (SSW) launched the Performance Improvement Center, or PIC, with the goal of helping one of its long-time partner agencies, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF), evaluate a new initiative for families discharged from DCF. Led by co-principal investigators Brenda Kurz, Patricia Carlson, and Megan Feely, PIC uses data and analyses to help DCF identify trends and improve how it responds to vulnerable families in the state’s child welfare system.

An early focus of PIC was a DCF program launched in the same year called Community Support for Families. The voluntary program provides services to families who have been discharged from DCF and are considered low risk for future reports of abuse or neglect. Through the program, these families receive support and links to community services such as parenting classes, housing, and access to food or other basic needs with the intent of preventing future involvement with the child welfare system.

While such community-based prevention programs are widespread nationally, their effectiveness in preventing maltreatment has not been well studied. That’s where PIC comes in. They evaluate both implementation and effectiveness of the Connecticut program, providing DCF and partner agencies with actionable data. PIC has developed data dashboards for the agency and produced reports that answer questions about program enrollment, interventions, and outcomes. “We look at their data and analyze it in ways that they ask us to but could not do themselves,” says Kurz.

Based on the data and analysis, PIC has made specific recommendations for key improvements. For example, instead of referring families to Community Support for Families the second or third time a family has contact with DCF, they suggested making referrals earlier. PIC not only made the recommendation but provided statistical evidence to support it.

Another example is extending the length of services. Early on in their evaluation of the community program, PIC examined the length of service, or time families spent in the program, which was typically less than three months. But the data showed that families often needed more time. In response, DCF changed their contracts with local agencies to extend service up to six months.

“That was an excellent example of DCF using the research evidence we provided to change the program to increase the provider’s ability to stay with families that needed it longer,” says Carlson.

“As the nature of child welfare evolves in Connecticut, it takes strong partnerships to evaluate the outcomes of our interventions leading to enhanced practice,” says DCF Commissioner Vannessa Dorantes. “The collaborative work between DCF and UConn has resulted in both the collection and analysis of data to confirm existing successes and to provide recommendations for the future — all toward informing the next generation of our workforce. Connecticut’s children and families have benefitted from this relationship, and I look forward to our continued work.”

Room for Improvement

In a recent study, PIC looked at 25% of families (6,272) referred to Community Support for Families to determine the program’s impact on child safety and characteristics of families who enrolled. Co-authors Kurz, Carlson and Feely, and former PIC team member, Joshua Pierce, now a doctoral student at Brown University, found that the community program did improve child safety and lower the risk of a future maltreatment for families that completed the program.

More research is needed to understand why two out of five families return to the child welfare system after participating in the program. Yet the program is meeting some important goals. It’s a “dynamic community-based program that has been very successful and helped a lot of families,” says Carlson.

Since its early focus on Community Support for Families, PIC has expanded its role to evaluate other aspects of DCF’s work, such as the Family Assessment Response (FAR) track, which is DCF’s feeder track for the CSF program. Launched in 2012, FAR uses a team approach to engage families, discover their strengths, and view family members as key to the solution, referring them to needed services on discharge if needed. “FAR was created because DCF was seeing low-risk families who had been discharged without receiving any services returning at a higher level of risk as their needs had not been addressed,” says Kurz.

To evaluate that approach, PIC published a study describing the FAR system. They found that while the families served are low risk for abuse or neglect, they still have significant issues that need addressing, such as mental health.

Since PIC began its evaluation some 269,536 families have been served by the two child welfare tracts. Going forward, PIC is utilizing a “research-to-practice” model. “The initial goal was to evaluate the Community Support for Families program and to see if it was making a difference,” says Carlson. “The goal now is helping DCF get a deeper understanding of this data and making it more accessible so they can take what we are learning and use it to influence practice and policy.”

