BSW Program Ranked #3 in State has ranked the Sandler School of Social Work BSW program third in the state based on our BSW alumni’s monthly earnings just 12 months after graduation. The ranking includes only CSWE-accredited programs and is calculated using monthly salaries deducting student debt payments, as reported by the U.S. Department of Education, to derive median net incomes of our early-career BSW graduates.

“In addition to our high job placement rate, world-class faculty and newly renovated facilities, we are thrilled to have this ranking as yet another reason why future social work students should put the Sandler School of Social Work at the top of their list for a high-value educational experience,” said Heather Thompson, Ph.D., interim director of the Sandler School.

See the full rankings and monthly earning projections for our BSW graduates

MSW Family Therapy Students Get Online Classroom Surprise

For his last Family Therapy class of this semester, Dr. David Landsman-Wohlsifer (“Dr. David”) asked his final-year master’s students to prepare a performance piece about the impact family therapy has had on them, either personally or professionally, that they would then perform during the virtual class finale.  One student wrote a poem.  Another student performed a monologue.  Another student shared a self-made song mix that included “Pomp and Circumstance” playing in the background.

Dr. David noticed that many of his students began to cry as they listened.  He stopped the class and asked if everyone was okay.  They replied that, hearing the famous graduation march song had reminded them that they weren’t going to have an in-person graduation celebration this Spring due to COVID-19, and that it made them sad that they were missing out on the age-old tradition.  Dr. David dismissed his students for a 10-minute break and told them that when class resumed, he was going to share a performance piece of his own.

“I wasn’t planning to perform, but it occurred to me that my students needed a ritual,” Dr. David said.  “They needed the closure of commencement.”

When the students returned to the virtual classroom after the break, Dr. David, was donning his full academic regalia.  His husband, Jeff Landsman-Wohlsifer, LCSW, was seated beside him and wearing an FAU sweatshirt.  Dr. David asked the song-mixing student to please resume playing “Pomp and Circumstance”.  He then read each students’ name, one by one, while Jeff applauded and cheered heartily for each of them.

“My students needed this transition and to celebrate their accomplishment, and it gave me closure, too,” Dr. David said. “I needed the year to come to an end.  I needed to welcome them to the Social Work profession.  We do it every year, and it’s important. The FAU student is a special student. We have first-gen students; we have people in recovery; we have people from all corners of the world who never thought they would get a graduate degree, and I didn’t want it to go unnoticed.”

Thank you, Dr. David, for providing your students with such a creative, impromptu and meaningful surprise!

Incorporating the success of this class and how well it transitioned to the virtual learning environment, Dr. David is joining his colleagues, Dr. JuYoung Park and Dr. Laurie Suttenberg, to write an article for a special edition of Clinical Social Work Journal that will focus on the impact of COVID-19 on social work and clinical practice. Their abstract was accepted this past week, and we can’t wait to read the article in a forthcoming issue!

Implicit Bias Through the Lens of Hip Hop

MSW Alumnus Dre Johnson recently appeared as a guest lecturer at the 2020 FAU Lead and Serve Diversity Symposium. His presentation, “Implicit Bias Through the Lens of Hip Hop” was given to a full house crowd of students, faculty and staff. The popularity of the session led to Johnson being asked to return next year and give two separate presentations to accommodate more attendees. Congratulations, Dre!

Decolonizing and Embodiment: Healing Justice for HIV

In Fall 2018, Cynthia Wilks, a second-year MSW student, partnered with David Landsman-Wohlsifer, Ph.D., LCSW, to look at HIV/AIDS and Decolonizing Perspectives with Latinx clients in social work practice. The end result of that research was a poster, entitled “Decolonizing & Embodiment: Healing Justice for HIV”, which was recently accepted for presentation at the 2020 American Family Therapy Academy (AFTA) Conference. The annual conference attracts social justice-minded, family/systemically-focused clinicians, researchers, and advocates from around the world.

“I am so grateful to Dr. David for providing guidance, incredible material, and the collaborative space to explore this topic,” Wilks said.  “Also, I am so grateful to FAU for supporting my development as a social worker and participation at AFTA. The opportunity to study decolonizing practices through a social justice lens has provided an excellent framework when providing volunteer services for Latinx immigrants.”

New Book Explores Brain Development in Social Context

Congratulations to Gail Horton, MSW, Ph.D., on the publication of her new book, Attachment and Neurobiology: Preconception to Young Adulthood (Cognella Academic Publishing – January 2020). Ideal for students, as well as social work and mental health practitioners, the book “introduces readers to interpersonal neurobiology and attachment to help them better understand how the brain develops across time and within a social context. The text equips social workers and mental health providers with the knowledge they need to optimize prevention and intervention efforts with clients.”

Alumna Teaching in Thailand Partners with Slattery for Pen Pal Program

Casey Dowdell, BSW alumna, recently received her TESOL (Teaching English to speakers of Other Languages) Certificate and is now teaching English to Kindergarten students in Thailand. As an undergraduate student, Dowdell interned at the Karen Slattery Educational Research Center for Child Development under the direction of Lydia Bartram, BSW and MSW alumna and Director of the Slattery Center.

“Without my internship, I do not feel that I would be prepared or driven to take on this challenge and journey,” Dowdell said. “In my short four months [at Slattery], those children made a life-long impact. It was overwhelming to see how much dedication is put in as a team to shape the future.  It helped me find this spark inside of me that I never knew was there.”

