Student Research Opportunities

SWSRC Logo. Detroit, MI

The Social Work Student Research Community (SWSRC), formerly known as SMART was founded in 2010 to promote, develop, and sustain an environment in which Social Work students are afforded opportunities to apply theoretical foundations for research to the real world. SWSRC is a cross-program community designed to provide opportunities for students to attend professinal development events, collaborate with social work faculty on your current research projects, and access online resources to guide you through the research process.

SWSRC operates primarily online. Through our Canvas page, we offer a variety of resources to ease your journey through the research process, and examples to help you check if you're on the right track. Our resources are meant for both novice and experienced researchers, and everyone in between!

Online resources include: Open research job/volunteer positions, SPSS and statistics including recorded Zoom workshops, Qualitative methods, Data presentation and visualization, Research panel discussions, and more!

SWSRC students participate in a culture of learning that emphasizes the importance and value of research competence in the field of social work

Self-enroll in the SWSRC Canvas site to gain access to resources, receive announcements about job and volunteer opportunities, and connect with faculty and fellow students. Contact Kendra Wells, Manager of Research Support with questions about student research opportunities and SWSRC activity.

SWSRC Canvas infographic. Detroit, MI.



SWSRC Highlights

Research Graph. Detroit, MI
Wells, K (2018, March). An evaluation of student engagement: Challenges and promising practices. Wayne State University School of Social Work Student Research Symposium, Detroit, MI.


In Spring of 2020, SWSRC Canvas had nearly 400 active users accessing research resources and opportunities. From 2017-2019, SWSRC matched ten students with faculty projects by exploring common interests, on-going projects, and applicable skillsets. Since moving online in the 2019-20 Academic year, SWSRC has promoted at least ten research job, volunteer, and funding opportunities.

Past events hosted by SWSRC include:

  • 6 annual Social Work Student Research Symposiums
  • Bi-annual two-part hands-on SPSS workshops and additional workshops for following the research process including early research design, methods of data collection and analysis, and creating academic research posters
  • Student and professional discussion panels

Discussion panels featured professional clinical social workers speaking about how they use research in their everyday practice and why it's important for clinical social work students to be engaged with research. A second panel discussion featured students who shared stories of working with faculty on research projects and advice for other students on how to get involved. Check out the SWSRC Canvas page for recordings of both panels!

Read our evaluation report for the Professional Clinical Social Worker Panel here!

Social Work students have been involved in research by assisting faculty with:

  • Literature searches and literature reviews
  • Survey administration
  • Conducting focus groups
  • Interviewing research participants
  • Transcription and qualitative coding
  • Data entry and analysis
  • Writing of manuscripts to submit to peer-reviewed journals

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Annual Social Work Student Research Symposium

With the Center, SWSRC began hosting the annual Social Work Student Research Symposium in 2018 to celebrate student achievements. Under guidance from the Center, students collaborated with faculty mentors and local community partners throughout the year to create knowledge that benefits the community. This co-production of knowledge embraced the role of community and strengthened the capacity of Detroiters to address current and future challenges. 

Empathy is a good skill for social workers to have, but research makes you a strong practitioner - Dr. Joanne Sobeck, Former Associate Dean for Research

Students from the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs presented their findings with academic research posters. As students, it can be difficult to find opportunities to present research findings. The Symposium served as a venue for students to practice presentation and possibly test for the first time how the public responded to their findings.


In 2023, the SWSRC Social Work Research Symposium returned to a fully in-person format. The event was held on March 30, 2023, in the School of Social Work Building.

This year’s Symposium was attended by over fifty students, faculty, staff, and guests. Attendees were able to peruse the twenty-one research posters on display while participants presented their research and answered questions.  

Below are several of the presentations from this year's Symposium: : 

Danielle Lenz, Rahni Cason, & Matthew Costello. Lenz, Cason, and Costello’s presentation, titled, “Public Health Vending Machines a High-Impact Strategy for Naloxone Distribution” details the effectiveness of public health vending machines for the distribution of Naloxone. The poster presents the case for greater implementation of public health vending machines in high impact, including county jails.

Amber Barker, Laura Sutherland, & Tam Perry. Barker and Sutherland’s presentation, titled, “Art Therapy and Well-Being of Older Adults with Dementia: A Scoping Review” describes a review of the existing literature related to art therapy for older adults with dementia. This review aims to identify gaps in the existing literature and make recommendations for future research.