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Bright Lights and Warm Wishes Tue, 13 Dec 2022 15:02:19 +0000 Thomas Rettig

As we say goodbye to 2022, the road ahead looks open and bright, especially in the company of our UConn family and friends. Watch here as we celebrate the season in distinctive UConn fashion. (Video by UConn)

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School of Social Work Welcomes Innovations Institute to Improve Child and Family Services Nationwide Thu, 08 Dec 2022 15:00:02 +0000 Ziba Kashef The UConn School of Social Work (SSW) is pleased to announce the arrival of Innovations Institute. A University institute of the SSW, Innovations Institute extends the School’s commitment to social, racial, and economic justice and the improvement of human well-being nationwide.

To fulfill its mission, the UConn SSW has deep and longstanding partnerships with Connecticut state agencies that serve children, youth, and their families, including the Departments of Social Services, of Children and Families, of Mental Health and Addiction Services, and the Office of Early Childhood. Through these robust partnerships, the School provides research, implementation, and evaluation of evidence-based programs and policies that serve children, youth, and families across the state.

With the addition of Innovations Institute, the School expands UConn’s leadership and contributions nationwide. “The Institute Innovations brings together prominent thought leaders in the area of children’s services with expertise in policy, finance, intervention design and installation, along with translational research and evaluation,” says Dean and Zachs Chair Nina Rovinelli Heller. “It also increases our national footprint and strengthens our commitment to academic-public agency partnerships. These objectives are core missions for the SSW, and for the profession, and align with our strategic goals of increasing research, providing life-transformative experiences, and increasing community engagement.”

Grounded in research and implementation science, the work of Innovations Institute furthers the SSW’s commitment to disseminating impactful knowledge through building research-based and transformative child-, youth- and family-serving systems and services, and developing the capacity of the workforce within these systems. It is fully grant funded and brings a $12 million grant portfolio.

“For over 17 years, Innovations Institute has worked to improve the lives of children, youth, young adults, and their families who utilize public system supports,” says Innovations Institute Executive Director Michelle Zabel. “We are committed to elevating their voices to work towards social, racial, economic, and environmental justice. We are thrilled to be joining the School of Social Work and to be engaging in and contributing to UConn’s collaborative environment.”

Formerly affiliated with the University of Maryland, Innovations Institute is an interdisciplinary, translational research center with expertise that dovetails with that of UConn SSW faculty in child welfare, violence, and trauma, LGBTQIA+ issues, mental health and substance misuse, political participation and social justice, and human rights. With the addition of the Innovations Institute, UConn SSW is poised to significantly strengthen its dedication to addressing some of the most challenging human service issues of our time.

Innovations Institute is currently partnering with 42 state and local governments, provider organizations, and hospitals, as well as with the federal government, to improve supports, systems, services, and outcomes for children, youth, and families. Over the course of their history, the Innovations Institute has collaborated with every state and territory as well as many tribal nations.

The School of Social Work is thrilled to welcome the Innovations Institute team to UConn as the School celebrates its 75th anniversary as a top-ranked leader in graduate social work education and research. They will be transitioned to SSW by December 30. To learn more please visit web pages for the School of Social Work and the Innovations Institute.

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Social Work Student Receives Prestigious Fellowship to Address Mental Health Tue, 29 Nov 2022 12:30:29 +0000 Ziba Kashef A third-year master’s student at UConn School of Social Work, Kelly Sanchez ’15 (CLAS) recently received the prestigious Minority Fellowship from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), the national association representing social work education in the United States. Supported by grant funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the fellowship award is for master’s social work students who demonstrate a strong commitment to addressing the mental health needs of BIPOC individuals, groups, and communities.


The CSWE Minority Fellowship Program support students committed to BIPOC mental health. What got you interested in that issue?

A: I’m a Husky through and through. I went to UConn for undergrad and did a double major in Psychology and Latin American Studies. While I was writing my senior thesis, I learned a lot about mental health and behavioral health and one of the things that really stood out to me is that research told us time and time again that Black and people of color do not utilize behavioral health services as much as our white counterparts. I started to look into the reasons why, and because of the nature of my double major, I was really looking at utilization in the Latino population. I learned there are several reasons: Culture is different, language is different. It’s because clinicians don’t look like you. There’s so much that goes into it that’s not always understood and that was important to me.

What are the key issues you’ve learned for the BIPOC community regarding mental health?

A: There are a few different issues. For one, I would say stigma is still huge in our communities. Even just a few years ago, if you said, ‘My therapist said this,’ people would look at you differently. They might ask, ‘Why are you going to a therapist? What problems do you have?’ It might be that you’re working through a problem, or it could just be that you’re going through changes in your life that you want to talk to someone about. I think that people are now understanding the benefits of seeing a therapist and it’s getting less stigmatized but there’s still a lot of work to do.

There are also structural and economic factors. Yesterday, I was talking to a client, and she said, ‘You know, I have gone to therapy, but I just can’t pay the copays anymore.’ What are we doing to help these individuals? Because at some point, she saw value in going to therapy, but she just doesn’t have the resources now.

What is your concentration in the master’s program?

A: I chose the Individuals, Groups and Families Practice concentration. I’m preparing to be a clinician. In my current field placement, I have individual patients for one-on-one therapy, and I also run a women’s group. My field placement was the perfect match for me. I am doing a placement at Optimus Healthcare in Bridgeport. It’s a federally qualified health center and they’re piloting a program for women and girls. It’s called the emme coalition and their goal is to empower, motivate, and give women and girls the tools to be more mindful. Because it’s only open to residents of Bridgeport, there are a lot of Black and women and girls of color. I work with the adult women ages 18 to 49.

It’s great to provide space for these women to come together. A lot of them are moms who have trouble retaining employment and are receiving social services. Sometimes they’re the sole providers and the women’s group that I started when I became an intern there was really special for them. They are learning skills that are going to help them become better versions of themselves, which is the mission of the pilot program.

Is it like a group therapy? How would you describe your role?

A: I am the main facilitator. As the team’s first Master of Social Work (MSW) intern, I came on to start group therapy and to do mental health check-ins with the women in the program. Many of the program participants have diagnoses of PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, and major depressive disorder. Just about all of them have lived through traumatic events and we use a trauma-informed perspective to deliver services to them.

What do you plan or foresee yourself doing when you graduate?

A: That’s a great question. After undergraduate school, I earned a master’s in public health. I have been working in the public health field for a few years now. The only issue I had was that I was so taken away from the community. At that point, I was working with administrators, doctors, and clinicians. But I missed patients, I missed clients, I missed the community. As a bilingual and bicultural person, I knew that I was not using all my skills, including my ability to speak Spanish. There is not only a shortage of behavioral health clinicians nationwide but additionally there is a shortage of bilingual clinicians.

The whole reason I did psychology was to work with people, so I went back to my roots. I needed to take a step back to do what I had originally planned, which was to be a therapist. I got back into it and started the MSW program. My dream job would be to combine public health and social work. For me, it would be great if I could find a position that’s 50% administrative, working on projects like the emme coalition or a similar program for girls and women and at the same time provide behavioral health services as a clinician. That would be the best of both worlds for me.

Why did you choose UConn School of Social Work?

A: Connecticut is my home. I was born and raised in New Haven. I left and went to Maryland, Rhode Island, and then I came back. I found a position at UConn Health, and I had been there for a little over a year before I started the MSW program. UConn is the best ranked social work in the state of Connecticut. Many social workers that are in this area are UConn trained or UConn educated. It’s a strong network of individuals to be part of both at the micro and macro levels of social work.

What advice would you give to others interested in pursuing their masters at UConn?

A: If I could go back a few years, I would probably do the dual degree program. UConn offers a three-year, dual degree program for a Master’s in Public Health and MSW. It’s taken me five years to get both. Social work and public health complement each other in so many ways. You just can’t have one without the other. I encourage students interested in either field to look into the other, I don’t think you’ll regret it.

I would definitely say do your research. UConn has a lot to offer. You have your different tracks but don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. Ask questions. We’re all learning here and part of what I think has been a good experience in the School of Social Work is that I’ve been advocating for myself. If you need help, ask for it. I applied to this fellowship on a whim. I thought, well, if I get it, I get it and if I don’t, I don’t, but at least I tried. This fellowship will allow me to connect with a network of BIPOC clinicians, researchers and health care professionals around the country and for that I am extremely grateful.

