Month: February 2024

Ph.D. Leadership Transition – Thank You Scott Harding

Dear Colleagues,

As you may be aware, Scott Harding, Ph.D., is stepping down as co-director of our Ph.D. program in summer 2024. Harding assumed this role in 2016. During his tenure, he led multiple initiatives that strengthened our doctoral program. These include the expansion of guaranteed student funding to four years of Graduate Assistantship (GA), including two years as a research GA and one year of teaching independently. During his tenure, the doctoral committee implemented curriculum reform, including a revised Comprehensive Examination process, expansion of dissertation options, and creation of a new course on pedagogy. The program also transformed its model of student advising and increased professional development opportunities for doctoral students. These changes resulted in increased publication opportunities for our students. Harding also mentored doctoral students and has served as a major and associate dissertation advisor for 12 Ph.D. candidates. He also taught four courses in the doctoral program.

In addition to his leadership in the doctoral program. Harding is an accomplished scholar in the areas of Forced Migration and Refugee Resettlement and War, Militarism, and Peace Activism. Along with multiple peer-reviewed articles, Harding is the co-author of Breaking the War Habit: The Debate over Militarism in American Education (University of Georgia Press, 2022), Counter-Recruitment and the Campaign to Demilitarize Public Schools (Palgrave McMillan, 2017), and Human-Rights Based Approaches to Community Practice in the United States (Springer, 2015).

Harding is a highly experienced academic administrator and leader, having served the School of Social Work not only as Ph.D. Co-Director but also as Associate Dean of Academic Affairs. Harding will continue his role as Associate Dean of Academic Affairs in the 2024-25 AY.

Please join me in thanking Harding for his outstanding leadership.

Laura Curran, MSW, Ph.D. (she/her)
Dean and Professor

AI Can Positively Impact Mental Health

By: Loan Nguyen

Lack of Self-Awareness

  • AI can assist people to become more aware of mental health needs and seek professional help
  • Apps used to track exercise, food intake, etc. can also be used to track behavioral patterns and send message to userabout concerns, changes in behavior, etc. (frequency and duration of calls, texts to others)

Lack of resources

  • Access to resources via internet or smartphone
  • Close treatment gap in accessing high quality mental health care (evident during Pandemic and provided support to those experiencing isolation, depression, anxiety, etc.)

Social Stigma

  • Reduce social stigma through use of virtual mental health therapists (BetterHelp, Talkspace, Talkiatry) or chatbots
  • Preferences for avoiding human to human interaction

Clinical Settings

  • Use of ChatGPT to draft chart documentation with review by licensed provider
  • ChatGPT as tool to create templates and allow for clinical personalization during psychotherapy sessions and help to reduce cognitive load and time spent on documentation









NIMH/NIH Loan Repayment Grant Supports Study on LGBTQ+ Youth and Eating Disorders

Associate Professor Meg Paceley led a study examining the relationship between the family and community environments of LGBTQ+ youth and disordered eating behaviors. The research was published in Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services and supported by the National Institute of Mental Health/National Institutes of Health (NIMH/NIH) Loan Repayment Program ($58,000).

To explore the relationship between disordered eating and acceptance or rejection of LGBTQ+ youth in both family and community contexts, Paceley and the research team – including Ryan Watson from the UConn Department of Human Development and Family Studies – used data from the National LGBTQ+ Teen Survey, an anonymous online survey of 7,895 LGBTQ+ youth aged 13 to 17 collected in 2017. The survey questions included measures of acceptance or rejection from parents or caregivers; it also explored community factors such as climate, LGBTQ+ involvement, LGBTQ+ support and anti-LGBTQ+ bullying. The researchers assessed disordered eating behaviors related to attempting to control one’s weight (taking diet pills, fasting, purging) and binge eating.

The study found that LGBTQ+ youth who experienced family rejection and LGBTQ+-based bullying were more likely to report disordered eating patterns for weight control and binge eating. However, youth who experienced LGBTQ+ community acceptance and support were less likely to engage in those disordered eating behaviors.

The study results show that both families and communities are important environments that contribute to disordered eating among LGBTQ+ youth. Paceley is currently analyzing data from the 2022 National LGBTQ+ Teen Survey and preparing a submission for federal funding to study transgender youth and disordered eating longitudinally.

Read more about Paceley’s work.

Supervising in 2024: A Field and Continuing Ed Collaboration

Supervising in 2024: Who are our Supervisees and How Can We Use a Social Justice, Anti-Racist, Whole-Person Approach to Facilitate their Growth?

Patricia Wilcox, LCSW and Aminah Ali, LMSW
3 CECs

Registration Fee: $75  –  10% discount for UConn SSW Alumni
Free for Current SSW Field Instructors

Webinar link will be emailed when your registration is complete.

Multicultural workforces are the norm in social service and educational agencies. Though such diversity is positive in many ways, it can also create challenges for staff. Differences in culture and language may cause tension among employees, discomfort among groups or strained relations between employees, interns, and supervisors. Managers and supervisors must be aware of their own biases and assumptions and develop the skills to conduct difficult conversations with their supervisees. Together the two can create meaningful organizational change. In addition, our clients’ lives may be highly impacted by racism and inter-generational trauma. Supervisors can facilitate more effective programs by supporting supervisees to bring these issues into the discussions they have with clients.

