Dr. Fendrich Authors Book Chapter

Dr. Michael Fendrich authored a chapter on the use of biological measures in social research on drug misuse. One of the co-authors is MSW alumna, Jessica Becker.

The chapter focuses on the use of biological measures for assessing illicit drugs, such as cocaine, marijuana, opiates, amphetamines, as well as for assessing legal drugs with a high potential for abuse in “field” studies.


Faculty Attend NIAAA Fellowship Training in Boston

Barris Malcolm
Barris Malcolm, PhD

Associate Professors Barris Malcolm and Cristina Wilson attended a National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Fellowship Training event at Boston University.

Drs. Malcolm and Wilson were selected to attend this social work immersion faculty training (SWIFT) that was focused on increasing alcohol and substance abuse content in schools of social work curricula.  The emphasis was on learning the latest in evidence based practices regarding screening tools and interventions. They also reviewed the latest in medications, treatments and teaching strategies.

With support from the NIAAA, the Fellowship program is designed to train Social Work faculty and educate Social Work graduate students in empirically-supported alcohol and other drug (AOD) identification and treatment methods, and incorporate AOD content in the curricula of Schools of Social Work nationwide.

Cristina Wilson
Cristina Wilson, PhD

Crystal Hayes Receives Doctoral Fellowship

Crystal HayesCongratulations to doctoral student, Crystal Hayes, who was recently selected to receive a Council on Social Work Education Minority Fellowship through its Mental Health & Substance Abuse Fellowship Program.

“I am honored and humbled to be joining the CSWE Doctoral MFP community. I am most excited about joining a community of committed academics of color devoted to addressing health disparities and promoting research and scholarship that gives us hope for a more just world.”

These highly competitive fellowships are awarded to social work doctoral students who demonstrate potential for assuming a leadership role in practice, research, teaching, and policy for mental health and substance abuse services to underrepresented and underserved persons and communities.

Fellows receive financial support for up to three years to facilitate completion of their dissertation and related research, and have the opportunity to participate in professional development and other learning opportunities as part of a network of social work doctoral students within the fellowship.

Dr. Kathryn Libal, Crystal’s academic mentor, described Crystal’s research on reproductive health care and justice for incarcerated pregnant women in the United States as one of the few studies in social work on this topic. “Drawing on Black feminist thought, intersectionality, human rights, and theories of reproductive justice, her work will provide crucial insights to policymakers and prison administrators on the impacts of limited access to reproductive health care. As importantly, she stands to shape social work education in efforts to integrate a critical Black feminist perspective on mass incarceration and its effects.”

Crystal Hayes, MSW, is a PhD student at the UConn School of Social Work. She began her social work career in community based mental health, and in nonprofit leadership development and management. She worked at the Center for Child and Family Health at Duke University and her practice was in maternal and pediatric mental health. She was also the Director of Racial Justice and Maternal Child Wellness at the YWCA of the Greater Triangle in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Currently, Crystal is on the part-time faculty at North Carolina State University and an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Smith College School for Social Work. Crystal has worked at NC State in the Department of Social Work since 2011 in various capacities in both the undergraduate and graduate social work programs, field education, and curriculum development.

UConn MSW Program Ranked 35th by College Choice

College Choice released their 2017 ranking of the best Master’s in Social Work programs with UConn ranking 35th. The SSW is up from 40th in 2016.

The rankings were made using data from extensive studies published from the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA where students rated their college experiences in a variety of areas including tuition expenses, financial aid coverage, academic reputation, and after-college job placement. In addition, College Choice compared that data to other public sources like US News & World Report, the National Center for Education Statistics, and PayScale.com.

College Choice is a free online resource to help students in their college search, including rankings, admissions advice, scholarships and financial aid information.

Doctoral Alum Appointed MSW Program Director

Christina Chiarelli-HelminiakChristina Chiarelli-Helminiak ’14 PhD, was appointed department chair and MSW Program Director at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. Dr. Chiarelli-Helminiak joined West Chester University as an Assistant Professor in the Graduate Social Work department in 2014. Her research focuses on issues related to social justice and human rights. She researches burnout and job satisfaction, most recently conducting a national survey on social work educators. She also researches the integration of human rights into social work curricula, is a Research Affiliate of UConn’s Human Rights Institute’s Research Program on Economic and Social Rights, and serves as the Associate Editor of Teaching Human Rights, which she co-founded.

Scott Harding, Co-Director of the PhD Program, said that Dr. Chiarelli-Helminiak was highly respected by her peers and demonstrated strong administrative skills during her tenure in the PhD program. “As a doctoral student, Dr. Chiarelli-Helminiak was highly motivated and engaged. She was an active member of the School of Social Work community, serving as a dynamic student representative to the PhD Program Committee and an instructor of several MSW courses. We are thrilled to see her assume this important social work leadership role.”


Dean Heller Publishes New Book

Modern society is increasingly preoccupied with fears for the future and the idea of preventing ‘the worst’. The result is a focus on attempting to calculate the probabilities of adverse events occurring – in other words, on measuring risk. Since the 1990s, the idea of risk has come to dominate policy and practice in mental health across the USA, Australasia and Europe.

The authors, a group of international experts, examine the ways in which the narrow focus on specific kinds of risk, such as violence towards others, perpetuates the social disadvantages experienced by mental health service users while at the same time, ignoring the vast array of risks experienced by the service users themselves. The book examines how the dominance of the risk paradigm generates dilemmas for mental health organizations, as well as within leadership and direct practice roles, and offers practical solutions to these dilemmas that both satisfy professional ethics and improve the experience of the service user.

Visit Nina Heller’s faculty page



Doctoral Student Receives Doris Duke Fellowship

Alysse MelvilleCongratulations to doctoral student, Alysse Melville, who was selected to receive a Doris Duke Fellowship for the Promotion of Child Well-Being—seeking innovations to prevent child abuse and neglect. The fellowships are designed to develop new leaders capable of creating practice and policy initiatives that will enhance child development and improve the nation’s ability to prevent all forms of child maltreatment. Fifteen fellows will receive an annual stipend of $30,000 for up to two years to support the completion of their dissertation and related research. They will also have the opportunity to participate in numerous peer learning opportunities in order to build a strong, interdisciplinary network within the fellowship. Dr. Cristina Wilson is her academic mentor.

Group Spending Spring Break Assisting Asylum Applicants

Megan Berthold
Megan Berthold, PhD

York County PrisonAt a time of turmoil and uncertainty over immigration, a team of UConn Law and Social Work students, professors, and alumni will travel to Pennsylvania next week over spring break to help refugees seeking asylum. It will be the second annual trip for the Immigration Detention Service Project. The Social Work team will be led by Dr. Megan Berthold.

UConn Group to Spend Spring Break Assisting Asylum Applicants

Family Linkages to Alcohol Use in College Students

Michael Fendrich, PhD
Michael Fendrich, PhD
Associate Dean for Research

A family history of alcoholism has been found associated with problematic alcohol use among college students, but less research has examined the effects of family history density of substance use problems in this population. This study examined the prevalence of first and second degree biological relatives’ substance use problems and its associations with heavy alcohol use, negative alcohol consequences, and alcohol use disorder in a college sample. The study was analyzed and authored by doctoral student Gregory Powers. Dr. Michael Fendrich and his team from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee generated the data. They concluded that “family history density of substance use problems may play a role in experiencing negative alcohol consequences and in having an alcohol use disorder among undergraduate college students and may be an important risk factor to assess by college health professionals”.

Family history density of substance use problems among undergraduate college students: Associations with heavy alcohol use and alcohol use disorder in Addictive Behaviors 71 (2017) 1-6.