Category: SSW News Releases

Q&A with Erika Gaitan ’13, City Year Scholar

December 2nd, 2016 in Alumni, Macro, SSW News Releases

Each year, Boston University School of Social Werika-gaitan-headshotork (BUSSW) offers three scholarships to a City Year member or alumnus who provided at least one year of service to City Year.  Texas-native Erika Gaitan ’13 was selected from an international pool of candidates for a BUSSW “Give a Year” Scholarship for outstanding academic merit and commitment to service in her graduating year.

Erika began working full-time at Health Resources in Action as a Research Associate. Currents caught up with Erika to learn more about how her City Year experience propelled her into the field of social work.

Why did you choose Boston University School of Social Work?
Originally, I got into the program in 2012 actually. I was really drawn to the school’s mission and I knew I was going to be a macro person. BU’s faculty in macro practice were really people I wanted to work with—professors like Lee Staples and Melvin Delgado. But I couldn’t afford to attend at that time, so I deferred.

So, you took some time off to complete a year of service with City Year?
I met Ken Schulman (Associate Dean) at a BUSSW event in Austin, Texas. He recommended applying to the City Year program and told me about the scholarship opportunity for alumni of the program. I got in [to City Year] and decided to take the opportunity—I was really passionate about educational equity and City Year seemed like the perfect route. I wanted to get more experience in education reform and community practice. I participated in City Year in San Antonio from 2012-2013.

What was your initial transition to BU like?
Moving to the East Coast and Boston specifically really forced me to confront myself. I mean, the weather, the language, moving from a minority-majority state… all of these things propelled me forward. I really became more interested in race, identity, and intersectionality after moving here.

What interests you about macro practice?
I really enjoy looking at things from the balcony—bigger picture stuff. I’m definitely a strategic thinker. And I’m also interested in the management side of things—which is why I decided to pursue a Human Services Management Certificate here at BUSSW. I think combining the values of social work with a fact for business—to be equipped with those skills is a great asset. I always tell prospective students to look into the Human Services Management Certificate!

Why’s that?
You take all of your electives over at the School of Management. It’s just very interesting to be sitting in courses with folks from such a different background—to be able to get that experience, it’s very useful. Plus, you still pay SSW tuition! 

Did you have a favorite SSW course?
I really loved Melvin Delgado’s Planning and Program Development Seminar—it was an intimate class and he really has a way of explaining things. I really respect the work that he does. Another class I really loved was Racial Justice with Michelle Walsh.

Outside of the classroom, what kinds of work were you involved in?
I was a research assistant at the Boston University Center for Addictions Research & Services.  One project I was working on with examining how technology can reduce relapse among Latinos with substance abuse and mental illness with Renee Spencer. I was a Program Coordinator at Zumix—an East Boston nonprofit dedicated to empowering youth through music. I was actually a music major at Texas State—I played the saxophone. I enjoy working with kids and getting them to be civically engaged and think more critically about the world around them.

Boston University School of Social Work Partnership with City Year
Each year, Boston University School of Social Work offers three scholarships to a City Year member or alumnus who provided at least one year of service to City Year.  City Year is an education-focused nonprofit organization, based in Boston that partners with high need public schools to provide full-time targeted student interventions.

Uncertain Times: A Note from Dean Gail Steketee to the BUSSW Community

November 16th, 2016 in SSW News Releases

In the wake of last week’s national election results, I wanted to take a moment to re-affirm our community’s shared commitment to the core values of our social work profession.

The NASW Code of Ethics includes the social work values of:

  • service
  • social justice
  • dignity and worth of the person
  • importance of human relationships
  • integrity
  • competence 

In the wake of ongoing conversations about the implications of the election that have taken place across our school and across the country, I know that many of you may feel uncertain and anxious at this time. I want to reiterate that BUSSW is committed to fostering a safe environment, free of harassment based on any form of discrimination, including race, religion, immigration status, national origin, gender, LGBTQ+ status and disability. In our commitment to our social justice mission, I encourage each of you to find ways to take care of yourselves, and to advocate for those who may be most vulnerable to attack and harassment at this time.

As social workers, we are called upon to lead in our commitment to economic and social justice. As we head to practice settings and to classrooms in the coming days, please listen carefully to one another while also speaking thoughtfully about your own experiences. I have no doubt that our work – to champion the rights of all people – is more essential than ever.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly or to our Director of Student Services Cate Solomon.

