Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Social Work celebrates doctoral students

For DU’s Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW), 2008 is a year recognizing history with a celebration of firsts.

The institution, a pioneer in doctoral education in social work, kicked off its 40th year of doctoral research on Oct. 15 with a reception for students pursuing a PhD.

The event celebrated not only the landmark anniversary year, but also the ongoing work of students who are leading research in areas ranging from child welfare to economic development surrounding rapid transit hubs.

The reception also celebrated the new partnership between GSSW and the American Humane Association. A chair endowed with a $2 million gift from the association is one of the first in the nation to target the growing field of animal-assisted social work and research into the bond between humans and animals.

Marie McCabe, a former veterinarian who is now vice-president of the American Humane Association’s human-animal bond division, joined the celebration to present the first GSSW-American Humane dissertation fellowship grant to doctoral candidate Chris Anderson.

“This is going to be a wonderful partnership,” McCabe predicted as she presented the $5,000 grant.

Anderson spent 30 years in social work before pursuing her doctoral degree at GSSW. She said her dissertation would examine predictors to future social and antisocial behavior as young people transition to young adulthood by looking at pet attachments early in life.

“This partnership is so exciting to me. When I was a little girl, I always wanted to become a veterinarian, but I became a social worker instead,” she said. “I’ve always believed in the healing powers of animals.”

GSSW Dean and Professor James Herbert Williams said the reception, honoring all doctoral students and spotlighting several with funded research, is a way to remind the DU community of the University’s role in forwarding important research. When DU initiated its doctoral social work program, it was among the first universities in the country to take that step. Today, he said, some 70 universities nationwide offer PhD programs in social work.

“Doctoral education in social work has been so important in moving the field forward,” he said. “It’s becoming a very significant part of the educational process.”

The ongoing research by faculty and students is a vital, living resource for society, said James Moran, vice provost for graduate studies.

“We’re about the public good,” he said. “This is a good place to be, and you should feel good about it.”

Sharing the spotlight at the Oct. 15 reception were the following funded PhD candidates:

Johny Augustine, who is studying factors that shape the post-traumatic growth of adults who survived the Asian tsunami.

Lindsey Breslin, who is studying HIV risk factors among youth and the role of social networking sites such as MySpace.

Nancy Lucero, who is studying how American Indian families have maintained cultural identities while living in urban areas.

Ginger Meyette, who is studying grief and grieving among lesbians over 60.

Anne Powell, who is studying high-risk activities and aggression among middle school-age girls.

Susan Roll, who is studying the effect of steep welfare benefit cuts when low-income families barely cross income thresholds.

Laurie Walker, who is studying the effect of transit-oriented development on low-income neighborhoods impacted by new rapid transit lines.

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