Research

School of Social Work faculty are actively engaged not only with their students, but in social practice and the profession. Our faculty has a broad range of research interests that bring a wealth of expertise to our program. In addition to their research specialties, many of our faculty also are deeply connected to university and community projects. Check them out!

Community Engagement

Unified Health Clinics
The Unified Clinics are one large multi-specialty group practice that was established in 1995 to provide quality “real world” clinical training experiences for students in the College of Health and Human Services at Western Michigan University by meeting authentic community needs in an outpatient clinical setting. A number of social work faculty actively provide services at the clinics both through the Child Trauma Assessment Center and the Behavioral Science services.

Child Trauma Assessment Center
CTAC was founded by social work professor Dr. Jim Henry. CTAC  is a transdisciplinary team that conducts assessments for children in order to gain a better understanding on how the child’s traumatic exposures have impacted them and their families, in order for children to get the help they need. The center is also one of the Nation's Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Diagnostic and Prevention Network (FAS-DPN) sites, and is affiliated with the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN).

Fostering Success
Social work professor Dr. Yvonne Unrau is the director of the Center for Fostering Success, which is a university-level center that seeks to create successful transitions from foster care-to-college and college-to-career for students who age out of foster care and enroll in college. The Center also aims to educate, develop and connect leaders addressing the needs of youth and alumni of foster care. 

 I-PEER
Assistant professor Dr. Jennifer Harrison is a co-principal investigator in the Interprofessional Peer Education and Evidence for Recovery program (I-PEER). I-PEER provides enhanced interdisciplinary education for social workers, occupational therapists and peer specialists in evidence-based practices in behavioral health. The long-term goal of I-PEER is to provide workforce training in best practices to better serve rural and medically underserved communities in state psychiatric hospitals and community mental health providers in medically underserved and rural Southwest Michigan.

Walker Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnic Relations
Associate professor Dr. Don Cooney serves as an associate director of the Walker Institute. Founded in 1989 as the Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnic Relations, the Institute was renamed in 2000 in honor of Dr. Lewis Walker, Western Michigan University’s first African American Ph.D. faculty member. Dr. Walker devoted his career to teaching and research about race and ethnic relations and worked for social justice through many applied research and community service projects. The Walker Institute continues this work in service to the University and community.

Private Practice(s)
A number of faculty own private practices in the community, and bring that current expertise into their teaching.

NASW Leadership
Some faculty members are deeply involved in the local, state and national chapters of the National Association of Social Workers, leading the path forward for our profession. 

Research Expertise

Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare
The WMU School of Social Work is home to the Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare. This journal, established in 1974,  promotes the understanding of social welfare by applying social science knowledge, methodology and technology to problems of social policy, politics, the social ecology and social services.

Patti Criswell, LMSW
Interventions used in instances of relational aggression and in treating anxiety disorders
Research focuses on examining aspects of intervention effectiveness with different populations of children affected by relational aggression (bullying) as well as professional development for implementation of evidence-based practices used in clinical work with both victims and aggressors. Research also focuses on examining aspects of intervention effectiveness with different populations of children with anxiety disorders, as well as professional development for implementation of evidence-based practices in clinical work treating anxiety disorders.

Héctor Luis Díaz, Ph.D.
Community socioeconomic development, international social work education, cultural issues in social work practice
Dr. Diaz’ research focuses on factors impacting the socio-economic development of poor communities in various countries around the world. His research also focuses on social welfare policy and social welfare delivery systems operating within various countries and cultural contexts.

Rick Grinnell, Ph.D.
Evidence-based programs and practices
Dr. Grinnell’s four-prong effort has been on: (1) examining the necessary ingredients that evidence-based programs and practices must contain when used with various populations, problems and settings, (2) analyzing the most efficient and effective techniques to deliver the specific research/evaluation content students need to know in order for them to actually evaluate the programs and practices they are implementing, (3) disseminating our findings through professional journals, and (4) utilizing our findings through the publication of research and evaluation textbooks that promote the use of evidence-based programs and practices.

Linda Schmidt, Ph.D.
Policies and programs that are jointly administered by state and federal government
Dr. Schmidt's research agenda focuses on policies and programs that are jointly administered by state and federal governments; focusing on narrative analysis of themes related to federalism and comparative analysis of implementation strategies. In addition, Dr. Schmidt serves as Faculty Associate with Fostering Success Michigan; leading the Policy Action Network and developing the collaborative research consortium to answer key questions related to post-secondary success for youth with foster care experience. 

Yvonne Unrau, Ph.D.
Interventions to improve well-being of youth and young adults with trauma histories
Dr. Unrau's research focuses on understanding needs and interventions that support healing and well-being for young people living with complex traumatic stressors. She investigates the effectiveness of mindfulness and body-based interventions for young people, as well as health professionals who serve them. Her focus is primarily youth from foster care and college transitions.

Bridget E. Weller, Ph.D.
Disparities in mental health care
Dr. Weller focuses on reducing and eliminating disparities in access, quality of care and outcomes experienced by individuals with mental health disorders from racial and ethnic minority groups. She analyzes the prevalence of disparities across settings and investigates interventions that promote equity.

Stephanie Lagalo, LMSW
Substance abuse, trauma, mental heath and field education
Ms. Lagalo has expertise in substance use disorders, and is a Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor and Certified Clinical Supervisor. She is interested in research around why people use drugs, specifically the component of emotion regulation from substance use. She is also curious about the role that trauma plays in substance use, as well as the physical and mental health impacts of trauma. Finally, she is interested in Field Education research, specifically how Field Instructors receive training and use mentoring strategies in their work. 

Dee Sherwood, Ph.D.
Pedagogy, technology, intercultural competency, trauma and interprofessional health education
Dr. Sherwood's research explores pedagogical approaches, the use of technology, and experiential learning in the development of leadership skills, research and evaluation skills and intercultural competency among students in social work and related health professions. Her current projects also include quantitative analyses of the financial needs and educational hardships experienced by social work students, the experience of secondary traumatic stress and vicarious trauma among social work students and practitioners, inter-professional health education to address the impact of intergenerational trauma in Indigenous communities, and the experience of shared trauma and resiliency among disaster relief workers in post-hurricane Puerto Rico.

Marian Tripplett, LMSW, M.Ed.
Urban and rural social work practice
Current research interests include urban and rural social work practice with a focus on healthcare social work, professional identity development in social work education and capacity building, social capital and empowerment.

Linda Cherrey Reeser, Ph.D.
Poverty, social work ethics, professionalization and activism
Dr. Reeser's areas of interest for research are poverty, social work ethics, professionalization and activism. She is currently working on a research project regarding student perceptions about poverty and solutions to poverty that compares the United States to other countries.