This webinar focuses on trauma-informed supervision through a social justice and anti-racist lens, an approach to supervision that begins with the personal and extends to the professional. Personal histories, identities, characteristics, and psychological experiences of supervisors, as well as structural and environmental conditions of the organization, are aspects of supervision. This perspective promotes the role of the supervisor as a leader in establishing a culture within their team that is responsive to and inclusive of the cultures and unique experiences of clients and colleagues. Supervisors are encouraged to remain vigilant in their commitment to social justice and an anti-racist approach by leading their teams and organizations in achieving truly inclusive diversity.

Participants will be able to:

  • Find how to improve their interactions with supervisees by identifying the positionalities and unique experiences of supervisor and supervisee.
  • Appraise and discuss implicit bias and how it impacts the supervisory relationship and work with clients.
  • Implement 3 strategies for addressing power differentials and improve trust between supervisor and supervisee.
  • Explore dilemmas in supervising the whole person while maintaining agency mandates.
  • Develop a plan to increase their team’s ability to have difficult conversations around social justice.
  • Discuss with supervisees the applications of racism and inter-generational trauma-informed perspectives and prepare a plan to utilize this knowledge within their practice.

Researcher Leads Study on Long COVID’s Effects on Mental Health and More

With a $49,000 Research Excellence Program grant from UConn’s Office of the Vice President for Research, Assistant Professor Kelsi Carolan will lead a qualitative study with a focus on individuals with long COVID in Connecticut. The term “long COVID” describes a clinical set of post-COVID symptoms that may include fatigue, shortness of breath, and cognitive dysfunction, among other effects.

The aims of Carolan’s research are to investigate how long COVID affects employment, family and social relationships, and mental health; what coping strategies affected individuals are utilizing to manage the psychosocial repercussions of long COVID; and what types of professional and clinical interventions are needed to best support psychosocial functioning in the context of long COVID.

“We are aiming to focus especially on the needs and experiences of Black/African American and Latine individuals experiencing long Covid symptoms given that the psychosocial impact of long COVID on these populations has so far been understudied,” says Carolan.

The novel research brings together a multidisciplinary team of faculty from UConn and UConn Health Center with complementary expertise to address significant gaps in understanding of a new and poorly understood chronic disease. Rachel Tambling, professor in Human Development and Family Sciences at UConn, is co-principal investigator. Contributors also include Ameer Rasheed, assistant professor of medicine in Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at UConn Health, and Chinenye Anyanwu, assistant clinical professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice at the UConn School of Pharmacy.

Read more about Carolan’s work.

NIH/NIAAA Grant Funds Research on Social Isolation and Alcohol Use During and Post-COVID

Associate Research Professor Hsiu-Ju Lin, has joined an interdisciplinary team awarded a $1.5 million R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH/NIAAA) to investigate the relationship between social isolation, loneliness, stress and coping mechanisms with alcohol use across the United States.

There are two parts to the study. In the first phase, the research team will carry out a series of sophisticated analyses using a nationwide survey of more than 1,500 participants during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic to understand the link between coping mechanisms and alcohol consumption. An innovative aspect of this phase involves utilizing geo-coding and participants' geographic locations to assess place-based sources of stress. It aims to explore how these factors are associated with social isolation and loneliness and to understand the impact of these inter-relationships on drinking, Lin explains. The GIS analysis is overseen by Associate Professor Debarchana Ghosh from the Department of Geography at UConn.

In the second part of the study, the researchers will collect prospective data to validate their isolation, loneliness, and coping strategy conceptual model and compare pandemic and post-pandemic periods.

“The main goal is to understand how social isolation and loneliness during COVID impact alcohol consumption,” she says. “We want to understand the mechanism and impact of that unique stress.”

Lin, the co-investigator, is collaborating with PIs Michael Fendrich, Crystal Park, Beth Russell, as well as co-Investigator Ghosh. Fendrich, formerly the associate dean for research at the UConn SSW, is a professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin; Park is a professor of Psychological Sciences; Russell is an associate professor in the Human Development and Family Sciences department.

Read more about Lin’s work.

A Message from the Dean about Black History Month 2024

Dear Colleagues,

At the School of Social Work, we look forward to celebrating Black History Month and promoting the history, culture, and achievements of Black and African Americans communities. For social workers, commemorating Black History Month aligns with our profession’s core values, including the commitment to social justice and the dignity and worth of each person – particularly those who are underserved and historically marginalized.

Highlighting Black History Month is also an expression of our School’s mission, as described in our Strategic Plan, which advances continuing work on diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism. Our Black History planning committee engages in this critical work by honoring Black lives, contributions, and culture.

This February, we are promoting the achievements of Black leaders in social work and social change. All month we will have on display in our building at 38 Prospect Street in Hartford posters of four trailblazers who each made a significant and lasting impact on civil rights and social justice. They are Lester Blackwell Granger, Mildred “Mit” Joyner, Dorothy Height, and Whitney M. Young, Jr.  You can read about their work on our website.

Throughout the month, we will also share a slideshow celebrating Black history, culture, and music. Please be sure to visit and enjoy this slideshow display in our School’s rear hallway and lower level. Additionally, I encourage you to participate in events at UConn and in your community that highlight the ways in which Black and African American communities have changed and continue to shape our collective history, society, and futures.

In solidarity,

Laura Curran, Ph.D.
Dean and Professor