Daniel Gibbs and Melissa Jenkins have received UNC School of Social Work’s Outstanding Doctoral Student of the Year award for 2022. The award recognizes doctoral students who demonstrate exemplary scholarship, teaching, service, leadership and collegial support of fellow students.
The students were recognized during a reception for graduating doctoral students on Friday, May 6 at the School’s Tate-Turner-Kuralt Building.
Gibbs’ research focuses primarily on improving decision-making within the child welfare system through effective interprofessional collaboration and innovative data science solutions. He currently works as a research assistant with Allison Metz at the National Implementation Research Network on a project developing best practices for the implementation and use of predictive analytics in child welfare decision-making.
Gibbs has also worked with David Ansong on projects related to the support of kin caregivers. Before arriving at UNC-Chapel Hill, Gibbs practiced as an attorney representing the interests of children involved in the child welfare system. He also engaged in policy advocacy regarding children and families and participated in data-driven permanency interventions for youth at risk of aging out of foster care.
In their nomination of Gibbs for the award, colleagues and peers described the scholar as an “ideal collaborator.”
“Daniel is a thoughtful colleague who is always willing to sit and think through research (challenges, obstacles) that occur while conducting research,” his nominators said. “This has been demonstrated in his availability to talk through data management, analyses, and conceptualization of problems with doctoral students across cohorts. Daniel provides his undivided attention to his colleagues by carefully considering a problem before providing a suggestion. His poised and calculated approach to sharing ideas demonstrates his respect for colleagues, his thoroughness and the care he brings to social work research.”
Jenkins’ substantive research areas include evidence-based school social work practices in the context of special education services; social support of culturally and linguistically diverse parents of children with IDD; and trauma-informed interventions for individuals with IDD. For her dissertation, Jenkins, MSW ’18, is specifically exploring the individual and environmental factors that contribute to an increase risk of commercial sexual exploitation and the role of social workers in prevention efforts.
During her tenure at UNC-Chapel Hill, Jenkins has worked with Project NO REST, a statewide project to increase awareness and prevention around human trafficking by training local service providers to administer Project NO REST’s screening tool. She is currently a research assistant for Cindy Fraga Rizo with Teach2Reach and previously worked on a collaborative reading intervention to increase reading comprehension and social interaction skills in middle school students with autism.
Jenkins’ nominators praised her ability to translate highly complex scientific research into information that is accessible for broad audiences.
“Disseminating information in a digestible way is one of the biggest challenges of science today, and Melissa possesses the skills to address this challenge,” one nominator said. “I have had the pleasure of seeing Melissa grow into a critical scholar who is collaborative, collegial, and passionate about making research applicable and accessible – even through the most challenging times. Melissa represents what an inclusive academy can look like: One that celebrates lived experience, community-based research, and dissemination of accessible science.”