Kathryn Libal, director of the Gladstein Family Human Rights Institute, has been promoted to full professor

Professor Kathyrn Libal

On April 17, the University of Connecticut (UConn) Office of the Provost announced awards of promotion and/or tenure to faculty, including the School of Social Work’s Kathryn Libal, Ph.D.

Since 2007, Libal has taught at both the School of Social Work (SSW) and the Gladstein Family Human Rights Institute (HRI), specializing in human rights, refugee resettlement, social welfare and qualitative research methods. She has directed the HRI since 2015, where she has worked to deepen interdisciplinary and cross-professional educational programs, research, and outreach inside and outside the university. She teaches courses on human rights and social work, qualitative research methods, social policy analysis, and approaches to human rights advocacy, some of which also contribute to the university’s Graduate Certificate in Human Rights.

Libal’s scholarship has focused on the Middle East and United States. She has published on women’s and children’s rights movements in Turkey and on the advocacy of international non-governmental organizations on behalf of Iraqi refugees. Currently she is researching the politics and practices of voluntarism and refugee resettlement in the United States in collaboration with SSW faculty S. Megan Berthold, Scott Harding and several doctoral students in social work. The team is examining how voluntarism in an era of xenophobia and backlash creates new forms of civic connection and political participation among volunteers, social service providers, and refugees and asylum seekers.

In addition to publishing several co-edited volumes, a co-authored text, and numerous articles on refugees, migration, and human rights and social work, Libal has helped to shape the field of human rights and social work through serving for many years on the Committee on Human Rights, which was the precursor of the Council on Social Work Education’s Council on Environmental Justice and Human Rights. She is the UConn’s liaison with the Scholars at Risk Program and a founding member of the executive committee of Scholars at Risk USA chapter. Her role as director of the HRI also has afforded her the opportunity to serve on the executive committee of the Consortium of Higher Education Centers for Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Studies.

U.S. HRSA Award Supports Telehealth for Positive Parenting

Innovations Institute, in partnership with the Maryland Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics (MDAAP), has been awarded a grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Healthy Tomorrows Partnership for Children Program. The TREEHOUSE Program is an expansion into telehealth of the existing TREE program, a clinical service that promotes positive parenting, parent-child interactions, and social-emotional well-being through interactive, developmental telehealth coaching provided by pediatric providers to underserved families with children ages 0-2.

Margo Candelaria is the principal investigator for the TREEHOUSE Program and co-director of the Innovation’s Parent, Infant, and Early Childhood Program. She expressed her enthusiasm for this important collaborative effort: “It has been very exciting to continue our work with the MDAAP and expand TREE’s positive impact on marginalized families within primary care to the telehealth environment."

The Program increases access to quality preventive care and services to promote health equity and enhances population health among very young children, and their families, in marginalized communities. To date 30 have been trained in the TREEHOUSE model across four coaching cohorts. Data from the first three cohorts indicate that 21 providers fully completed training to receive Maintenance of Certificate professional development credits and 131 children have received a telehealth developmental coaching visit. Eighty-seven percent of trained providers reported being very or extremely satisfied with the TREEHOUSE program, and 100% of trained providers reported TREEHOUSE gave them better insight into the strengths and challenges of parents they serve. Nine cohorts total will be conducted through Spring of 2026. The TREEHOUSE project, and its predecessor, TREE, which takes place during well-child visits, was presented at the World Association of Infant Mental Health in Dublin, Ireland in July 2023.

MACPAC Supports Study Examining Health Care Access for Youth in the Child Welfare System

Mathematica and Innovations Institute have partnered to advance policymakers’ understanding of how Medicaid and child welfare agencies ensure youth in the child welfare system receive access to health care.

The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) has awarded a 10-month contract to Mathematica, who has partnered with Innovations, to help the commission better understand the role and responsibilities of state Medicaid and child welfare agencies in meeting the health care needs of children and youth served by the child welfare system.

Innovations Institute brings extensive expertise to the intersection of Medicaid and child welfare services at the federal, state, and local levels across the country and will help shed light on the current state-specific child welfare landscape.

This report resulting from this project serves to inform MACPAC’s deliberations on policies and strategies for ensuring that Medicaid- and CHIP-eligible children in the child welfare system have timely access to quality care. Together the partners identifying current federal rules that require state Medicaid and child welfare agencies to ensure health care access for Medicaid-enrolled children and youth in foster care. They are selecting, profiling, and interviewing Medicaid and child welfare agencies in seven states to provide MACPAC with an understanding of how states implement federal requirements around health care access and the issues they face in ensuring the delivery of all necessary health services.

Read more about Innovations Institute.

Associate Dean for Research Jennifer Manuel Named SSWR Fellow

At the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) Annual Conference, the UConn SSW’s Associate Dean for Research Jennifer Manuel was welcomed to the 2024 class of Fellows. SSWR Fellows are members who have served with distinction to advance the mission of the Society -- to advance, disseminate, and translate research that addresses issues of social work practice and policy and promotes a diverse, equitable and just society.

The SSWR Fellowship has been established by the Society to honor and to recognize current SSWR members for their individual accomplishments, leadership and contribution to SSWR as a scientific society. It is anticipated that SSWR Fellows will serve as role models and mentors for individuals pursuing careers in social work research and will continue to actively advance the mission of the Society.

Eligibility for the SSWR Fellow designation is determined by a point system established by the SSWR Board of Directors. Designation as a SSWR Fellow is limited. The number of inductees this year was approximately one percent of the SSWR membership. SSWR Fellows maintain their status as long as they are current members of the Society.

In addition to being an associate dean, Manuel is also an associate professor at the UConn SSW. She earned her MSW and Ph.D. from Columbia University School of Social Work. Her research broadly addresses health disparities and transitions in care among youth, young adults and adults with substance use, mental health and other critical needs (housing, employment, health, trauma).

Read more about her work.

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









Greetings from Dean Laura Curran

Dear Alumni Colleagues,

It’s hard to believe that I completed my first semester as Dean at the UConn School of Social Work. I’ve become increasingly familiar with the work and impact of our outstanding faculty and their research as well as our students who are engaged with some of our most pressing social welfare issues, child and adolescent behavioral health, substance use disorder, juvenile justice reform, LGBTQ+ health, and supporting immigrants and refugees.

In the short time I have been here, we’ve successfully launched our CT Health Horizons Scholarship programs that support MSW students studying to become school social workers as well as our CT Adelante program that trains bilingual social workers to meet the mental health needs of the Latine community. We also just announced the development of our fully online MSW program which is flexibly designed to meet the needs of our busy students. We’ll be enrolling our first fully online MSW class in Fall 2024!!

The faculty and I continue to actively work on our Strategic Plan Goals. Given current events and in keeping with the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Anti-Racism Strategic Focal Area, we will be hosting trainings on Islamophobia and antisemitism this spring for our students. Our faculty continue to revise our curriculum and coursework to ensure that it reflects an anti-oppressive approach to social work practice.

Finally, it has been a great pleasure meeting alumni. I’ve met many of you when visiting local social service organizations as well as at our alumni gatherings and coffee hours. Learning about the work and influence of the UConn SSW is truly inspiring. I welcome the opportunity to get to know more of you. I encourage everyone to keep in touch with the school through attending events, joining our Alumni Board, engaging in continuing education, or simply reaching out to me or our Alumni Director.

My best wishes for a happy and healthy new year!




Headshot of Dean Laura Curran

Alumni Spotlight: Christine L. Limone PhD, LCSW, ACC, MSW ’96

Name: Christine L. Limone PhD, LCSW, ACC

Profession/Field: Social Work Education and Certified Professional Coach

Bio and Key Accomplishments:  I am a social work educator as well as a certified professional coach. Seeing former students who excelled in the classroom and field placements - unable to pass the ASWB licensing exams, led me to add tutoring services to my coaching business. No one should have their career stunted by a test score. I tutor individuals and groups over Zoom. I also offer free exam preparation webinars that focus on proven test taking strategies to increase the likelihood of passing the ASWB exam. UConn alumni interested in my tutoring or career coaching services can email me at

Memorable Moment at UConn SSW: Designing the Community Organizing sequence T-shirt with other students from the CO sequence to show our pride in Macro Practice. Years later when I was adjuncting in the SSW I brought my t-shirt in (yes, I still have it) to show my class.

Lasting Lessons from UConn SSW: Possessing dual competencies in both clinical and macro social work skills set me up powerfully for an amazing career that spanned community based clinical practice to using my clinical skills as the former Political Director of NASW/CT. Motivational Interviewing comes in handy when lobbying state legislators!

Important Influence from UConn SSW: My academic adviser Kathy Havens taught me the importance of self care and making professional choices that resonate with my values and integrity. I apply the concept of value driven decisions to all domains of my life.

Alumna Christine L. Limone PhD, LCSW, ACC, MSW '96

SSW Faculty and Students Present at 2024 SSWR Annual Conference

Twenty-five School of Social Work faculty, Ph.D. students, and MSW students will share their collective research through 27 oral and ePoster presentations and two symposia at the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) 28th Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. from January 10 to 14. The theme of the Conference is “Recentering & Democratizing Knowledge: The Next 30 Years of Social Work Science.” The research presented by the SSW community comprises a variety of topics, including foster care, LGBTQIA+ youth, substance abuse treatment, mindfulness-based intervention, and gender-affirming care, among many others.

Thursday, January 11

Time: 1:30 – 3:00 PM
Symposium: Integrating Participatory Methods with Intervention Science: Unlocking Community Power to Co-Create Health Solutions
Location: Marquis BR Salon RM: 14, ML 2
Organizer and Author(s): Caitlin Elsaesser, PhD

  • Time: 1:30 – 3:00 PM
    Symposium Presentation: Co-Designing a Mindfulness Based Intervention with Street Outreach Workers and Youth: The Power of Participatory Action Research to Drive Solutions
    Location: Marquis BR Salon RM: 14, ML 2
    Author(s): Caitlin Elsaesser, PhD; Jolaade Kalinowski, Ed.D; Jeffrey Proulx, PhD; Kim Gans, PhD, MPH; Jacquelyn Santiago Nazario.
  • Time: 1:30 – 3:00 PM
    Symposium Presentation: Building Political Power with "Third Citizens:" A Participatory Pilot Project to Co-Transform and Implement the Voter Engagement Model with Formerly Incarcerated Peoples
    Location: Marquis BR Salon RM: 14, ML 2
    Author(s): Sukhmani Singh, PhD; Joshua Adler; Tanya Rhodes Smith, MSW; James Jeter; Urania Petit*; Fernando Valenzuela*.
  • Time: 1:30 – 3:00 PM
    Symposium Presentation: Community-Based Participatory Action Research with LGBTQIA+ Youth in the Time of COVID-19: Findings from a Collaborative Autoethnography
    Location: Marquis BR Salon RM: 14, ML 2
    Author(s): Gio Iacono, PhD; Leah Holle, MAR, LCSW, CEDS; Emily Loveland, MSW; Breana Bietsch, MSW; Jamie Smith, MSW, LCSW-C; Shelley Craig, PhD; Evan Horton*.

Time: 3:15– 4:45 PM
Symposium: From Calyouth to Tay-Hub: Advancing Research and Support for Transition-Age Youth in Foster Care
Location: Marquis BR Salon RM: 13, ML 2
Organizer and Author(s): Andrea Eastman, PhD; Mark Courtney, PhD.

  • Time: 3:15– 4:45 PM
    Symposium Presentation: Does Transition Planning Increase Service Use Among Older Adolescents in Foster Care?
    Location: Marquis BR Salon RM: 13, ML 2
    Author(s): Nathanael Okpych, PhD; Justin Harty, PhD; Mark Courtney, PhD; Sunggeun (Ethan) Park, PhD.
  • Time: 3:15– 4:45 PM
    Symposium Presentation: Distinct Subgroups of Care-Experienced Youth and Their Outcomes in Early Adulthood: Results from a Latent Class Analysis
    Location: Marquis BR Salon RM: 13, ML 2
    Author(s): Nathanael Okpych, PhD; Mark Courtney, PhD; Sunggeun (Ethan) Park, PhD; Justin Harty, PhD; Keunhye Park, PhD.
  • Time: 3:15– 4:45 PM
    Symposium Presentation: Risks of Incarceration: Impact of Social Support Networks in the Transition to Adulthood
    Location: Marquis BR Salon RM: 13, ML 2
    Author(s): Keunhye Park, PhD; Mark Courtney, PhD; Andrea Eastman, PhD; Nathanael Okpych, PhD.
  • Time: 3:15– 4:45 PM
    Symposium Presentation: Examining Parenting Foster Youth Status and Outcomes at Different Ages: Implications for Tailored Interventions and Support for Parents in State Care
    Location: Marquis BR Salon RM: 13, ML 2
    Author(s): Justin Harty, PhD; Nathanael Okpych, PhD; Sunggeun (Ethan) Park, PhD; Mark Courtney, PhD.


Friday, January 12

Time: 8:00 – 9:30 AM
ePoster Presentation: Collective Trauma, Resilience, and Healing: Violence Street Outreach Workers and Black and Brown Youth Moving through a Healing Justice Framework
Location: Marquis BR Salon RM: 6, ML 2
Author(s): Maritza Vasquez Reyes, MA, LCSW, CCM; Caitlin Elsaesser, PhD; Emory Fairchild, MSW*.

Time: 8:00 – 9:30 AM
Presentation: Creating Institutional Infrastructure to Advance Health Equity through Community Engagement
Location: Independence Ballroom RM: H, ML 4
Author(s): Linda Sprague Martinez, PhD; Rebecca Lobb, ScD, MPH; Jennifer Pamphile, MPH; Deborah Chassler, MSW; Melanie Rocco, MSW, MPH.

Time: 8:00 – 9:30 AM
Presentation: Assessing the Impact of a Blended Payment Model on Client Termination from Substance Use Treatment
Location: Liberty Ballroom RM: I, ML 4
Author(s): Daniel Baslock, MSW, PhD; Yuanyuan Hu, MSW; Patrick del Giudice-Walsh; Jennifer Manuel, PhD.

Time: 9:45 – 11:15 AM
Presentation: Relationships between Disordered Eating and Family, School, and Community Contexts Among LGBTQ+ Youth in Kansas
Location: Liberty Ballroom RM: O, ML 4
Author(s): Meg Paceley, PhD; Briana McGeough, PhD, MSW; Jennifer Ananda, JD, MSW; Michael Riquino, PhD, MSW; Jennifer Pearson, PhD; Liz Hamor.

Time: 9:45 – 11:15 AM
ePoster Presentation: The Negotiation and Resistance of Stigma Among Online Male Sex Workers
Location: Marquis BR Salon RM: 6, ML 2
Author(s): Alberto Cifuentes, Jr., MSW

Time: 9:45 – 11:15 AM
ePoster Presentation: Using Mobile Phone Technology to Assess Substance Use Outcomes and Promote Recovery
Location: Marquis BR Salon RM: 6, ML 2
Author(s): Jennifer Manuel, PhD

Time: 2:00 – 3:00 PM
Presentation: Writing and Reviewing for Refereed Journals: Discussion with Editorial Advisory Board Members
Location: Independence BR RM: H, ML 4
Author(s): Cristina Mogro-Wilson, PhD; Kristina Lovato, PhD; Kess Ballentine, PhD; Jeremiah Jaggers, PhD.

Time: 2:00 – 3:30 PM
Presentation: Promoting Mental Health and Coping Among LGBTQIA+ Youth during COVID-19: A Pilot Study of an Affirmative Mindfulness-Based Group Intervention
Location: Marquis BR Salon RM: Monument, ML 4
Author(s): Gio Iacono, PhD

Time: 3:45 – 5:15 PM
Presentation: Invited Journal Editors Workshop II: Forum on Publishing Qualitative Research
Location: Marquis BR Salon RM: 12, ML 2
Author(s): Cristina Mogro-Wilson, PhD; Robert Hawkins, PhD; Lissette Piedra, PhD; Susan Robbins, PhD; Jennifer Zelnick, ScD; Sara Goodkind, PhD; Mimi Kim, PhD.

Time: 3:45 – 5:15 PM
Presentation: Critical Analyzing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): An Analysis of State Policy Options and State Participation Rates
Location: Liberty Ballroom RM: N, ML 4
Author(s): Emily Loveland, MSW

Time: 3:45 – 5:15 PM
ePoster Presentation: Psychosocial Interventions for Individuals Living with the Psychosocial Effects of Long-COVID: A Qualitative Interpretative Meta-Synthesis
Location: Marquis BR Salon RM: 6, ML 2
Author(s): Laura Moynihan, LICSW, OSW-C, APHSW-C; Doreek Charles, MSW; Kelsi Carolan, PhD, LICSW.

Time: 3:45 – 5:15 PM
ePoster Presentation: Gender Transportation-Related Differences Among Older Vietnamese Immigrants
Location: Marquis BR Salon RM: 6, ML 2
Author(s): Rebecca Mauldin, PhD; Jill Theresa Messing, PhD; Rupal Parekh, PhD; Priyanjali Chakraborty, MA.

Saturday, January 13

Time: 8:00 – 9:30 AM
ePoster Presentation: Unpacking Neutrality Discourse in Social Work: Exploring Twitter Responses to Anti-Trans Legislation
Location: Marquis BR Salon RM: 6, ML 2
Author(s): Gio Iacono, PhD; Jemel Aguilar, PhD, LCSW, MPH; Leah Holle, MAR, LCSW, CEDS.

Time: 9:45 – 11:15 AM
Presentation: Community-Driven Research and Action
Location: Independence BR RM: A, ML 4
Author(s): Linda Sprague Martinez, PhD

Time: 12:30 – 1:30 PM
Presentation: Creating Safe Spaces in Academic Environments
Location: Marquis BR Salon RM: A, ML 4
Author(s): Flor Avellaneda, MSW; Gabriela Mohr-Avita, MSW; Danielle Parrish, PhD; Leila Wood, PhD; Cristina Mogro-Wilson, PhD.

Sunday, January 14

Time: 8:00 – 9:30 AM
Presentation: The Personal Is Professional Is Political: A Roundtable of Transgender and Gender Expansive Scholars on Integrating Research, Organizing, and Advocacy to Promote Trans Justice
Location: Marquis BR Salon RM: 8, ML 2
Author(s): Meg Paceley, PhD; Trey Jenkins, MSW; Leo Kattari, PhD, MSW; LB Klein, PhD, MSW; Shanna Kattari, PhD; Candace Christensen, PhD, MSW.

Time: 8:00 – 9:30 AM
ePoster Presentation: Understanding Overeating Patterns Among Sexual and Gender Minority Youth: An Exploratory Analysis of Factors
Location: Marquis BR Salon RM: 6, ML 2
Author(s): Gio Iacono, PhD; Ryan Watson, PhD; Hsiu-Ju Lin, PhD; Breana Bietsch, MSW; Jamie Smith, MSW, LCSW-C; Leah Holle, MAR, LCSW, CEDS.

Time: 9:45 – 11:15 AM
Presentation: “I Had to Fight for This!” Implications for Youth, Caregivers, and Providers amidst Attacks on Gender-Affirming Care
Location: Marquis BR Salon RM: 9, ML 2
Author(s): Sarah Gzesh, MSW; Meg Paceley, PhD; Jama Shelton, PhD; Dana Prince, PhD; Shanna Kattari, PhD; Amy Hillier, PhD.