Kess Ballentine & Kathryn Wright. Ballentine and Wright’s presentation, titled, “Impossible Obligations: Raising Children While Working for Low Wages” highlights the issues with communications between schools and families, particularly considering the labor obligations of parents.  

Use the following links to view posters from this year's symposium:

What is the perception of neighborhood safety? Utilizing exploratory factor analysis (EFA) to explore concept’s paradigms. By Hassan Arab.

Art therapy and well-being of older adults with dementia: A scoping review. By Amber Barker & Laura Sutherland. Mentored by Tam Perry.

Family poverty in Michigan: Statistics and solutions. By Latoya Boyd.

Emotional exhaustion among peer recovery coaches supporting individuals with substance use disorders. By Michael Broman, Guijin Lee, Rachel Kollin, Elizabeth Agius, & Stella M. Resko.

Assisted outpatient treatment toolkit. By Nanci Hambrick, Nicole Gilbert, Heidi Bisson, Stacey Campbell, Olivia Cessna, Julia Stewart, Jessica Best, & Lyz Luidens.

Integrating cross-system county data: A case study of success in Hillsdale County. By Trevor Whitehead & Will Eineman.

Exploring the iatrogenic effect of law enforcement drug market disruptions on overdose using geospatial analysis. By Bradley Ray, George Mohler, Philip Huynh, Jennifer J. Carroll, Grant Victor, Steven Korzeniewski, & Bethany Hedden.

Administrative jail release during COVID-19. By Matthew Larson.

Public health vending machines a high-impact strategy for Naloxone distribution. By Danielle Lenz, Rahni Cason, & Matthew Costello.

Exploring Michigan school social workers’ pandemic experiences in addressing the social determinants of health: Continuing education needs and implications. By Norma Love-Schropshire, Megan Hicks, Shantalea Johns, Fay Keys, & Naimah Wade.

Crisis response program dispositions: Variations in models across five states. By Devon McCoy, Catherine Zettner, Hosanna Fukuzawa, & Leonard Swanson.

Familiar faces in local jails: The importance of identifying who they are. By Victoria Nelson, Rahni Carson, Javi Oruna, Nicole Gilbert, Dr. Sheryl Kubiak, Leonard Swanson, Dr. Matt Larson, Jessica Gaskin, & Larry West.

Stigma communication surrounding nonmedical Opioid use among affected family members. By Danielle L. Hicks, Emily Pasman, Sydney O’Shay, Suzanne Brown, Elizabeth Agius, & Stella Resko.

Autism and employment: The double empathy problem and perceptions of an autistic employee in the workplace. By Kathryn A. Szechy, Pamela D. Turk, and Lisa A O’Donnell.

Impossible obligations: Raising children while working for low wages. By Kess Ballentine & Kathryn Wright.


In March of 2022 SWSRC hosted our first hybrid Symposium. The event was attended in-person by over forty faculty, staff, students, and community members, and approimately ten attended in Zoom.

The event hosted student verbal presentations, a panel of community and student researcher partners, and a student poster session. 

Panelists came from the graduate-level Social Work Community Engagement course, which pairs student groups with community partners to work collaboratively on a project.

Panelists included:

Student verbal presentations included: 

  • MSW student Emily Garmen, "Perspectives on accessing and staying in treatment among older Black women in methadone treatment"
  • MSW student Steven Scavone, "The benefits of physical activity on mental health"
  • Psychology student Jacob Caywood, "The internal working model of the child: A window into parental internal representations and their infants"

Student poster presentations included:

  • PhD candidate Jenny Clift
  • PhD candidate Will Jones
  • PhD candidate Shani Saxon
  • PhD candidate Kathryn Szechy
  • PhD candidate Kathryn Wright


2021 brought our second annual virtual Symposium. The event was hosted on Zoom and was attended by over one hundred faculty, staff, students, and community members.

The event started with a panel discussion with SSW faculty member Dr. Tam Perry and her research team, which included SSW students Sarah Whitney and Hannah Gianfermi, and community member Henry Swift. They offered great insight on how to become involved in community-engaged research, and what different roles in research can look like.

