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UNC School of Social Work professors among country’s ‘high impact’ scholars

Four professors at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Social Work have been named among the country’s most prominent social work scholars, according to a recent study published in the journal Research on Social Work Practice.

Distinguished Professors Sheryl Zimmerman, Mark Fraser, Gary Bowen, and Matthew Howard were recognized among the top 40 academics whose scholarly contributions are having a “high impact” addressing social and health issues within the social work profession and across the diverse disciplines that encompass their respective areas of focus. The study examined faculty of social work programs across the country who are fellows of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare (AASWSW), the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR), or both.

Among all universities that appear in the study’s rankings, UNC-Chapel Hill, Columbia University and Washington University in St. Louis tied for first with the most faculty members identified as high impact scholars. Among public schools of social work that appeared in the rankings, UNC ranked first.

Dean Jack M. Richman praised his colleagues, all of whom, he noted, have made significant contributions by developing innovative social and health programs that address some of this country’s most pressing problems in the areas of aging, at-risk youth, substance use and family violence.

“Sheryl Zimmerman, Mark Fraser, Gary Bowen, and Matthew Howard are among the most productive social work scholars in the world, not only because they offer practitioners and policymakers new knowledge regarding effective social, health, and educational programs but also because they teach our students and mentor our junior faculty members,” Richman said. “I am incredibly proud of their work and that they each continue to contribute greatly to both the School and the University community. We are fortunate to have them as our colleagues.”

In the study, fellows were ranked based on their scientific impact, which was assessed in two ways: by use of the h-index, a cumulative measure of scholarly productivity and the m-index, which adjusts the h-index for career length to distinguish the impact of early career scholars. Ultimately, these metrics provide a way of determining if scholarly work—including peer-reviewed articles, books, published speeches, policy briefs, and other written work—is being read by others and the extent to which a scholar’s work is helping to shape the knowledge of social problems, programs, and policies.
Of the top 40 fellows ranked according to h-index:

  • Zimmerman, the University Kenan Flagler Bingham Distinguished Professor and associate dean for doctoral education, ranked 7th based on an h-index value of 56 (meaning Zimmerman has published 56 articles, each of which has been cited at least 56 times in other literature)
  • Fraser, the John A. Tate Distinguished Professor for Children in Need, tied for 15th with an h-index value of 41
  • Bowen, a University Kenan Distinguished Professor, tied for 21st with an h-index value of 38 and
  • Howard, the Frank A. Daniels Distinguished Professor for Human Services Policy Information, tied for 32nd with an h-index value of 35.

Of the top 40 fellows assessed according to the m-index: Zimmerman ranked 13th and Fraser and Howard tied for 34th. Roderick Rose, a research assistant professor who has worked closely with UNC School of Social Work faculty on various research projects, tied for 23rd.

“Our School continues to be ranked among the best in the nation because these scholars are among a group of faculty, staff and students who are committed to improving lives and building futures,” Richman said. “Through teaching, research and public service, we are determined to make a difference.”