Dowdell and Bartram are now partnering to start a pen pal exchange program between their classes, since both groups of children are learning to write English. “This is an authentic way to support learning for all while also creating opportunities for sharing across cultures,” Bartram said.

Photo Gallery

NASW-FL Student of the Year and Educators of the Year

Congratulations on these much-deserved honors from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Florida!

Susana Coxaj, Social Work Student – NASW Student of the Year, Treasure Coast Chapter

Kate McCormic, LCSW, MCAP – NASW Educator of the Year, Treasure Coast Chapter

Susana Coxaj (middle) and Kate McCormic (right) as Susana accepts her award.

Dani Groton, Ph.D. – NASW Educator of the Year, Palm Beach Chapter

Dr. Groton receiving her award.

Dr. Groton (left) with Dr. Morgan Cooley, fellow assistant professor in the FAU Sandler School of Social Work.

Precious Skinner-Osei, Ph.D. – NASW Educator of the Year, Broward Chapter

Dr. Skinner-Osei, an instructor in the FAU Sandler School of Social Work, alongside three of her MSW students: (l-r) Mara Liggett, Laura Mangan, and Michelle Kerrigan.

FAU 2020 Scholar of the Year

Congratulations to Allan Barsky, MSW, Ph.D. who was named 2020 Scholar of the Year by the Office of the Provost in recognition of his outstanding performance!

Dr. Barsky was to be presented with his award at the annual Honors Convocation, April 15, 2020 at 4 PM in the University Theater. However, the event has been postponed due to remote instruction related to coronavirus prevention. All faculty and staff are welcome to attend and help celebrate this tremendous honor, and we will share the new date once announced.

Congratulations, Allan!

LEAD Day 2020

Nearly 60 BSW and MSW students – along with faculty sponsors LeaAnne DeRigne and Danielle Groton – visited Tallahassee for Legislative Education and Advocacy Day 2020 (LEAD Day)! The annual road trip gives students the opportunity to stand up and speak out on important issues facing our profession in today’s legislative arena. Upon their arrival, they toured The Kearney Center, a 24-hour emergency homeless service center where Dr. Groton previously worked, and also attended the NASW’s LEAD training at Florida State University. Students also participated in a rally on the steps of the Capitol. Way to go, LEADers!

Photo Galery


Important College Update: Exciting Changes Coming Soon!

We are pleased to announce that, beginning in Fall 2020:

  • the School of Architecture and the School of Public Administration will join the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters;
  • the School of Urban and Regional Planning will join the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science;
  • and the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice & the Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work will partner to become the new College of Social Work and Criminal Justice (new website coming soon!).

Check out our comprehensive list of Frequently Asked Questions for helpful answers related to the transition.

The Sandler School of Social Work and the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice naturally pair well together because of their shared vision for effecting social change, driven by their considerable overlap in curriculum and research areas, as well as their impact objectives.

In much the same ways, the Schools of Architecture and Public Administration will find more symmetry with their colleagues in Graphic Design and Political Science within the Schmidt College of Arts and Letters. The same is true for the School of Urban and Regional Planning, which complements the Geoscience and Environmental Sciences departments within the Schmidt College of Science.

Remember that for now, it’s business as usual, with an added splash of excitement as we all look forward to this fresh, new chapter!

One Play Taught 700+ People How to Spot Human Trafficking

On Sunday, February 9, 2020, more than 700 people attended one of two performances of “Only One”, the play on human sex trafficking written by senior Criminal Justice student Abigail Howard. The riveting 45-minute play tells the story of three teens who become victims of sex trafficking and share how they got there – one lured by a false opportunity to become an actor; one who was meeting his online boyfriend for the first time in person; and one who had been groomed to believe she was in a meaningful relationship. The name of the play comes from the sobering statistic that only one percent of trafficking victims are rescued.

Following both performances, expert panelists shared invaluable safety tips with parents and youth in the audience.

  • Dr. Calli Cain, producer, panel moderator, and Assistant Professor in the FAU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice
  • Pastor Alfredo Castro, Ministry Relations Director of Glory House of Miami
  • Special Agent Katina Hernandez, Homeland Security Investigations and South Florida Human Trafficking Task Force
  • Sgt. Carlos Lisboa, Coordinator of the Palm Beach County Human Trafficking Task Force
  • Alex Ortiz, Director of Business Development for the Child Rescue Coalition
  • Dr. Heidi Schaeffer, President of the Human Trafficking Coalition of the Palm Beaches
  • Alma Tucker, International Network of Hearts

Attendees learned that victims and traffickers represent all genders, ages, races, income levels and sexual orientations, and that Florida ranks third in the nation for reported cases of trafficking. The panelists also shared safety tips – such as the importance of keeping gaming and smartphone devices in a common area of the home, to have open dialogue with kids of all ages on how to establish safe physical and information boundaries; and where to go for more information:

Panelists also encouraged all attendees to add the National Human Trafficking Hotline 1-888-373-7888 to their phone contacts and report any suspicious behavior. As Special Agent Hernandez said, “If it turns out to be a false alarm, great. But if it turns out to be trafficking, you’ve saved a life.”

Photo Gallery


Justice-Involved Youth and Trauma-Informed Interventions

(L-R) Laura Mangan, Michelle Kerrigan, Mara Liggett and Dr. Precious Skinner-Osei

Three ambitious Master of Social Work students just had their first journal article published! