Month: October 2023

Rebecca Thomas Received Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program Award in Social Work

Professor Rebecca L. Thomas has received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program award in Social Work to Sofia, Bulgaria, for the 2023-2024 academic year, from the U.S. Department of State and the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

Thomas teaches in the Policy Practice concentration at UConn School of Social Work (SSW) and is the director of the Center for International Social Work Studies at SSW. She represents the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) at the United Nations on the NGO Committee of migration, and also serves on the Katherine Kendal Institute of CSWE. Her research and scholarship include international social work, international development, climate-induced migration, and refugees and immigrants.

From January 2024, Thomas will be working at the New Bulgaria University situated in Sofia, on three initiatives, with implications for research, policy recommendations, and sustained collaboration. She will be teaching a course on Program Evaluation to Doctoral Students; expanding her research on the lived experiences of Ukrainian refugees in Bulgaria; and working with diverse stakeholders to strengthen social work practice and policy initiatives to advance the Rights of the Child in Bulgaria. These projects were developed in consultation with the leadership and faculty of the New Bulgaria University.

Thomas is among over 800 U.S. citizens who will teach or conduct research abroad for the 2023-2024 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. Fulbrighters engage in cutting-edge research and expand their professional networks, often continuing research collaborations started abroad and laying the groundwork for forging future partnerships between institutions. Upon returning to their home countries, institutions, labs, and classrooms, they share their stories and often become active supporters of international exchange, inviting foreign scholars to campus, and encouraging colleagues and students to go abroad.

"We congratulate Dr. Thomas on her Fulbright Scholar Program Award,” says SSW Dean Laura Curran. “This honor demonstrates her deep knowledge and expertise in international social work, research on refugees, and policy practice. It will also expand our School’s impact and support our mission to improve human well-being, both locally and globally.”

For more information about the Fulbright Program, visit

Learn more about Thomas’s research.

Professor Bob Fisher Receives Career Achievement Award

Bob Fisher has been chosen as the recipient of the Association for Community Organization and Social Action (ACOSA) 2023 Career Achievement Award. This award honors the contributions of a person in macro social work who has made a significant impact on the conceptual definition and framing of community practice, the empirical knowledge base of the discipline, the promotion of community practice pedagogy and curricula, and the development of practice methods, especially in partnership with marginalized or under-represented populations.

Fisher is a professor and chair of the Community Organizing concentration in the Master of Social Work program. He teaches courses in community organizing, critical macro theory, and social welfare history at both the Ph.D. and MSW levels. Prior to that, he was director of Urban and Community Studies at UConn. He is the author, co-author, and editor/co-editor of seven books in these fields as well as the recipient of three Fulbright-Hays Scholar awards. Read more about his work and research interests.

Fisher will be celebrated along with all of the ACOSA Awardees at the upcoming CSWE-APM, at our Membership Meeting & Award Reception, to be held on Saturday, Oct. 28, in Atlanta, Ga.


Sukhmani Singh Presented Research at Sentencing Commission Meeting

Sukhmani Singh presenting at CT Sentencing Commission Meeting

On Thursday, September 28, 2023, Assistant Professor Sukhmani Singh presented her work with Beyond Bars at the Connecticut Sentencing Commission Meeting at the Connecticut State Capitol Legislative Office Building. Singh’s research, Beyond Bars: Examining the Experiences of Formerly Incarcerated People Released Under Public Act 15-84 in Connecticut, is a primarily qualitative study that examines the parole and reentry experiences of formerly incarcerated people who were beneficiaries of Public Act 15-84.

Public Act 15-84 was passed in Connecticut in 2015 following two Supreme Court rulings: Graham v. Florida, 2010, and Miller v Alabama, 2012. These historic rulings held that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for youth 17 or younger when they were convicted of violent crimes is unconstitutional. Those rulings prompted the Sentencing Commission to take action and recommend a change in Connecticut’s law.

