Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work

Humphreys Institute logoThe 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. Learn more below.
  • 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 Director and Founder

Tanya SmithTanya 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. Tanya 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 on 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, Tanya 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.

(959) 200-3631




Nancy A. Humphreys, DSW, ProfessorThe late Nancy A. Humphreys, PhD, 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.

Dr. 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, Dr. Humphreys worked with what is now the Republic of Armenia to establish social work education in that country.

Nancy’s teaching, mentorship and leadership was instrumental in establishing Political Social Work an accepted area of practice and a strong network of political social work leaders in Connecticut. She received numerous achievement awards, including NASW Social Work Pioneer, and an honorary doctorate from Yerevan State University.


Research, Policy, and Advocacy

The Humphreys Institute works with faculty around the country to study the political participation of social workers and communities as well as the quality and impact of our programming.  We also work to expand voting rights through education and advocacy and support policies that help people become lifelong, informed voters in all elections.

UConn Lobby Day

In March of 2019, the Humphreys Institute and the UConn School of Social Work hosted the first UConn Lobby Day at the Capitol Building/ Legislative Office Building. Students of all concentrations (IGFP, CORG, and POPR) and programs (BSW, MSW, and PhD) came together to meet with social workers who currently hold elected office, lobby legislators, and attend public hearings to bring the full power of our profession to the political realm.



Student Advocacy Day on the Hill and Social Work Day on the Hill

Each year, a group of MSW students from the University of Connecticut travel with the Humphreys Institute to attend these events hosted by the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy (CRISP). In 2019 we sponsored 14 students to attend, representing all three of our concentrations. Students lobbied the offices of Senator Murphy, Senator Blumenthal, Representative Hayes, and Representative Courtney, toured the Capitol Building, attended panel presentations with professionals and students in social work, and had the opportunity to meet social work students from across the country.

Recent Publications

Hill, K., Smith, T.R., Lane, S.R. & Shannon, S. (in press, September 2020). Commentary: Giving a voice to those with felony convictions: A call to action. Social Work.

McClendon, J., Lane, S.R., Ostrander, J. & Smith, T.R. (2020). Training social workers for political engagement: Exploring regional differences in the United States.  Journal of Teaching in Social Work.

Hill, K., Lane, S.R., Powers, J. & Smith, T.R. (2019). From the Empire State to the North Star State: Voter engagement in the 2016 election.  Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, 46(1), 91-112.

Lane, S.R. Hill, K., Ostrander, J., Powers, J., Smith, T.R. & Hylton, M.E. (2019). Creating a culture of voting in direct and generalist practice: Training field instructors.  Advances in Social Work.

Hylton, M., Rhodes Smith, T., Powers, J., Ostrander, J. & Lane, S.R. (2018). The Power of Three: Infusing voter engagement in lower level BSW courses.  Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work/

Lane, S.R., Ostrander, J.A. & Rhodes Smith, T. (2018). "Politics is social work with power": Training social workers for elected office. Social Work Education.

Ostrander, J., Lane, S.R., McClendon, J., Hayes, C. & Rhodes Smith, T. (2018). Collective power to create political change: Increasing the political efficacy and engagement of social workers. Journal of Policy Practice.

Ostrander, J.A., Bryan, J.K., Sandler, A.K., Nieman, P., Clark, M., Smith, T. R., Loveland, E. (2018). The Political Participation of First Year Social Work Students:  Does Practice Specialization Matter? Submitted to The Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare.


Voting is Social Work

Voting is Social Work logoIndividuals and communities who vote are better off in important indicators of well-being. Voting is considered a social determinant of health and a basic human right. Voting builds political power, with multiple studies showing that elected officials direct more attention and resources to communities that vote in higher levels. Participation matters in a strong democracy, and when social workers and the communities we serve don’t vote that power is given to others.

Supporting people and communities to vote through nonpartisan voter registration, education and outreach is a critical intervention on all levels of social work from the micro level effects of an individual voting, to the mezzo level of strengthening communities, to the macro level changes to policies and systems.

