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Wayne State faculty member made fellow of top social work research society

January 21, 2015

A Wayne State assistant professor has joined an elite group of international scholars recognized for their efforts to promote social work research.

Richard Smith, a member of the School of Social Work faculty since 2010, was inducted into the 2015 class of Fellows of the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) at the society’s annual conference in New Orleans on Jan. 15. The SSWR Fellows are members honored for their individual accomplishments, leadership, and contribution to SSWR as a scientific society. Only two percent of SSWR’s roughly 1,300 members received the designation, which is determined by a point system reflecting members’ contributions as board members, abstract submitters and reviewers, conference presenters and chairs, and award recipients.

Smith, the first Wayne State faculty member to become a SSWR fellow, is a community development expert who has garnered national recognition for his research on place-based initiatives and technology-assisted urban amenities mapping. Among other distinctions, he received the Association for Community Organization and Social Administration’s 2013 Emerging Scholar Award and was named a winner of the Journal of Gerontological Social Work Outstanding Article Award for 2013.

Dean Cheryl Waites said SSWR’s acknowledgement of Smith as a role model and mentor for individuals pursuing careers in social work research affirms Wayne State’s status as a preeminent urban public research university.

“Dr. Smith’s recognition by our field’s top research society underscores the School of Social Work’s reputation as a leader in policy- and practice-advancing scholarship, but it’s also a validation of the entire university’s commitment to working for and within the remarkable research setting that is Metropolitan Detroit,” Waites said.

A member of SSWR since 2008, Smith conducts interdisciplinary research and supports local organizations such as Focus: Hope, which work with residents of Detroit. While in New Orleans, he presented a workshop on how to map community data using Twitter feeds supplied by research participants. Smith said 21st century problems can be solved using 21st century technologies.

“I carry on the tradition of the settlement houses of the 19th century that went through communities doing copious assessments of neighborhood conditions and drawing up maps by hand. Only now, we can do all of this work more efficiently and accurately in the cloud,” Smith said. “The purpose of this work is the same as it was 150 years ago: to make every community a more just, sustainable and inclusive community.”

Smith, who was named the School of Social Work’s 2013-14 Teacher of the Year, embraces the responsibility to mentor that comes with his SSWR fellowship.

“The Wayne State School of Social Work is a place where you find excellent researchers who are also excellent teachers,” Smith said. “The advantage of having top researchers teach students is that these young social workers enter an ever-changing world with the critical thinking skills to adapt and discern what will work for the communities they are helping.”

For more information on the research efforts of faculty at the Wayne State University School of Social Work, visit: http://research.socialwork.wayne.edu/

 
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