Singh, who is collaborating with the Sentencing Commission on the research project, provided an overview of the national landscape, described recently published research on the population, and shared details of the cross-sectional, one-on-one interview study that she has designed. Specifically, she and her research team will conduct semi-structured interviews with beneficiaries of P.A. 15-84 who have been completely released from parole supervision and are fully returned citizens. Additionally, her doctoral student colleague, Joshua Adler from CUNY Graduate Center, shared some descriptive quantitative analyses of de-identified data they had received from the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

“One broad area that I’m interested in understanding is the experience of incarceration itself for these individuals, and their experience with the parole hearing process in particular,” she explained. “I’m also asking them about the social services that they have received, trying to understand their experience with housing, with employment, and lastly, really leaning in on their wisdom and lived expertise to request recommendations for how do we as a state – and CT has this history of being a state that does things – how do we do this better.”

Singh was joined by Adler and SSW graduate student Fernando Valenzuela. Her presentation was livestreamed by CT-N.

Read more about Singh’s research.

UConn School of Social Work Faculty and Ph.D. Students to Present at CSWE 2023

At CSWE's 69th Annual Program Meeting, which takes place in Atlanta, GA, October 25 to 29, several School of Social Work faculty and Ph.D. students will offer presentations of their work.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Time: 3:45 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.
Panel Presentation: Organizing for Voting Rights and Justice: A National Collaboration to Elevate the Vision and Voice of Social Work
Session: National Association of Deans and Directors (NADD) Schools of Social Work Fall Meeting Breakout Session #3
Author(s): Terry Mizrahi, PhD; Tanya Rhodes Smith, MSW; Sabrina W. Tyuse, PhD

Friday, October 27, 2023

Time: 10:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
Presentation & Session: Academic Mothers: Equitable Structural Policies in the Academy
Author(s): Cristina Mogro-Wilson, PhD; Nalini Negi, PhD

Time: 2:15 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.
Poster Presentation & Session: Redefining Temporary Assistance for Needy Families as Welfare to the State, Not the Family
Author(s): Madri Hall-Faul, MSSW

Time: 3:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Poster Presentation & Session: Lessons Learned: Reflections on an Interpersonal Educational Collaboration Between MSW and Nursing Students
Author(s): Kelsi Carolan, PhD., LICSW, Jon Phillips, Ph.D., Doreek Charles, MSW and Laura Moynihan, LICSW

Time: 3:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Panel Presentation: Creating Safe Spaces in Academic Environments
Session: Reckoning with Violence and Harassment of Women
Author(s): Flor Avellaneda, PhD, MSW; Cristina Mogro-Wilson, PhD; Leila Wood, MSW, PhD

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Time: 10:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
Presentation: Stigma, Subversion, and Solidarity: A Qualitative Study of Online Male Sex Workers
Session: Expanding our Knowledge Base about Special LGBTQ+ Populations, Part Two
Author: Alberto Cifuentes, Jr., LMSW

Time: 11:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
Presentation: Staying Connected During Isolation: An Intergenerational Approach to Social Work Field Education
Session: Social Engagement for Mental Health
Author: Breana Bietsch, MSW

Time: 12:30 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Presentation: Unpacking Neutrality in Social Work Education: Exploring Twitter Responses to Anti-Trans Legislation
Session: Developing a Knowledge Base in Social Work Education for Working with LGBTQ+ Communities
Author(s): Gio Iacono, PhD; Jamie Smith, MSW, LCSW-C; Leah Holle, MAR, LCSW, CEDS; Jemel Aguilar, PhD; Maxwell Switz, BA

Time: 12:30 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Poster Presentation & Session: Cultural Competence Training in Social Work Education: The Undocumented LGBTQ+ Immigrant Youth Perspective
Author(s): Craig Mortley, MS; Yvonne Mbewe, LCSW

Time: 3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Interactive Workshop Presentation & Session: Teaching MSW Students About the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) Using Critical Pedagogical Strategies
Author(s): Kelsi Carolan, PhD, LICSW; Noelle Dimitri, PhD, LICSW

Time: 3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Presentation & Session: The Ethics of Civil Commitments for Substance Use Disorders
Author: Cynthia Nichols, MSW, LCSW