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Fierberg Scholar Dreams of Being an Advocate for the Voiceless Wed, 02 Nov 2022 11:15:37 +0000 Ziba Kashef Faridah Kisekka-Sessanga was inspired to go into social work thanks to a measure of help when she needed it the most. Pregnant with her first child, she sought care at Saint Francis Hospital but had no health insurance. A hospital social worker connected her to a financial counselor and other services. “She pointed me to so many resources,” says Kisekka-Sessanga, who was surprised to learn that social workers had such significant roles and wore so many hats. “She really made an impact on me.”

The extent of that impact came to fruition last fall, when Kisekka-Sessanga, a Black Muslim immigrant from Uganda, was one of two students awarded the 2022 Janet M. Fierberg Scholarship by UConn to pursue a master’s degree at the School of Social Work.

Kisekka-Sessanga’s desire to help people had first been instilled in her as a child raised by her grandmother. A Catholic, her grandmother rented homes to people from a village who often could not afford to pay rent and buy food. Even though some could not cover their rent for months, her grandmother never evicted them. “The way she raised me, if somebody needs help, you help them,” Kisekka-Sessanga recalls.

After arriving in the United States in 2005, Kisekka-Sessanga initially pursued nursing as a career, enrolling in a program at Capital Community College in Hartford. She was three weeks shy of completing her requirements when she had a crisis of conscience. “I told my husband, you know what? I am forcing myself to do nursing,” she says. “This is not me. I don’t think I’ll be happy.”

My view of social work is you have to be kind, you have to be loving, you have to be encouraging and empowering to other people. — Faridah Kisekka-Sessanga

Shifting gears, Kisekka-Sessanga enrolled in Tunxis Community College to take classes in preparation for getting a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU). During this circuitous route to social work, she encountered a professor who told students that 60% of them would fail her class. Instead of being discouraged, Kisekka-Sessanga felt even more determined about her career choice. “My view of social work is you have to be kind, you have to be loving, you have to be encouraging and empowering to other people,” she says.

Resisting Microaggressions and Marginalization

In addition to having some rigorously demanding professors as an undergraduate, Kisekka-Sessanga had to face the sometimes harsh reality of being an immigrant and a Muslim in the United States. It was jarring to her that all her professors and administrators in community college were white. She felt unwelcome by an advisor in her nursing program and invisible to some of her fellow students who harbored stereotypes about Africans. “Where I came from this is not something that I had experienced,” she says. “I realized racism was really a thing.”

While she covered her hair when she first arrived in the country in accordance with her religious beliefs, she soon started to remove her headscarf. “Because I felt like I was targeted or people treated me in a certain way, I stopped covering completely,” she says. These days she has resumed covering her hair.

Those experiences of being stigmatized further fueled her passion to go into social work. “[For] those people who are marginalized like me, I feel I can be that voice and advocate for them and help them,” she says.

An instructor noted her persistence in the face of adversity. “I have never met a student more courageous and resilient,” says Yvonne Patterson, assistant professor at CCSU who taught Kisekka-Sessanga over the summer at UConn. “Faridah’s passion and commitment to social justice represents a North Star for all entering in and within the profession of social work.”

With her bachelor’s degree and 3.90 GPA from CCSU, Kisekka-Sessanga applied to the Advanced Standing Program at UConn School of Social Work, which allows students who have earned a BSW from an accredited program to get their master’s degree at UConn in less than a year. The Fierberg Scholarship has helped her cover the cost of books as well as childcare for her four children, ages 5, 9, 14, and 15.

Future Focus on Families

At the School of Social Work, Kisekka-Sessanga has chosen the Individuals, Groups and Families concentration. The experience of a cousin who had her child removed from the home reinforced her interest in fighting mental health stigma and reuniting children and parents. “I want to be that person who advocates for families,” she says.

For her field education experience, Kisekka-Sessanga serves as a school social worker at Carmen Arace Intermediate/Middle School in Bloomfield. She counsels 7th– and 8th-grade students individually and in groups. “I call them my kids,” she says.

