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Community-based research is a 360° approach to Social Work

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Each semester, through fall and spring Program Evaluation courses, the senior Social Work students work with a community partner to design, implement and present social research. By partnering with community agencies, students are able to see the real-life connection between social research and social work.

The experience benefits the community partners as well, who have research needs but limited resources to conduct research on their own. Upon conclusion of the research projects, the results become the property of the community agency to aid in their own program evaluation.

Ideally, the results of the research have implications for social policy, which directly (and/or indirectly) impacts the clients served by social workers. The research project is often a catalyst for students to engage in a related social advocacy project in their second semester Social Policy class. Thus, it becomes one of the capstone assignments of the Social Work program.

Laura McDermott, a probation and parole agent for Brown County Department of Corrections was in the audience, and well as members of the Social Work faculty.

This year’s project, assigned by faculty member Gail Trimberger, explored Probation and Parole Agent Perspectives of Community Resources in Brown County. Students designed the survey, prepared the Institutional Review Board (IRB) documents for both UW-Green Bay and the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC), conducted face-to-face interviews with individual probation and parole agents, and analyzed the results of the data before presenting it to the DOC.

The scope of the project requires students to work collaboratively in teams, attend to sound research design, and present themselves professionally to community partners. Furthermore, students are introduced to the concept of providing pro bono services to their community, which is one of the standards highly recommended by the Social Work profession.

“The research project was exciting because it let us help the community. . .” Another stated, “This course helps students prepare for research in the professional field.”

Past research projects included transportation needs for Door County Human Services, homeowners satisfaction for Habitat for Humanity, food security for UW-Extension, neighborhood needs assessment for United Way.

Story by Gail Trimberger, Professional Program in Social Work; Photos by Veronica Wierer, student photography intern, Marketing and University Communication

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