New in 2021, four students gave three-minute oral presentations with the option to include visuals. Student presentations included: 

Mary Yousif, BSW student. Yousif's presentation, Breastfeeding through the Father's Eyes investigated the different social and psychological factors that affect parental thoughts, feelings, and actions during the perinatal period. This study aimed to understand diverse approaches to and styles of parenting and the influence that pregnancy can have on mothers and fathers. Parents begin to consider feeding choices for their infants as they prepare for birth during pregnancy. These choices will guide their decisions during the postpartum period. Yousif was mentored by Dr. Carolyn Dayton

Mariel Watson, MSW student. Watson's presentation, Baby on Board examined how mothers and fathers would use music when caring for their child, both before and after the birth of their baby. Parents described the many ways babies are exposed to music, the impact parents believe music has on babies' development, and the cultural significance of the music parents choose to play for their children. Watson was mentored by Dr. Carolyn Dayton

Emily Pasman, PhD candidate. Pasman's presentation, Michigan Young Adult Survey observed young adults' attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors surrounding substance use. This project was part of a larger program evaluation for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Office of Recovery Oriented Systems of Care. Findings inform state prevention planning and youth treatment services. Pasman was mentored by Dr. Stella Resko & Liz Agius from the School of Social Work.

Alexis Carl, PhD candidate. Carl's presentation, Victory Health Study observed the experiences of individuals receiving medication assisted treatment for opioid use disorder. This project focuses on patients in small urban and rural communities in Michigan and was part of a larger program evaluation for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Office of Recovery Oriented Systems of Care. Findings inform policies and the delivery of opioid use treatment services in Michigan. Carl was mentored by Dr. Stella Resko from the School of Social Work.


With the COVID-19 pandemic, we switched gears for the 2020 Symposium and hosted it virtually on Canvas inviting students, faculty and staff to view the posters and interact with the student researchers. Symposium judges reviewed the posters and their discussions and determined recipients for the best poster awards at the BSW, MSW and PhD levels.

2020 was our biggest year yet with 16 students presenters mentored by 11 SSW faculty and staff members. Winning presenters and posters included: 

Amani El-Edlebi, BSW-level. El-Edlebi's poster, "Family Assistance for Renaissance Men: Results from an Initial Program Evaluation" observed the effectiveness of the interventions utilized at a local organization that seeks to improve the relationships fathers have with their children and families. Results of the research indicate that the Family Assistance for Renaissance Men (F.A.R.M) project is successful in removing psychosocial, and mental health barriers from fathers who are seeking to strengthen family relationships. El-Edlebi was mentored by Associate Professor Carolyn Dayton.

Luxie Vang, MSW-level. Vang's poster titled "Assessing Poverty, Social and Family Factors, and Resiliency for Youth Involved in the Juvenile Justice System in Michigan: A Quantitative Analysis at the County Level" observed the relationship between youth in the Michigan juvenile justice system and variables relating to the social, or family lifestyle of the individual. Results of the research indicate a strong correlation between single-parent households, family members who speak English "less than well", and youth within the juvenile justice system. Vang was mentored by Associate Professor Richard Smith.

Kathryn Szechy, PhD-level. Szechy's poster titled "To Tell or Not to Tell: Public Perceptions of Bipolar Disorder Disclosure in the Workplace" observed the relationship between an individual disclosing a bipolar disorder (BD) diagnosis in the workplace and changes in public perception toward that individual. Results of the research indicate a greater prevalence of positive perceptions towards individuals who disclose a BD diagnosis. Implications of the study suggest BD stigma is decreasing within the workplace settings. Szechy was mentored by Assistant Professor Lisa O'Donnell.

View all the 2020 student poster submissons

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Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Wayne State University UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program) offers exciting avenues for undergraduate students to engage in research including hands-on research experience, grant funding opportunities, conference participation, and assistance finding research internships, training programs, and faculty mentors. Contact Neva Nahan (, 313-577-9918) to discuss your interests.

Undergraduate research opportunities infographic. Detroit, MI

UROP provides funding for research and creative projects each semester. Social work students are encouraged to apply. Assistance with applications and finding a faculty mentor to support your project is available. Stay up to date with application deadlines and see previously awarded resaerch projects on the WSU UROP website.