In her work, she has found she has to check her own biases when students misbehave. “My mother would just give me a look [and I would] just stop right there,” she notes. Instead, at the middle schools she poses questions to students like, “Do you want to process this?” or “Tell me more.”

In little time, Kisekka-Sessanga has shown a talent for the work with youth, according to Wenzola Perry, a School of Social Work adjunct faculty advisor. “She’s carefully and dutifully managing her school-based assignments,” Perry says. “She enjoys working with children, especially those facing educational and emotional challenges.”

After she graduates in May, Kisekka-Sessanga plans to become a therapist. At times she can’t believe her good fortune as she is less than a year away from realizing a long-held dream. “I’m seeing the kids in group therapy and individual therapy,” she says. “This is like, oh, my God, I can’t believe I’m sitting with the kids right here and doing this. I’m getting that knowledge I will need in the field in the future.”

Her experiences as a Muslim immigrant will continue to inform her work. She recalls a recent incident when a man outside of a Walmart saw her with her headscarf and called her a terrorist. “People have no knowledge,” she says. “That kind of experience motivates me because I know there are people who have no voice.”

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UConn Scholar Chronicles History and Debate over Military Recruitment in American Schools Mon, 17 Oct 2022 11:00:19 +0000 Ziba Kashef Breaking the War Habit: The Debate Over Militarism in American Education – co-authored by School of Social Work Associate Professor and Ph.D. Program Director Scott Harding – is the second book in a series from the University of Georgia Press about children, youth, and war. In the following Q&A, Harding and one of his co-authors, Seth Kershner, a Ph.D. student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, discuss their research and recommendations for change.

In the book, the authors analyze what they view as the militarization of schools in the United States and trace the 100-year effort to prevent the military from infiltrating and influencing public education. Examining the hidden history of resistance to the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) in higher education and the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) in high schools, including the development of “military counter-recruitment,” is of special interest to Harding and Kershner.  They have published extensively about counter-recruitment over the past decade, aiming to understand and highlight those who have challenged the privileged status of the military in U.S. education settings. They recently spoke with UConn Today about their work, and the issues it raises.


In the book’s introduction, you state that while school militarism was a contested topic through much of the 20th Century, it is now “a largely forgotten issue”. What got you interested in this topic now?

Scott Harding: This is a long-standing research interest of ours. We wrote an article in 2011 that was published in the Journal of Sociology and Social Work. Prior to that article there was little published scholarship in the academic literature specifically looking at counter recruitment. There had been very few studies that were critical about the extent of school militarism and the presence of military recruitment in public schools in the United States.

I met Seth while teaching an elective at the School of Social Work: War, Militarism, Peace and Social Work. We developed a relationship that led to writing the paper and then subsequently doing research and interviews across the United States with people who were involved in counter recruitment. That led to a first book that we wrote, Counter-Recruitment and the Campaign to Demilitarize Public Schools. That was the first, comprehensive study of counter recruitment, focusing on the period of the 1970s to now, using the end of the draft in the United States as the starting point when counter recruitment really emerged. We’ve been doing this for over a decade.

Seth Kershner: I would add that I first got an insight that there would be an interesting historical angle to recruiting at the UConn archives. I began working on this topic more than 10 years ago and traveled to The Dodd Center for Human Rights and looked through newsletters from the early 70s called Counter Pentagon. Through this newsletter, early counter recruiters across the country communicated with each other. In the 2000s, during the Iraq war, when counter recruiting was really hot, even seasoned activists assumed that military recruiting in schools was new. But it has this long history, as we show in the new book.

In your research, going all the way back to 1920s and more recently, were there any examples of recruitment strategies that surprised you?