The Humphreys Institute believes voting is as important as other forms of empowerment. We train students, faculty, social workers, organizations and communities on the importance of voting to our mission and impact and how to effectively integrate voter engagement into all social work practice, service delivery and community culture.

Voter Engagement Training for Schools of Social Work

In 2015, the Humphreys Institute launched a pilot voter education program at the Schools of Social Work at the University of Connecticut and the University of Nevada, Reno. The work of the program centers on the development and research of educational pathways that lead to the integration of voter engagement and education practice into curricula and field education. Through a human rights lens, students learn foundational civics, the importance of voting in all elections, and its connection to policy decisions and social work outcomes.  An important component of the model is the application in field agencies where students apply concepts and is supported through training designed for field supervisors and faculty.

Our goal is to transform social service delivery as well as community culture through the integration of voter engagement with social work practice. The Humphreys Institute provides training materials and consultation for schools that wish to add the Humphreys Institute voter education program to their curriculum.

National Social Work Voter Mobilization Campaign

The Humphreys Institute is proud to support the National Social Work Voter Mobilization Campaign. This national voter empowerment campaign began in 2016 as a collaboration with the Humphreys Institute,  Influencing Social Policy and the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work, along with funding from the Fund for Social Policy Education and Practice.  In 2018, and in collaboration with the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College and the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research at Bryn Mawr College, there has been a national call to action within social work education and practice.

The Campaign seeks to:

  • Raise awareness of the importance of voting to social work practice and social policy;
  • Integrate voter engagement activities into class and field education for all micro and macro students;
  • Provide information about voter mobilization skills and strategies to field instructors, students and faculty for use in agencies and the classroom, and
  • Ensure that all the people served by social workers have access to the vote. 

The website includes research, resources and training related to voting and the Campaign.


Registration for the 2021 Campaign School for Social Workers is now open!

Friday and Saturday, February 26-27, 2021



Consider yourself asked.

Politics often feels like an insider's game. The Campaign School for Social Workers is for anyone who wants to be more politically active as a candidate, staff, volunteer and/or advocate for social change. Attendees learn from political social workers and national experts who will help you discover why you belong in politics. Taught through the lens of the profession’s values and Code of Ethics, this powerful, experiential workshop will build your campaign skills as well as address central issues like race, identity and ethics in politics.

Please join us for the 25th anniversary of this powerful and informative two-day workshop. Learn from political social workers and national experts how to run a winning campaign as a candidate, volunteer, paid staff or advocate for social change.  Attendees will leave with a new appreciation of their qualifications and power to effect change in the political arena and are eligible to earn 12 CECs.

Topics include:

Campaign roles and responsibilities Fundraising Mail-in voting and GOTV
Campaign planning Targeting voters Race and representation
Leadership Digital and mail communications What it's really like to serve
Career paths in politics

Day One is led Led by Kate Coyne-McCoy, MSW who is a trained social worker, an experienced advocate, coalition builder, organizer, recruiter and former candidate for Congress. She has designed and implemented candidate recruiting training and support programs for the nation’s largest political action network, and for the Oval Office program at Harvard University. Kate has trained more than 9,000 candidates and directly assisted with hundreds of successful elections from school board to U.S. President.

Day Two features interactive, experiential workshops and conversations with elected officials, advocates and political social workers.


Cost: $50 for UConn students, $99 for students*, $199 for all others*

*10% early bird savings for registrations paid before January 18, 2021


For more information, contact Tanya Rhodes Smith at

Download the 2021 Campaign School flyer.

Space is limited, so register early!



A large group of people look up at the camera, holding a "UConn School of Social Work" banner in front
The 2019 Campaign School for Social Workers in Hartford, Connecticut drew over 130 participants from across the country and internationally.

A white man stands, at left of frame, in front of a room full of people at tables, talking and gesturing with his hands
U.S. Senator Chris Murphy addresses the 2017 Campaign School attendees.