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SSW Programs of Research Groups and Membership

The School’s national leadership in five interrelated programs of research represents core areas of expertise that have established its reputation as a top-10 school of social work.


Child, Youth and Family Well-Being Research Group

Families take many forms, all of which affect the health and well-being of their constituent members. Healthy foundations in childhood and youth — both within and beyond the family context — are powerful drivers of positive outcomes in adulthood and throughout the life course. Our faculty are studying key issues affecting children, youth and families — including poverty, abuse, neglect, trauma, foster care, domestic violence, disability, and parenting structures and styles – to better understand how to support families and, in turn, to ensure that families are sources of support for children and youth. Promoting the well-being of children, youth and families is a key priority for our faculty working to improve knowledge and provide needed supports that lessen or prevent negative outcomes.

Faculty: David Ansong, Joy Noel Baumgartner, Betsy Bledsoe, Gary Bowen, Gina Chowa, Steven Day, Allison De Marco, Dean Duncan, Trenette Clark Goings, Will Hall, Todd Jensen, Michael Lambert, Paul Lanier, Melissa Lippold, Rain Masa, Emily Putnam-Hornstein, Rebecca Rebbe, Cindy Fraga Rizo, Ankur Srivastava, Virginia Strand

Economic Security Research Group

Economic resources are necessary to meet basic needs. Without reliable access to resources, individuals face a myriad health and behavioral health risks that can reduce their ability to provide for themselves and for those who rely on them. Developing and evaluating policies and programs that promote economic security — such as asset-building initiatives and financial education — can improve individuals’ immediate circumstances while strengthening their earning power and savings behaviors in ways that build human capital. Our faculty work across the state and globally to identify and develop economic supports and to connect high-need communities with these resources.

Faculty: David Ansong, Gina Chowa, Dean Duncan, Allison De Marco, Rain Masa

Health, Mental Health, and Behavioral Health Research Group

Physical, mental and behavioral health influence each other and impact an individual’s relationship to the people, spaces and systems around them. Supporting the broad range of health and well-being depends on evidence-informed and responsive policies and practices. Toward this end, our faculty are identifying the psychosocial factors that affect health-related conditions — such as postpartum conditions, perinatal health, obesity, substance use disorders, serious mental illness, as well as health consequences of prejudice, bias and racism — and in turn are developing interventions and promoting policies that foster resilience, reduce risk, advance equity, transform systems, and improve lives.

Labs: Innovative and Strategic Prevention in Racial and Ethnic Disparities (INSPIRED) Lab; Living F.R.E.E. Lab (Research Focused on Reducing Excessive Eating)

Faculty: Joy Noel Baumgartner, Betsy Bledsoe, Dean Duncan, Trenette Clark Goings, Rachel Goode, Will Hall, Michael Lambert, Paul Lanier, Melissa Lippold, Rain Masa, Cindy Fraga Rizo, Millicent Robinson, Ankur Srivastava, Virginia Strand, Tonya Van Deinse, Orrin Ware, Amy Blank Wilson, Lisa Zerden, Sheryl Zimmerman

Older Adults and Long-Term Care Research Group

Everyone is aging and aging affects everyone. Even those who typify “healthy aging” eventually experience decrements in medical status and physical and cognitive function that require health and supportive care. Families must be bolstered to provide care while maintaining their own well-being, and formal systems of care must be accessible, affordable and of high quality. Our faculty conduct research to address needs ranging from social engagement to palliative and end-of-life care, developing and testing evidence-based interventions to promote the well-being of older adults and the people who provide their care. Policies are especially important in this area, as many older adults have depleted their resources and rely on others in home, community, assisted living and nursing home settings to help them maintain dignity and quality of life.

Faculty: Gary Bowen, Alison Heather Climo, Linda Kendall Fields, Annamae Todd Giles, Beth Lowder, Gary Nelson, Sheryl Zimmerman

System- and Service-Level Research Group

The quality of care received by individuals depends on the systems that provide that care and the policies that dictate their availability. Our faculty conduct research to understand critical components of systems of care and to inform the policies that make those systems broadly accessible. By providing evidence to guide federal and state policies, and the practices and standards shared across care systems, faculty equip policymakers and administrators with key information to make sound decisions to improve services and outcomes for large populations. At the same time, faculty research promotes the capacity of the social work and interdisciplinary workforce to provide critical care and meet the needs of populations for years to come.

Faculty: Betsy Bledsoe, Mimi Chapman, Allison De Marco, Dean Duncan, Todd Jensen, Paul Lanier, Emily Putnam-Hornstein, Rebecca Rebbe, Cindy Fraga Rizo, Millicent Robinson, Virginia Strand, Kim Strom, Tonya Van Deinse, Orrin Ware, Lisa Zerden, Sheryl Zimmerman

Learn more about the collaborative impact of our research  and community engagement through our 2024 Research Impact Report.