SK: It’s important to keep in mind that while it a has a long history, recruiters visiting schools and using sophisticated sales techniques on children is a fairly recent phenomenon dating back to the 1980s. The most shocking things we learned have happened more recently. A new development is moving from the high school level down to middle schools. Since the 1990s, there’s been a program called STARBASE, which brings 5th graders, and some 6th and 7th graders, to military bases. This is a program that’s active in Connecticut and a couple dozen other states in the country. It’s a one-week program and they have hands-on science activities, which seems innocuous, except in the last day when uniformed military personnel come in and give these 5th graders a pitch about how exciting it can be to work in the military. It’s a form of what we call “pre-recruitment.” Of course, you can’t technically recruit a 5th grader into the military. But looking at trade journals published by military recruiting services, we have been able to identify language used by recruiters, like “planting a seed.” That’s how they describe these kinds of operations at the middle school level.

The cover of the book "Breaking the War Habit."
(University of Georgia Press)

SH: More recently, something that we highlight in both books is a disparity in terms of recruitment. Through a Freedom of Information Act request, we got data on the presence of military recruiters in high schools in Connecticut and Massachusetts. We found that Avon High School and Bloomfield High School, which have distinctly different demographic characteristics, were targeted in different ways by the military. In the time period we were looking at, recruiters came to Avon High School twice in the school year, whereas at Bloomfield High, they came in an average of twice a week throughout the year. There are other examples like that where schools that might be in communities with lower incomes or higher rates of poverty are visited more frequently by recruiters compared to schools that are much more affluent and less diverse.

You talk about the school to military pipeline. What is that? How do you define it?

SH: We see it as a way in which youth are socialized into a potential career that is portrayed as desirable, as exciting, and as manly or masculine. There is clearly a trend where the military is in schools, both formally and informally, and have a much greater presence, whereas other voices, other career options, may not be made available with the same frequency as the military.

SK: You can think about this school-military pipeline in terms of resources. We mentioned Bloomfield and Avon, and there are numerous examples like that where there are schools that don’t have the kinds of courses that prepare students to compete and get into colleges. Education Week did a study. They looked at how many schools across the country are offering physics and other STEM courses that students typically would need on their academic record to be competitive. Around 40% of high schools in the United States don’t offer a course in physics.

The Rand Corporation did a valuable study a few years ago and found that in some states, two-thirds of public high schools had Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC). Those are statistics that should alarm us – that in some states there are more schools that offer military training than offer traditional, rigorous academic courses that prepare students for college.

The military and veterans are revered by many and hold a special place in our society. How do you talk about this issue with people who don’t see a problem with recruitment in schools?

SH: It’s a good question. In part we would note that the military is guaranteed access to public high schools in the United States through federal law. Other types of recruiters are not guaranteed access to schools. If the military is not granted that access, federal resources can be withheld from schools and school districts. There’s already an uneven playing field and the military comes in as a highly resourced institution. They have extensive fiscal resources and staffing to be able to saturate schools across the country and that’s difficult for other institutions or other voices to replicate.

SK: For all those reasons, a community of public health scholars in the United States have shown concern about military recruiting in high schools. In 2012, the American Public Health Association (APHA) released a statement questioning the propriety of having military recruiters going to schools and trying to sell youth on a dangerous career. They noted that there are currently far more regulations governing sports recruiting than military recruiting in high schools and called on Congress to eliminate the federal law forcing schools to admit military recruiters on their campus.

What do you propose as potential solutions or alternatives? How do we break the war habit?

SK: I’ll offer two common sense proposals. A very simple solution is to cap the number of annual visits by military recruiters. For that to comply with federal law, there must be equal access for each type of recruiter, including college, employment, and military. There’s no reasonable justification for 100 visits a year to an individual high school from the military. So, cap the number of annual visits, restricting these recruiting visits to a guidance counselor’s office and allowing students to sign up ahead of time. Reasonable, commonsense regulations.

SH: Another idea is to add curriculum to local schools that explores the pros and cons of military service. The reality is that the U. S. military is a massive entity with a budget of well over $700 billion a year. If we look historically, the U.S. military has been involved in formal wars and other informal types of use of force numerous times, most recently a 20-year invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and over 10-year occupation in Iraq. But we don’t see an opportunity for public school students to learn about that and to engage with different perspectives about the use of military force and the presence of military recruiters in schools.  Why not have some type of curriculum or bring in guest speakers to talk about the pros and cons of these issues?