Time: 9:45 – 11:15 AM
Presentation: Barriers and Facilitators to Implementing Evidence-Based Practices in Substance Use Treatment
Location: Marquis BR Salon RM: 7, ML 2
Author(s): Jennifer Manuel, PhD

*Current SSW student or alum

Former Faculty Member Ivor Echols Recognized as NASW Pioneer

Retired faculty member and founding director of the Center for International Social Work Studies at UConn School of Social Work, Lynne Healy, Ph.D., recently nominated former faculty member Ivor Echols for posthumous recognition as a NASW Pioneer. Along with her nomination letter below, Dr. Healy added, "In addition to Dr. Echols' deep commitment to fight poverty and racism, her greatest gifts to the University of Connecticut were the countless students who were inspired by her to become better social workers and better people." A supporting letter was also written by Ken Green, '79 (MSW), SSW alum and former State Representative.

The Nomination of Ivor J. Echols (1919-2000) for Pioneer Recognition

Late faculty member Ivor EcholsIvor J. Echols, MSW, PhD, made pioneering contributions as an educator, an activist for civil rights and social justice, and an avid promoter of the social work profession. She inspired hundreds of students and as a leader, strengthened numerous community and national organizations, including the National Association of Social Workers and the National Association of Black Social Workers. Throughout her life, she worked tirelessly to combat racism and injustice, especially toward the African-American community and those living in poverty. She was a leader in national, state, and local organizations.

Dr. Echols used her personal experiences with racism, her keen love of social work, and her firm but warm approach to reach students and steer them toward work for social justice. Among her many activities, she led efforts to promote professional civility and unity though her leadership in both the National Association of Social Workers and the National Association of Black Social Workers, during the most turbulent years of the 1970s.

Read the full nomination at the NASW Foundation website.

Natasha A. Stapleton, MSW ’16

Natasha A. StapletonNatasha A. Stapleton is a graduate of the University of Connecticut School of Social Work, class of 2016. Since graduating, Natasha began her employment with CREC – Capitol Region Education Council, where she started her career as a School Social Worker. In this role, Natasha works with a variety of students and families helping to support a variety of social and emotional needs. Natasha is also an active member of the school leadership team; she is a Culture and Climate Coach and is member of the safety committee. Through these various roles, Natasha has a voice in advocating for the equitable practices for diverse students across the school, within curriculum and activities that are provided at the school. As a social worker, Natasha is responsible for educating staff about various diagnosis and how to engage students from a trauma informed lens. Part of this work is supporting staff in recognizing their biases and its impact on educating student from diverse backgrounds. Natasha has over 15 years of experience providing community-based support and therapy to both children, families and adults.

This passion for advocacy is also seen through her volunteer work. Natasha was a member of the juvenile review board for approximately two years. In this role, she served on a panel with juvenile probation officers, police officers and a variety of community advocate across Hartford. The team provided restorative interventions for at risk youth and first-time offenders. Through this work, the panel successful in diverting many youths from juvenile court for minor violations. She also volunteered for several years with Dress for Success, a program built around inspiring women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and tools to assist women both in work and life.  Currently she volunteers with the Hartford CERT team, Community Response Team. In this capacity, she has developed skills in disaster response and hazard awareness. She also works with the Hartford Fire Fighters to educate individuals within the community about fire safety and supporting the community through a variety of volunteer events around Hartford.

Natasha grew up in Windsor, where she graduated from Windsor Public schools where she ran track and played basketball. Her experience graduating from high school five months pregnant fueled her desire to serve her community and ignited her passion for advocating for families and children. Natasha has also developed a passion for traveling. She has traveled to more than 40 countries around the world where she has had many immersive experiences like hiking a volcano, scuba diving, seeing the pyramids of Giza and visiting several indigenous villages from Colombia, Panama, Egypt and Peru. She also enjoys tasting different foods, visiting museums, theater, photography, meeting new people and alone time. Natasha believes that her experiences while traveling continue to change and shape her as a person and it’s an experience that she has begun sharing with her students. Her goal is that student from challenging situations can see world beyond their experiences and be inspired to want more.