The Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work

The Nancy A. Humphreys Institute works to increase the political participation and power of social workers and the communities they serve so public policy reflects our profession’s values and commitment to social justice. Our primary programming includes:

  • Nonpartisan voter engagement. We train all MSW students, agency field supervisors, community leaders and the profession on the importance of voter turnout to healthy communities, organizational mission and impact as well as specific ways to support clients and communities to vote. We are one of the founders of the National Social Work Voter Mobilization Campaign and the website.
  • The Campaign School for Social Workers. We have trained more than 2,000 students & advocates to be leaders in policy and politics at UConn and around the country. Attendees learn campaign strategy, how to use our Code of Ethics and values in politics, and engage in powerful discussions about race, representation and the profession's role in supporting candidates who have been traditionally excluded from circles of power.
  • Research. Our Research Advisory Committee includes faculty from across the country who collaborate on research related to political participation and voting as a social determinant of health.

Additionally, we coordinate and train students through social work lobby days and work to expand voting rights and access.

About Our Director and Our Founder

Tanya Rhodes Smith

Tanya Rhodes Smith, Director
(959) 200-3631

Tanya Rhodes Smith, MSW, is director of the Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work and an instructor in residence in the Policy Practice concentration. Rhodes Smith is a proud political social worker and advocate who believes that political engagement and voting are central to social work's mission, impact, and commitment to a more just society. As director, she has overseen the expansion of the Institute's Campaign School for Social Workers, which has trained more than 2,000 social workers to run for office and lead campaigns. She leads the development of nonpartisan voter engagement training and outreach for schools of social work, communities, and social work practitioners and is one of the founders of the National Social Work Voter Mobilization Campaign. Through the Institute's Research Committee, Rhodes Smith has collaborated with faculty across the country on research related to political participation and voting. Her experience includes policy development, legislative advocacy, community organizing, program development, evaluation, fundraising, campaigning, and leadership development.

Her teaching experience includes program planning, development and evaluation, political advocacy, and political social work.

Nancy A. Humphreys

Nancy A. Humphreys, Founder

The late Nancy A. Humphreys, Ph.D., founded the Institute for Political Social Work at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work in 1995 to investigate ways that social workers can facilitate the political empowerment of clients as well as increase the number of social workers who are directly involved with electoral politics.

Humphreys had a long and accomplished professional history, and her academic work left an indelible mark here in the United States and abroad. She served as director of the School of Social Work at Michigan State University and dean at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work. Beginning in 1991, Humphreys worked with what is now the Republic of Armenia to establish social work education in that country.

Humphreys' teaching, mentorship, and leadership was instrumental in establishing political social work as an accepted area of practice and building a strong network of political social work leaders in Connecticut. She received numerous achievement awards, including the NASW Social Work Pioneer award, as well as an honorary doctorate from Yerevan State University.