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.

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.

Dr. Caitlin Elsaesser Receives SFF in Spring 2017

UConn Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) has announced the recipients of the Spring 2017 Scholarship   Facilitation Fund (SFF) Awards. Dr. Caitlin Elsaesser was awarded funds to conduct research on “Advancing Knowledge of the Consequences of Youth Violence Exposure”. The SFF program offers support to faculty research, scholarly activities, creative works, and interdisciplinary initiatives. These competitive awards provide up to $2,000 to assist faculty in the initiation, completion, or advancement of these projects. Thirty-one faculty received awards for the spring 2017 semester.

Dr. Elsaesser’s study will focus on better identifying the consequences of adolescent victimization. While it has been established that exposure to various forms of victimization (e.g., child maltreatment, witnessed community violence and family violence) are linked to negative outcomes, youth experience distinct responses to trauma. There is a limited understanding of why victimization results in particular outcomes, in part because longitudinal data on multiple forms of violence is difficult to collect. Her study will use LONGSCAN dataset, and innovative dataset that contains rich data on multiple forms of violence over adolescence. The study will explore three research questions: 1) How does an adolescent’s relationship to the victim of witnessed violence influence outcomes? 2)  How does early childhood maltreatment influence adolescent response to witnessed violence? and 3) Are particular family and school protective factors more salient for preventing adverse adolescent outcomes in response to particular forms of victimization?

Caitlin Elsaesser, Ph.D.

New SFF Grants Advance School’s Academic Plan

This past July, the Vice President for Research awarded three new Scholarship Facilitation Fund grants of approximately $2K per award to School of Social Work faculty.  Two of the awardees (Drs. Kennedy and Wilson) will use the funds to conduct research specifically related to trauma and victimization.  The third awardee (Dr. Werkmeister Rozas) will use funds to build a research agenda focused on understanding and alleviating health disparities.  All three awards are noteworthy for their direct links to research in “areas of distinction” that are central to the school’s academic plan.

Stephanie Kennedy, PhD

Dr. Stefanie Kennedy, who is just joining the school this fall as an Assistant Professor, was awarded a grant to expand her ground-breaking research on women in prison, developed from her doctoral dissertation at the University of Florida. Kennedy will focus on trying to understand how exposure to multiple forms of violence in childhood – what some experts call “polyvictimization” – affects the lives of incarcerated women.  She is focused on how this experience affects criminal behavior, mental health, and substance abuse outcomes among these women.  This small grant will allow Kennedy to expand her data collection efforts to two additional prisons – including one in the Northeast.

Cristina Wilson, PhD

Dr. Cristina Wilson, Associate Professor of Social Work, will focus on understanding how pre-school teachers can ameliorate the harmful effects of trauma exposure in young African American and Hispanic children.  The project, which will be co-led by SSW doctoral student Alysse Melville, is particularly noteworthy in that it will use an innovative measurement strategy, the “Head-Toes- Knees-Shoulders” task to understand traumatized preschoolers’ ability to control their behaviors and feelings.

Lisa Werkmeister Rozas, PhD
Lisa Werkmeister Rozas, PhD

Dr. Werkmeister Rozas has developed an innovative strategy – combining both family and community-based interventions- to prevent diabetes risk and promote diabetes self-management among Latinos in Hartford.  Drawing on initial funding provided by UConn’s InCHIP, Werkmeister Rozas has piloted this intervention in Hartford area churches serving Latinos. Very preliminary trials of this intervention show promising results with respect to blood sugar and weight among participants.  This award will make possible the creation of a manual for the intervention.  A manual will enhance the consistency with which the intervention can be delivered.  This will increase Werkmeister Rozas’ potential for leading a full-scale, NIH-funded clinical trial to understand the efficacy of this critically needed intervention.

More details on each proposal

Summer Research Stimulus Award

The University of Connecticut School of Social Work initiated a grants seed funding program. The goal of the award is to provide support for small-scale pilot data collection, secondary analysis, literature reviews or other time-limited structured research activity with the direct aim of producing scholarship that will better position investigators to obtain funding from extramural sources. In 2016, awards were made to the following faculty:

“Transnational Families of Mothers who Parent From a Distance: Their Service Needs.”

Deedee Drachman will investigate the recent phenomenon of the transnational family, in which mothers parent their children across national borders. In these families, parents (often mothers), move to a country with better employment prospects and send money back to their children in their countries of origin, where they have left them under the care of relatives or friends. This study will gain knowledge of the service needs of parents who have moved to the United States as well as the needs of the caregivers living in the Dominican Republic, Barbados, and Jamaica. This summer, Didi will work on materials for submitting an IRB protocol as part of a larger grant submission.

drachman photo

Diane Drachman, Ph.D.