Time: 4:15 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.
Panel Presentation & Session: Writing and Reviewing for Refereed Journals: Strategies for Successful Publishing and Ethical Peer Review
Author(s): Kenta Asakura, MSW, LICSW, PhD; Jeremiah Jaggers, MSW, PhD; Cristina Mogro-Wilson, PhD; Danielle Parrish, MSW, PhD

Time: 4:15 p.m. - 4:45 p.m.
Presentation: Manifestations of Neoliberalism in BSW Practice: Fostering Critical Reflection and Resistance in BSW Education
Session: Empowering Students to Build a Better Profession
Author: Paula Nieman, PhD, MSW, LCSW

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Time: 7:30 a.m. - 8:00 a.m.
Presentation: Meeting Diverse Needs: Sexual and Gender Minority Populations in Gerontology Social Work Education
Session: Expanding the Culturally Competent Gerontological Education
Author: Breana Bietsch, MSW

Time: 7:30 a.m. - 8:00 a.m.
Panel Presentation & Session: Implications for Practice and Education: Writing and Reviewing for Peer-Reviewed Journals
Author(s): Kenta Asakura, MSW, LICSW, PhD; Cristina Mogro-Wilson, PhD; Danielle Parrish, MSW, PhD

Time: 8:45 a.m. - 9:15 a.m.
Presentation: Sex Work is Work: The Case for Decriminalized in the U.S.
Session: Criminal Legal Systems
Author: Alberto Cifuentes, Jr., LMSW

Time: 1:45 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.
Panel Presentation & Session: Community Sponsorship of Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Why U.S. Social Work Should Care
Author(s): Kathryn Libal, PhD; S. Megan Berthold, PhD, LCSW; Yvonne Mbewe, LCSW; Craig Mortley, MS; Madri Hall-Faul, MSSW; Scott Harding, MSW, PhD

U.S. Administration for Children and Families Grant Funds Research Project

With a cooperative agreement sub-award of $300,000, co-Principal Investigators Jon Phillips and Cristina Mogro-Wilson will study “PRESERVE & CONNECT: Partnerships in Rigorous Evaluation of Services that Enhance family wellbeing in Rural VErmont, and urban Latine and Black communities in CONNECTicut.”

The primary goal of the project is to determine whether the “Breakthrough Parenting Curriculum: Navigating Trauma Across Generations (BPC)”— a trauma-informed parenting intervention — is effective at promoting child, parent, and family wellbeing among underserved families at-risk for involvement with the child welfare system. The researchers have partnered with colleagues at the University of Vermont and local community agencies, including the Connecticut Department of Children and Families and Wheeler Clinic, to conduct a three-year, multi-site randomized control trial of the intervention.

“This project allows us to focus on supporting families and preventing child maltreatment in our home state rather than waiting until things get to the point where the child welfare system opens a case,” says Phillips. “Another exciting aspect of this study is that we will be providing financial compensation to parents who have lived experiences with the child welfare system to become trained in the intervention and co-facilitate the parenting group alongside a mental health professional.”

This project is supported by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) of the United States (U.S.) Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award (Award#:90FA3008-01-00) totaling $1.5 million with 100 percent funded by ASCF/HHS.  The contents are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, ACF/HHS or the U.S. Government.

Learn more about Phillips and Mogro-Wilson's research.

EPA Grant Supports Work on Brownfields

In collaboration with colleagues in UConn Civil and Environmental Engineering, Assistant Professor Rupal Parekh has secured a $5 million grant from the Environmental Protection Agency for Technical Assistance to Brownfields Communities (TAB).

The primary goal of this grant is to empower New England states, tribes, communities, and various stakeholders to collectively address the prevention, assessment, safe cleanup, and sustainable reuse of brownfields. Brownfields refers to land that is completely or partially abandoned and likely polluted from past human activity. The overarching objective is to provide technical assistance and foster community engagement to support leaders and residents in enhancing the livability of their living environments for people of all ages.

“UConn TAB will work to ensure that residents in communities historically impacted by economic disinvestment, health disparities, and environmental contamination have the opportunity to benefit from brownfields redevelopment,” says Parekh.

Learn more about Parekh's work.