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Podcast: Serving the Underserved; Primary Care Outlook Thu, 06 Oct 2022 12:13:02 +0000 Christopher DeFrancesco '95 (CLAS) Dr. Bruce Gould, UConn School of Medicine professor emeritus, explains how delivering care to underserved populations serves needs of today while preparing the next generation of health care providers to serve the needs of tomorrow.

The community is not just who comes into your waiting room or your exam room, but the community is actually who lives in the total catchment that that practice might be serving going forward, wherever you land.
— Dr. Bruce Gould

Gould, who retired from the full-time faculty in June, is founding associate dean for primary care, founding director of the Connecticut Area Health Education Center, medical director of Hartford’s Department of Health and Human Services, and chief medical officer for the Community Health Center Association of Connecticut.

Serving the Underserved; Primary Care Outlook

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School of Social Work Ph.D. Program Celebrates 20th Anniversary Tue, 04 Oct 2022 13:58:29 +0000 Ziba Kashef This year marks the 20th anniversary of the School of Social Work’s Ph.D. program. The School continues to be the first and only social work program in Connecticut to offer degrees for bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. students.

“The development of the Ph.D. program at the School of Social Work elevated the School’s national prominence and stature and strengthened the research profile and scholarly activity at the school,” said Dean Nina Rovinelli Heller.

The Ph.D. program was launched with the generous support of retired clinical social worker Judy Zachs ’77 MS and Henry Zachs. Their $1 million donation created the endowed Zachs Chair in Social Work and allowed the School to hire a director and launch the program.

When the program began in 2002, under the leadership of Dean Kay Davidson, it had a small cohort of just six students. The first doctoral dissertation was defended five years later, in the spring of 2007.

Today, the program has 23 doctoral students who are studying a wide range of issues affecting vulnerable communities today, including civil rights, older adult care, immigrants and refugees, structural racism, sex workers, LBGTQ health, voting, economic justice, incarceration, eating disorders, health equity, foster youth, food insecurity, and substance use, among others.

A primary draw for students to the School is its strong social justice orientation, according to Scott Harding, co-director of the PhD program. This is significant, he noted, as “we live in an era of ‘alternate’ facts and stark economic, social, and political divisions. The need for higher education to challenge this situation has never been more evident.”

Harding emphasized that “our students enter the program with a passion for social justice. They leave with the skills to transform social work education and the profession.”

Our students enter the program with a passion for social justice. They leave with the skills to transform social work education and the profession. — Scott Harding, co-director, Ph.D. Program

During the first four years in the program, doctoral students are awarded graduate assistantships, partnering with faculty on research, followed by teaching opportunities in subsequent years. Several students teach classes for bachelor’s and master’s students in addition to completing their doctoral work.

One special feature of the program cited by students is its cohort model, which fosters student-to-student mentoring and support. It also has an emphasis on both micro and macro social work, preparing graduates to have an impact at all levels of social work teaching and practice.

Students also benefit from renowned Ph.D. faculty who serve as both academic advisors and mentors to students. They supervise graduate assistants and provide opportunities for students to get involved in their own research projects and publish with them.

From the start of the program, Ph.D. students have completed a total of 45 dissertations, including some that were conducted outside of the United States in locales such as Armenia, the Caribbean, Chile and Kenya.

SSW’s Ph.D. program has had both a national and global impact. Graduates have gone on to serve as social work educators and academic leaders, nationally recognized researchers, and scholars. Several hold leadership positions at research 1 institutions and alumni are teaching across the country and as far as Japan.

On September 29, the School celebrated the 20th anniversary with an event at the Delamar in West Hartford. More than 150 guests attended and Judy Zachs was awarded the Inaugural Distinguished Alumni Award.

Twenty years after the gift that launched the program, former faculty member Cheryl A. Parks pledged another transformative donation of $1 million to support the School that helped launch her career. Her gift will fund doctoral student research on topics affecting the LGBTQIA+ community.

“It makes me feel good that I’m able to continue that legacy of funding research for doctoral students to give them a start in the academic world,” she says.

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