Social Work Research

Dr. Barbara Barton, associate professor in Western Michigan University's School of Social Work, continues her research on sexual health and brain injury. Her work has most recently been featured in the juried "Brain Injury Professional Journal" and at presentations for the Brain Injury Association, Brain Injury Provider's Council and the Michigan Rehabilitation Conference. She is currently researching the perceptions and establishment of the concept of hope in families of brain injury survivors emerging from coma. To improve the understanding of brain injury to lay audiences, she has finished collaboration on a series of articles for Exceptional Parent magazine on youth, adolescence, traumatic brain injury and sexual health.

Linwood H. Cousins applies the theoretical and methodological lenses of social work and cultural anthropology in his research of the cultural characteristics of race, ethnicity, and social class among African American families and communities, with an emphasis on how culture influences schooling and racial identity. His most recent scholarship focuses on two areas: university-school-community collaborations that facilitate the participation of African American parents in the education of middle and high school aged children in the context of the race-gap in educational achievement; and university-community collaborations for poverty reduction.

Dr. Dolly Daftary uses an interdisciplinary framework informed by social work, political economy and institutional social sciences to study the impact of economic change on communities with intersecting marginalities. On the basis of ethnographic fieldwork, she is currently exploring the possibilities and paradoxes of microcredit, lauded as a strategy for economic inclusion of the extremely poor, for rural communities in India. She is also investigating how tribal communities are participating in new globalized markets and how these markets are shaping the distribution of value. Her work appears, among others, in the high-impact "Journal of Development Studies," "International Social Work" and "Social Development Issues."

Dr. Jim Henry focuses his scholarship on the neurodevelopmental impact of trauma to children, how exposure to violence alters development; the impact of trauma informed child welfare system on improving outcomes for children, the linkages between child traumatic stress and juvenile justice, how evidence base trauma treatments produce child symptom reduction and increases functionality and the impact of secondary trauma on the effectiveness of child welfare workers. 

Barbara Howes is a faculty specialist II in the School of Social Work and a candidate in the Ph.D. in interdisciplinary health sciences program. She is conducting research for her dissertation on efforts to promote and maintain the well-being of children in foster care whose biological parents are participating in Family Treatment Courts in Michigan. Portions of this research are funded through grants awarded by the State of Michigan Supreme Court Administrator's Office, the State of Michigan Department of Human Services Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention, and the U.S. Recovery Act-Edward Byrne Memorial Competitive Grant. Howes has been one of the doctoral students who have played a major role in test design and evaluation for Dr. Nickola W. Nelson, who is conducting research leading to the development of a standardized "Test of Integrated Language and Literacy Skills."

Dr. Peter Judd studies national politics and policy reform with emphasis on legislative initiatives and Supreme Court cases.  

Dr. Gary Mathews has scholarship interests in three areas. One is clinical and task groups and how they are taught; the study of group dynamics, historically and in terms of teaching. The second is the examination of ethical problems in social work and how the code of ethics aids and hinders this process; especially the Socratic method of dialogue as the alternative to relying on the code to resolve conflicts. The third is the debate of evidenced-based practice vs. values-based practice.

Dr. Yvonne Unrau is a professor in the School of Social Work. She currently serves as the Founding Director of the Center for Fostering Success at Western Michigan University. The ultimate aim of the Center is to increase academic and career success for youth and alumni of foster care. Center divisions include WMU’s program to support students from foster care (Seita Scholars), a statewide outreach and training effort, and research activity. To date, grants and gifts awarded to support the Center’s programs total more than $2,000,000. Dr. Unrau’s publications focus on the effectiveness of service delivery to vulnerable youth and families, as well as research and evaluation. Presently, her research interests include investigating how adverse childhood experiences affect the way that young adults perceive and relate to their inner experiences and outer environments.

Dr. Ineke Way, a professor in the School of Social Work, has led a team of researchers from WMU (Dr. Yvette Hyter and Ms. Connie Black-Pond of the College of Health and Human Services, Dr. Paul Yelsma, retired CAS, and Dr. Brooks Applegate, COE) and Virginia Commonwealth University (Dr. Leslie Kimball Franck), along with research assistants (Dr. Xiaofan Cai, Ms. Rachel Clay Richmond, Ms. Mary Muliett, and Ms. Essence Floyd Roberts, of the College of Health and Human Services) to develop an instrument to measure a psychological phenomenon-alexithymia-in children who have experienced trauma. Individuals with alexithymia have difficulty identifying, understanding, and/or expressing their feelings. The preliminary instrument, the "Children’s Alexithymia Measure," is reported in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Trauma (December 2010). Dr. Way serves as co-coordinator of a project to infuse evidence-based trauma-informed practice into the M.S.W. curriculum and community practice. The three year pilot project, part of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (which includes WMU’s Southwest Michigan Child Trauma Assessment Center), is in its third year, with 11 trained field instructors and 8 trained M.S.W. students who are implementing Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) with children and adolescents.

Dr. Donna M. Weinreich is an associate professor in the School of Social Work. Her areas of interest are gerontology, theory, community based participatory research, and teaching and learning in virtual environments. Weinreich is WMU's representative to the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education, a member of AGHE's executive committee, and member of the AGHE Council on Gerontology Accreditation. She is secretary to the Board of Friendship Village, a continuing care retirement community located in Kalamazoo.