“Completing Research on the Community Organisers Programme & Advancing Research on Diversifying Community Organizing Funding.”

Robert Fisher seeks funding to continue work on his research to advance publications on the Community Organisers Programme in England as well as Diversifying Community Organizing Funding Sources. The publications will focus on the relationship between the Community Organisers Programme and broader tensions in the welfare state, civil society, and community organizing, as well as the need to diversify funding for social change.

Fisher head shot

Robert Fisher, Ph.D.

“The Politics of Advocacy and Human Service Provision for Syrian Refugees: A View from Turkey.”

Kathryn Libal will initiate a pilot study to examine the efforts of national and international humanitarian organizations to address the ongoing “refugee emergency” affecting Middle Eastern and European states, with a focus on Turkey. The pilot study will assess the feasibility of a multi-sited research study which will evaluate advocacy strategies and decision-making processes for service delivery, how organizations respond to changes in migration routes by refugees, and how groups work to shape an international response to this emergency.

Kathryn R. Libal, Ph.D.
Kathryn R. Libal, Ph.D.

“A Fatherhood Intervention: Changes in Parenting for Young African American and Hispanic Fathers.”

Cristina Wilson will evaluate the effectiveness of FatherWorks, an intervention aimed to increase father involvement and improve parenting practices. By analyzing data from a randomized controlled trial in Hartford from 2010-2016, Wilson will examine the effectiveness of the intervention and determine differential effects on parenting outcomes between Latino and African American young fathers.

Cristina Wilson
Cristina Wilson, Ph.D.

SSW Faculty Receive InCHIP Seed Grants


Lisa Werkmeister Rozas, PhD
Lisa Werkmeister Rozas, Ph.D.
Associate Professor

Lisa Werkmeister Rozas, Ph.D., Associate Professor, and Caitlin Elsaesser, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, were each recently awarded prestigious InCHIP Seed Grant Awards from the UConn Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy.

Dr. Werkmeister Rozas received a $15,000 faculty seed grant for her study “Innovative Diabetes Prevention & Disease Self-Management Intervention for Latino Families.” This highly scored application uses a Community-Based Participatory Research approach and works through neighborhood churches to develop innovative interventions to address Type II Diabetes, a highly prevalent problem in inner city, minority populations.  According to the UConn SSW Associate Dean for Research, Michael Fendrich, “this proposal is highly innovative and has the potential to move the growing area of health social work forward in a crucial direction. This project involves impressive collaborations with Hartford community partners and with the UConn School of Nursing.” Dr. Werkmeister Rozas is an Associate Professor and a member of the Puerto Rican and Latin@ Studies Project in the School of Social Work.

Caitlin Elsaesser, PhD
Caitlin Elsaesser, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor

Dr. Elsaesser received a Junior Faculty Summer Stipend, which carries $2500 of support for building grant funded research. Funding will support secondary analysis of data that will address the linkage between violence victimization exposure and health in adolescents. This project, titled “Exposure to Multiple Forms of Victimization and Health Outcomes: An Integrative Approach,” builds on Dr. Elsaesser’s expertise and experience in complex multivariate modeling and her substantive focus on urban violence. Dr. Elsaesser is completing her first year as an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work.

VPR Awards Faculty Three SFF Grants in 2016

The Vice President for Research awarded three Scholarship Facilitation Fund Grants to SSW faculty this calendar year. The grants, totaling $2,000 per award, will facilitate the growth of extramural research and increase scholarly publications produced by faculty. In the spring of 2016, the VPR awarded three UConn School of Social Work Faculty including; one to Dr. Anne Marie Garran, Assistant Professor for the Casework sequence; one to Dr. Rebecca Thomas, Associate Professor, and one to Dr. Michael Fendrich, Professor, and Associate Dean for Research.

Dr. Garran’s grant entitled, “STEM, institutional bias, and retention of women of color in higher education.” is a study of cultural disparity. There have been repeated efforts to understand and address the under-representation in higher education of women of color in STEM, particularly where retention rates are concerned. Along with implicit bias, sexism, and a lack of mentoring and support, faculty women of color in STEM often report feeling invisible and marginalized. They also cite a pronounced lack of work-life balance that differs from that of their male counterparts. Before institutions can implement programmatic or policy changes to support the success of women in color in STEM, they need to identify salient factors that undergird what contributes to these women’s decision to stay or leave. Through the use of an online survey to collect data from the female faculty of color in STEM, this study aims to address this critical gap.

Dr. Ann-Marie Garran
Ann-Marie Garran, Ph.D.

