Academics and Research / News

Jenson named fellow at national social work academy

DU Professor Jeff Jenson (left) has been named a fellow at the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare. At right is John Brekke, professor of social work research and associate dean of research at the University of Southern California, another AASWSW fellow.

Professor Jeff Jenson of DU’s Graduate School of Social of Work (GSWW) has been named a fellow at the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare.

Jenson, the Philip D. & Eleanor G. Winn Professor for Children and Youth at Risk, also serves as GSSW’s associate dean for research.

Jenson is a fellow of the academy’s second class — the first group to have undergone the strict selection procedures created last year by the academy’s board and nominations committee. Candidates “had to be nominated, then be approved by a high percentage of those already in the academy,” Jenson says.

According to GSSW, the academy is an honorific society of distinguished scholars and practitioners dedicated to achieving excellence in the field of social work and social welfare. In addition to recognizing outstanding research, scholarship and practice, the academy informs social policy by providing information for the social work profession, Congress, other government agencies and nongovernment entities charged with advancing the public good.

“The board of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare is more than delighted to welcome 11 new and very distinguished fellows to the academy,” says Richard Barth, president of the AASWSW board. “This lifts the number of fellows to 40, in all.”

Jenson says being inducted is “an honor that acknowledges a body of scholarly work in social work and social welfare. In my case, this work has been aimed at preventing and treating childhood and adolescent problem behaviors in the context of schools, families, and neighborhoods. Eleven fellows were inducted this year from across the nation. Personally, being inducted represents tremendous validation for the work I have been doing during my career.”

That work has focused — among other subjects — on adolescent problems such as bullying and aggression, which has been receiving increased attention in schools and in society in general. Jenson says that although childhood and adolescent problems receive fairly consistent attention in the national arena, “the (apparent) increase in interest associated with bullying and aggression comes from recent and highly publicized accounts of bullying incidents that have led to youth self-harm and suicide. I think interest has also been piqued by increases in cyber-bullying across the country.”

He gives one example: “You may recall the one college student; a peer posted a photo of him in a gay relationship and the young man committed suicide. The general trend has been a downside, and it’s been in the media frequently.

“In Denver, in the fourth, fifth, and sixth grades, we’ve been trying to show kids how to cope, how to help teachers and kids set norms against aggression and against accepting bullying.” But generally the United States is “lagging behind” the rest of the world in this area, Jenson says.

Another area of specialization of Jenson’s work has been the Bridge Project, an after-school program in four Denver public housing communities. It is part of DU’s Graduate School of Social Work.

“Essentially we try to offer after-school services in (grades) K-12 to help keep kids in school, keep them out of trouble and at grade-level performance-wise,” Jenson says. “Mainly we offer individual tutoring and other opportunities for the kids: homework help and technology training. We have computer labs at each site.

“I oversee research and evaluation for the Bridge Project. We collect data on each child; we have about 400 children at the four sites. Doctoral students analyze data; [master’s students] are involved as well. It is a unique community-University partnership.”

The program, which began in 1991, now has enough funding to offer college scholarships to about 30 student participants. It’s the quintessential effective “public-private partnership,” Jenson says.

Jenson was inducted May 6 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

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