A Center for Promise Research Fellow, Professor Linda Sprague Martinez Prepares Youth in Five US Cities to Lead Community Health Assessment

November 16th, 2016 in Faculty, Macro, Research, SSW News Releases

“This is really about asking the question: ‘To what extent do youth have power and agency to inform the policies impacting them?’” Professor Linda Sprague Martinez told Currents about her new project “Barriers to Wellness: Voices and Views from Young People in Five Cities.”

LindaSM HeadshotSprague Martinez set out to engage youth people in the identification of threats to their health and well-being. Current research shows that young people of color and young people from low-income communities are at heightened risk of experiencing poor health throughout their lives, yet policymakers rarely engage with young people in the communities most impacted by these issues.

“Young people are often overlooked as potential stakeholders in research and assessment,” Sprague Martinez said. “Given that their interactions with living and social environments are different from those of adults, excluding youth from the decision-making process poses real challenges to improving health outcomes.”

With the goal of conducting research that might meaningfully inform public policy, this project was launched during the summer of 2016 in five major US cities: Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver, and Minneapolis/St. Paul. In May, cities and partnering organizations/grassroots organizers were first identified. At the project’s conclusion in September and throughout October, results and findings were disseminated.

Each city’s site developed research teams of 6–8 youths largely between the ages of 16 and 25 to engage in this project.

“We started with really basic questions like, ‘What is health?’” Sprague Martinez said. Over a period of several days, she, with the support of CfP staff, trained site teams. The training explored a number of topics, including health inequities, determinants of health, methods in community health assessment, and community research ethics. Participants also viewed Unnatural Causes: Place Matters, an episode from a PBS documentary series exploring the socioeconomic and racial inequities in health.

During the training, youth determined health priority areas and developed assessment protocols for data collection methods in the field, including surveys, observation, and photovoice.

From there, the teams set out into the field to collect data in their communities, which they later met with Sprague Martinez to analyze and contextualize. Ultimately, teams developed local dissemination plans and sent representatives to Washington, DC, to present their findings and make recommendations to the project funder. Each site identified different factors influencing health in their own communities, including stress, safety, substance use, and sexual health. Across all five sites, interactions with police and police brutality were identified as threats.

“We were really able to create a meaningful youth leadership opportunity for youth people of color,” Sprague Martinez said. “At the same time, these findings actually reflect
their lived experience.”

Click to read the full report.

UPitt Dean Larry Davis Presents “Engaging Our Communities: Dialogue and Action on Racial Justice”

November 15th, 2016 in SSW News Releases

“A columnist for my local newspaper said, ‘The only thing that America dislikes talking about more than class is race.’ Well, we [the social work profession] must prepare ourselves to be comfortable talking about both,” University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work Dean Dr. Larry E. Davis told an audience of nearly 150 during an October 24 afternoon event.

EngagingCommunities_Lecture_0284Davis presented a lecture and discussion, Engaging Our Communities: Dialogue and Action on Racial Justice, sponsored by BUSSW’s Dean’s Office, the Equity and Inclusion Committee, and the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground at Boston University.  

In his lecture, Davis explored the complex issues surrounding wealth, inequality, and racial justice in America. In a rapidly changing multiracial and class-divided society, Davis told the audience, we need to talk about “America’s taboo topic.” Davis called attention to many national statistics which continue to highlight economic disparities along racial lines. In America today, Davis said, the average Black family has about 5 cents for every dollar that the average white family has. The average Hispanic family has about 7 cents. The Walton family has more wealth than 42% of American families combined.


“We must move behind the feel good discussions of celebrating diversity and talk about the real issue, which has much to do with disparity. Perhaps we should move away completely from bumper stickers that say celebrate diversity and replace them with ones that say challenge disparity.”

“As social work students, educators, and community leaders we must not be afraid to confront these issues and talk about race and class, ” Davis said. “We must always remember that we are only as good as the causes we support and the values we uphold.”

Dr. Larry E. Davis is the Dean of the Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh, where he is the Donald M. Henderson Professor and also the Director of the Center on Race and Social Problems. He has long been recognized as a leading scholar of the narrative about race in America and its role in social justice.  Dr. Davis has spent his life and career dedicated to issues of race, civil rights, and social justice and his academic life has been dedicated to the creation of solution-based dialogues that promote a more racially equitable society.

Professor Melvin Delgado Publishes Urban Friendships and Community Youth Practice

November 7th, 2016 in Faculty, Macro, SSW News Releases

Screen Shot 2016-11-07 at 4.38.04 PMDr. Melvin DelgadoProfessor of Macro Practice and Co-Director, Center for Addiction Research & Services recently published a new book as part of a series.  The book is entitled Urban Friendships and Community Youth Practice. It appears in Oxford’s Social Justice and Youth Community Practice series of which Melvin is the Senior Editor with a group of editorial advisors from across the country.