Dr. Thomas is using this award to expand her ongoing research exploring the role of immigrant and migrant business professionals as supports for families that they leave behind. Her grant entitled, “Migration, Employment, and Remittances to Armenia ” focuses on understanding all aspects of the remittance process – the sending of cash or gifts by Armenia immigrants in the US back home to their families in Armenia. While previous work focused on interviewing the senders in the US, this work uniquely focuses on interviewing remittance recipients. Qualitative interviews will take place in Armenia to further understand how these transfers impact family life and family roles and to examine in detail what some of the perceived benefits and challenges of remitting are.

Rebecca L. Thomas, PhD

Rebecca Thomas, PhD

Dr. Fendrich’s grant is entitled, “From Mass Incarceration to Smart Decarceration: Towards a Collaborative Research Agenda @UConn.” Dr. Fendrich will partner with his colleagues at other universities and with other UConn schools to develop a one-day research workshop on the Greater Hartford Campus focused on decarceration research – research on stemming the tide of mass incarceration. He will bring a social work researcher as a keynote speaker to present leading research on this topic. The aims of this grant are 1) To foster and stimulate innovative Mass Incarceration research at UConn School of Social Work, and 2) To develop potential cross-departmental collaborations among workshop attendees and presenters to increase the viability of future extramural funding for Mass Incarceration research and effectuate decarcaration efforts.

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

VPR Awards Faculty Three SFF Grants in 2015

The UConn Vice President for Research awarded three Scholarship Facilitation Fund (SFF) Grants to SSW faculty this calendar year.  The grants, which ranged from around $1200 to $2,000 per award, will facilitate the growth of extramural research and increase scholarly publications produced by faculty.  The most recent award, announced in July, 2015, was made to Dr. Cristina Mogro-Wilson, Associate Professor.  Dr. Wilson will further pilot research that explores how parenting differs by child gender among Puerto Rican fathers.   Dr. Wilson will use the published findings from this research to inform a planned grant submission to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

In the spring of 2015, the VPR awarded two additional SFF grants to UConn faculty including one to Dr. Rebecca Thomas, Associate Professor and one to Dr. Michael Fendrich, Professor and Associate Dean for Research.  Dr. Thomas is using this award to expand her ongoing research exploring the role of immigrant and migrant businessmen as “economic engines” in the Park Road sections of Hartford/West Hartford.  Dr. Fendrich’s grant was used to support a training workshop for SSW faculty and Ph.D. students on NVivo software for qualitative data analysis.

Michael Fendrich, PhD, Associate Dean for Research
Michael Fendrich, PhD Associate Dean for Research
Cristina Wilson, PhD Rebecca L. Thomas, PhD

Dr. Louise Simmons Co-Authors a New Study

Low Wage Employer Fee to Boost Connecticut’s Jobs, Revenue and GDP

State and local governments are facing steep costs because underpaid employees of highly-profitable corporations are forced to turn to social safety net programs—and many communities are beginning to drive solutions to this problem. As Connecticut lawmakers consider new legislation requiring large companies to increase wages or pay a fee to help cover state-funded services like child care and health care, a new study shows the economic impact of this approach would be beneficial to the state.

The study released today by Jobs With Justice Education Fund —and authored by Daniel Kennedy, Ph.D., Stan McMillen, Ph.D., and Louise Simmons, Ph.D., —examines the costs and benefits of the proposed statute, An Act Concerning the Recoupment of State Costs Attributable to Low Wage Employers (SB 1044). This economic impact analysis report finds that the Low Wage Employer Fee would increase jobs, revenue and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the state of Connecticut.

“Connecticut families are subsidizing highly-profitable corporations at a tune of $486 million a year,” said Jobs With Justice Education Fund Research Director Erin Johansson. “This study offers solid data affirming how the Low Wage Employer Fee is a commonsense solution to reduce the squeeze on state social programs.”

The study’s authors find that the fee collected from covered large employers would generate an estimated $188,592,170 in new revenue for the state per year; net state employment would increase by an estimated 538 to 1,388 jobs; and the state’s GDP will increase by an estimated $92.4 million to $130.57 million per year. This Low Wage Employer Fee would only apply to corporations with 500 or more employees and to those employees earning $15 an hour or less.

The study’s key findings are based on three models for the most likely approach corporations will take – to either absorb the fee in ways that would reduce sales, pass the full cost along to consumers or to share them equally among these two approaches. The economists’ revenue projection is also lower than what the state’s own economists’ project. The study’s authors assume most corporations now paying the minimum wage or just above it won’t chose to increase wages to more than $15 an hour. However, if corporations do increase wages (as Aetna is doing), that would also have a positive impact on working people and the economy, according to a separate study.

View the full report, UConn School of Social Work, Office of Research & Scholarship.