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Research & Engagement

Welcome to the Office of Social Work Research!

Our renowned faculty within the School of Social Work are forward thinkers whose innovative research is making a positive impact on individuals and communities locally, nationally, and globally. As experts in their fields, they have extensive experience in leading interdisciplinary collaborations and community partnerships for research and scholarly initiatives that improve quality of life, promote social and economic justice, and address many of the Grand Challenges of Social Work. Through their involvement with our PhD and DSW programs, they are also playing an integral role in training the next generation of world-class social work scholars.

The Office of Social Work Research (OSWR) is proud to play a leadership role in advancing the School’s research and scholarly missions. It does so by guiding, supporting, and advocating for faculty and students within the school in their pursuits to generate and disseminate new knowledge that contributes to the field. More importantly, it supports the School in its efforts to engage in research and scholarship that has real-world practice and policy implications.


Proposal Development and Submission

The OSWR regularly disseminates information about new funding opportunities that match the interests and expertise of our faculty and students. When a PI is interested in pursuing a funding opportunity, they may request consultation from the Associate Dean of Research and the OSWR Grants and Contract Specialist who can help them by: providing feedback and support on proposal development, assist in developing budgets, review proposals for compliance, communicate with other institutions for sub-awards on collaborative project, and coordinate with the Office of Research and Economic for proposal submission.  


Project Management

When a PI receives a notice of award, the OSWR will meet with them to review funder requirements, communicate with other units and institutions to expedite the set up of funding, and support the PI in obtaining the information and resources needed to oversee their project. We will also assist the PI in their project purchasing and contracting needs, as well as help them navigate financial, human resources, and procurement processes, when appropriate.


OSWR Pilot Seed Funding

In 2023 the OSWR launched a new pilot award program that can offer up to three $5,000 grants to faculty every year for collecting pilot data that will support future funding proposals. Proposal deadlines are February 1st and November 1st and the Associate Dean of Research oversees a rigorous grant peer-review process. Since its inception the OSWR has made five grant awards, most of which has been awarded to junior faculty, including clinical faculty.  


Research Training and Education

The OSWR facilitates training and education opportunities for the School through several initiatives:

Workshop Wednesdays. One Wednesday every month the OSWR sponsors a training opportunity for the School’s faculty on topic related to research and scholarship. Past workshop topics have included: Working Effectively with Graduate Assistants, Budgeting and Fund Management, Writing Articles that are Not Data Driven, and Writing Better Specific Aims and Biosketches.

Engagement with Doctoral Students. The OSWR provides support for the School’s PhD and DSW Programs by supporting students in pursuing funding opportunities for their projects, providing consultation for doctoral research, and offering research training workshops.

BSW and MSW Research Initiative. The OSWR is collaborating with the leadership for the BSW and MSW Programs to develop infrastructure and support for engaging master’s and undergraduate students in research activities. Every year we have faculty present with students at the University of Alabama Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Conference.


Research Communication

The OSWR has been active in supporting the School in translating faculty and student research findings to academic and non-academic audiences through a number of initiatives:

Research Communication Training and Consultation. The OSWR has provided faculty with opportunities to receive training and consultation from strategic communication experts on how to communicate the value and impact of their work to non-academic audiences, such as the media, policymakers, and the general public. Our faculty and their work have been featured in numerous news and social medial outlets, including, Telemundo, Tuscaloosa News, the Miami Herald, and several television news broadcasts.

OSWR Monthly Newsletter. Every month the OSWR releases an e-newsletter to the School community on announcements, opportunities, and events related to research and scholarship.


Impact Magazine. Every October the OSWR releases its annual research report, which was rebranded as Impact Magazine in October 2023. Impact Magazine features the innovative research achievements as well as the research, scholarship, and honorific awards that faculty and students have received over the past year. The magazine has received significant positive attention and has also been features on the Grand Challenges of Social Work’s newsletter and website.

Support in External Communications. The OSWR provides faculty and students with support in communicating their research findings to external communities in several ways. This includes preparing them for news interviews, supporting them in the development and sharing of press releases, and coordinating research announcements with other communication offices within and external of the School.  

The Annual National DSW Conference on Education and Social Work. Each year the OSWR plays a leadership role in organizing the annual conference, which aims to increase the visibility of research contributions from practice doctorate students, graduates, and faculty. It also serves as a professional development opportunity for students in communicating research to larger audiences.  In 2024, the School hosted its third annual co

Research & Engagement

Engaging in Research that Matters

The Office of Research is proud to align our research goals with those of The University of Alabama and help advance the university’s research mission. UA’s research efforts focus on making a hands-on difference in the lives of the people we serve. The University has 30 research centers, including the Youth Services Institute housed in the School of Social Work. UA’s world-class faculty, staff and students are leading the way as our state explores new technologies, advances scientific discovery and harnesses the power of creative thought to fuel the economy of the future. Read about our research and impact in UA News.

Research News

  • May 10, 2024

    Graphic of Announcement: Congratulations, Dr. Karen Johnson! For being selected as a CCTS K12 Scholar! This career development award is funded by the National Institutes of Health and is awarded by the UAB CCTS. Dr. Johnson's project will advance her work on HIV and sexually transmitted infection prevention among Black women in the South who use substances and are involved with the community corrections system.

    Associate Professor Dr. Karen A. Johnson has received the Deep South Mentored Career Development K Award, funded by the National Institutes of Health and awarded by the UAB Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS). 

    Dr. Johnson’s prior funded research has focused on refining and implementing the Empowering Black Women on the Road to Health (E-WORTH) intervention, which is an HIV/STI prevention intervention for cisgender Black women who use substances and are involved with the community corrections system (e.g. probation, parole). For this current grant-funded project, Dr. Johson will utilize innovative artificial intelligence approaches to analyze data from dyads of women at risk of HIV/STI and their healthcare providers to examine themes related to communication and trust regarding HIV/STI prevention and treatment. Dr. Johnson’s project will involve collaborations with Black women in community corrections in Alabama, Five Horizons Health Services, and the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Parole.

    As a career development grant, Dr. Johnson will be working closely with a team of experts related to her project, including: Dr. Renee Heffron (The University of Alabama at Birmingham Center for AIDS Research), Dr. Hee Lee (The University of Alabama School of Social Work), Dr. Jiaqi Gong (The University of Alabama Department of Computer Science), and Dr. Trace Kershaw (Yale University School of Public Health). 

  • February 23, 2024

    Graphic announcement for Dr. Tenesha Littleton's Award

    Dr. Tenesha Littleton has received a grant from the Resource Center on Minority Aging Research (RCMAR) Deep South! Her project will build on her previous work funded by the University of Alabama Research Grants Committee that examined child wellbeing in the Alabama Black Belt. For her current study, Dr. Littleton will examine social determinants of health (SDOH) among African American grandmothers who have primary custody of their grandchildren and assess the relationship between those determinants and their physical and mental health outcomes. The mixed-methods investigation will analyze data from the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) to assess trends in the SDOH among custodial grandparents before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic from 2018-2022. She will also collect qualitative data from African American custodial grandmothers in the Alabama Black Belt region. Dr. Nicole Ruggiano, who is a member of the RCMAR Research Education Core leadership, will serve as her project mentor. Along with her grant funding, Dr. Littleton will receive training in gerontological and aging research as a RCMAR Scholar. The RCMAR Deep South is funded by the National Institute on Aging and is a collaborative partnership between UAB, UA, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Tuskegee University. 

  • October 24, 2023

    Graphic Announcement for Dr. Hee Lee

     Dr. Hee Yun Lee (MPI) and her team were awarded a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s funding program Data Visualization of Structural Racism and Place. 

    Thier project will create graphic representations of complex data that can be used to help understand the influence of structural racism on anti-Asian hate crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The project will also examine how anti-Asian hate crimes impact Asian Americans’ health and wellbeing. The team will create these graphic tools using several datasets, including FBI data, social media data collected via X (formerly Twitter), and each state’s sociodemographic and COVID-19 related data. Data visualization makes it easier to interpret complex measures often associated with structural discrimination and can be a powerful means to communicate the findings with policymakers, community partners, and others who are best positioned to make decisions on mitigating the structural racism’s effects. This project will be the first study to visually communicate data showing structural racism’s impact on community health and to contextualize the legacy of racism among Asian Americans in the U.S. 

    Dr. Lee’s interdisciplinary team includes Ms. Sruthi Chandrasekaran (MPI) at the Asian American Foundation and other collaborators including data producers, data scientists, communications experts, and designers.  


Social Work Research Links