Research Luncheon Seminar Series 2016-2017: Professor Renee Spencer Discusses STAR Project

October 5th, 2016 in Events, Faculty, Research, SSW News Releases

“Mentors have to stick around,” BUSSW professor Renee Spencer told faculty and students at the first seminar of the Fall 2016 Research Luncheon Series on September 22 in the Conant Lounge.

Professor Spencer’s research focuses on adolescent development and youth mentoring. She presented One Story, Three Perspectives: A Qualitative Case-Based Approach to Understanding Early Ending Youth Mentoring Relationships, along with her doctoral crew— Grace Gowdy, Allison Drew, and John Paul Horn. Unlike many of the seminars of the past, Professor Spencer and her team gave a methods presentation on the STAR Project: Study To Analyze Relationships, as the process is ongoing.

The STAR Project is a research study funded by a Mentoring Best Practices Research grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to researchers at Portland State University (Thomas Keller, PI) and Boston University (Renee Spencer, Co-PI) and is conducted in collaboration with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and selected local agencies within the Big Brothers Big Sisters Network. It is a multi-method longitudinal study tracking the course of new mentoring relationships with the goal of investigating how individual participant characteristics, relationship processes, and program practices influence the development and duration of youth mentoring relationships.

file1Professor Spencer began by explaining the perception of mentoring, how people often see and talk about it as important and positive. She continued with the tale of two relationships – one where the match lasted for eight years, developed into long standing relationship and the mentor was present on graduation day; the other where the mentee had been through two mentors that did not stick. “These are the stories we don’t tell, the ones that don’t work out,” Spencer said. “And this is why we became interested in this.”

According to the presentation, as many as a third to a half of mentor relationships end early. Often, a lot of attention to mentor relationships is paid upfront to the matching process and not endings, even in research. The STAR Project’s goal is to not only look at endings, but to prevent early endings and promote long lasting relationships. By analyzing the “trifecta” (the match support specialist, the parent or guardian, and the mentor) of perspectives on the match, the team looks to answer two questions: Why do the matches end? And how? “Matches don’t exist in a vacuum,” doctoral student Grace Gowdy points out, all aspects of the environment need to work together in order for it to function and succeed. Ultimately, the hope is that the findings of the STAR project will provide information helping programs to implement practices that support strong, long-lasting mentoring relationships.

2016 Alumni Association Awards

October 4th, 2016 in Alumni, Events, SSW News Releases, Uncategorized

During the 2016 Boston University Alumni Weekend, the School of Social Work held its annual Alumni Association Awards ceremony. On the evening of October 1, 2016, nearly 90 members of BUSSW family, friends, faculty, alumni, colleagues, and peers gathered in the Photonics Center for a celebration of passion and service in the field of social work. The awardees were introduced by BU School of Social Work Dean Gail Steketee and the Alumni Association President Cate Johnston (’12).



“My mother [Meredith] is a pioneer in the profession of geriatric care management. She cares for everyone in all of the systems they interact with.”
– Rebecca Minor (’15), on her mother, Meredith Patterson (’82)




“Katherine epitomizes public health social work. I admire her professionalism, poise, and her sharp ability to read people and systems.”
– Madi Wachman (’14, SPH’15), Program Manager for the BU School of Social Work Center for Innovation in Social Work and Health, on Katherine Ginnis (’98, SPH’08)




“Vicki is known throughout Buffalo for her efforts to build peace, decrease violence, and stomp out hate.”
– Rolanda Ward (’97, STH’02, GRS’09) on Victoria Ross (’96)





“Luz is a gift to our school.”
– Betty J. Ruth (’84, SPH’85), professor and Director of the MSW/MPH Program, on Luz Lopez





Outstanding Career in Social Work
Meredith Patterson (’82)
Founder and Owner,
ElderCare Consultants of Choice, LLC

Outstanding Contributions to the Field of Social Work
Katherine Ginnis (’98, SPH’08)
Director of Behavioral Health Policy,
Boston Children’s Hospital

Hubie Jones Urban Service Award
Victoria Ross (’96)
Executive Director, WNY Peace Center

Outstanding Contributions to the School of Social Work
Luz Lopez
Clinical Associate Professor, Clinical Practice; Associate Director, MSW/MPH Program, BUSSW

The Center for Innovation in Social Work and Health Grants, Updates and Plans for the Future

September 9th, 2016 in CISWH, Research, SSW News Releases, Uncategorized

The Center for Innovation in Social Work and Health (CISWH) has had a very exciting year, and is in the process of planning to ensure the successful trend continue and to help the Center meet its mission of expanding the impact of social work in health care, public health, and global health in order to reduce health costs, improve outcomes, and promote population health and health equity.

