This August, Kelsi Carolan and Gio Iacono joined the School of Social Work as new assistant professors in the Individuals, Groups and Families Practice concentration.
Kelsi Carolan, PhD, is a licensed clinical social worker. Her research investigates how systemic inequities degrade quality of life in the context of chronic disease and disability, with a particular interest in access to employment, social support, and disability-related stigma and discrimination.
As a medical social worker, Carolan saw firsthand how the social determinants of health shape individual and family experiences within and beyond medical settings. These experiences engendered a drive to pursue social justice through research and teaching that advances health equity and disability inclusion.
“I am thrilled to be joining the UConn School of Social Work! I look forward to getting to know and collaborating with the School’s faculty, staff and students, as well as the Hartford community,” says Kelsi.
Gio Iacono, PhD, has a practice and research specialization in LGBTQ+ youth mental health, youth resilience, promoting diversity and inclusion within social work education, and mindfulness-based treatment approaches. Iacono primarily focuses on intervention and community-based participatory research.
He has worked as a psychotherapist, clinical social worker, educator, community organizer, and researcher in a variety of health and community-based settings. His community development work focuses on promoting the mental and sexual health of diverse and marginalized communities. Gio has also been a mindfulness meditation practitioner for many years, and integrates mindfulness in his work as an educator, researcher and clinician.
“Coming to the UConn School of Social Work is truly an honor and privilege. I am grateful to be working alongside brilliant students, staff and faculty! I am excited to get involved in the various projects the School has with the communities we work with. I look forward to deepening connections and relationships with students, staff and faculty!” says Gio.
How do you connect your research with teaching?
Carolan: I draw on my research background to develop a classroom environment in which students are encouraged to problem-solve, and to evaluate the ethics, equity and potential effectiveness of proposed solutions. I regularly integrate both research and practice examples into class discussion and other course content. For instance, in the past I have incorporated my research on employment and chronic health conditions into the course content of a Human Behavior elective. I explain how my clinical practice as a medical social worker led to my research interests, and discuss ways in which I intend my research to lead to interventions for the patient populations I have worked with. I then ask students to think about what questions they have encountered in the field, aiming to demonstrate how social work research can both be informed by and inform social work practice.
Iacono: : I believe that my research background and projects help instill fresh material in the classroom and can provide direction to support student learning. While the social work field utilizes fairly well-established theoretical frameworks and practice modalities, there are many opportunities to address practice gaps through research. In my teaching practice, I will connect my ongoing research findings and insights to course material and classroom discussions. I believe this approach helps keep teaching and instruction current, relevant and most conducive to effectively serving various communities and populations. For example, my research with LGBTQ+ youth has informed how I may instruct students on a practice approach with this population. I want to support students in asking critical questions about how we do social work and connect these questions to the role social work research plays in informing our practice.
How has your prior work experience informed your practice and teaching?
Carolan: My clinical practice experiences play a key role in my approach to teaching developing social workers. As a practitioner myself, I recognize that students are eager for knowledge and skills that they can immediately translate from the classroom to their day-to-day practice. I aim to demonstrate the immediate relevance of course content to social work practice by consistently connecting content back to my own and students’ practice experiences. I also draw on my practice experience to foster a collaborative class environment in which challenging existing ideas is encouraged but remains respectful and productive.
Iacono: My clinical and community social work practice significantly informs my teaching practice and ongoing social work practice. My ongoing practice in clinical and community work helps me stay current in terms of the issues students may face as they develop their knowledge and skills. My teaching approach aims to integrate knowledge, theory and practice experience (my own and students’) to support students in developing competencies, skills and knowledge in social work. My social work practice experience also informs how I move through class discussions, lectures and address critical issues in the classroom, and beyond.
Learn more about the research, scholarship and professional experience of our faculty.