Dr. Sally Bachman—the Center’s Interim Director—has formed a strategic thinking group of key BU School of Social Work stakeholders to begin the first steps in the planning process. This process will lay the foundation for the long-term success of the CISWH in meeting its mission.

The Center’s seven Learning Communities are currently in the process of completing a special issue of The American Journal of Public Health, set to publish this fall. This series of papers showcases the transdisciplinary work of the Center’s Learning Communities over the past year in the areas of health equity, community health, global health, policy, health reform, behavioral health, and advancing social work education in health.

In addition, several research grants have recently been received through the CISWH. Professor Geoff Wilkinson received a $125,000 grant from the Sanofi Foundation to support development of a national Community Health Worker association. In partnership with the BU Medical School, professors Luz Lopez, Betty Ruth, and Janice Furlong have received HRSA grants. Professors Luz Lopez and Betty Ruth’s grant will be focused on designing, developing, and implementing an interprofessional curriculum on healthcare innovation. Professor Furlong will be working on a grant received by BU Medical School focused on establishing interprofessional primary care internships in 5 health centers: Codman Square, South Boston, East Boston, Roslindale, and within BMC for medical and physician assistant students, SAR dietician students, and MSW students. Dr. Bachman has also been awarded a $6M HRSA 3-year grant through the School of Public Health, to improve access to care for people living with HIV through the use of Community Health Workers. SSW faculty and staff are included in this effort.

There are several additional initiatives underway, including the creation of innovative and transdisciplinary field internships focused on the social determinants of health by the Center in partnership with the Field Education Department.

It promises to be a busy fall for the CISWH, stay tuned for details on future CISWH-sponsored events.

For questions or more information about the Center, please contact Dr. Bachman or the CISWH’s Program Manager, Madi Wachman.

Professor Ruth Paris Returns from Fulbright Specialist Grant in Israel

August 25th, 2016 in Faculty, Research, SSW News Releases

Dr. Ruth Paris, associate professor of clinical practice and director of the Family Therapy Certificate Program at Boston University School of Social Work, completed a Fulbright Specialist Program grant in social work at Bar Ilan University (BIU) in Tel Aviv, Israel this spring. From March through April, Paris worked with with faculty and students at Bar Ilan as part of the Specialist Program, which supports short-term exchanges around the world.

Recently, BU School of Social Work caught up with Paris to learn more about her experience. Paris said her four weeks in Israel were jam-packed.

“I met with many individuals—junior faculty, post-docs, and doctoral students,” Paris said. Although her own area of research focuses on families, Paris worked across faculty and students on building capacity around applied clinical research. Paris said this includes closely examining what is being done and asking, “Is this effective?”

Paris said she was impressed by the breadth of research taking place at Bar Ilan in many areas, including trauma, military and veterans, and domestic violence. She added that because of the nature of life in Israel, the society is very much “trauma-informed” where people are “living with trauma and its implications all of the time.” In many ways, Paris explained, this experience “may not be so different from certain communities within the United States.”

During her month-long visit with Bar Ilan, Paris also hosted workshops focused on developing skills in clinical research as well as evaluating effectiveness of interventions. Topics covered included implementing strategies for quantitative and qualitative clinical research, program evaluation and assessment, data organization, and analysis.

In addition to her time at Bar Ilan, Paris traveled around the country speaking on her own research, which included visits to University of Haifa, Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Sapir College in Sderot on the border with Gaza.

Paris told BU School of Social Work she came away from her time in Israel with “tremendous respect” for how much the faculty and students at Bar Ilan accomplish with limited resources.

Although the Fulbright Specialist Program is designed as a short-term exchange, Paris said occasionally faculty can be awarded a second visit if there is an opportunity to build on work being done. In either case, Paris plans to continue fostering the relationships she made at Bar Ilan and hopes to collaborate on future research projects.


August 25th, 2016 in SSW News Releases

The Boston University School of Social Work invites applications for one tenure-track Assistant Professor and one tenured Associate Professor position to join our faculty on July 1, 2017.  Candidates with research/scholarly expertise and teaching interests and experience in the following areas are encouraged to apply:

  • Trauma and Violence – Interpersonal and/or Community Perspectives
  • Clinical Perspectives on Aging
  • Clinical Practice in Health Settings
  • Clinical Practice in Behavioral Health

Click here for more information.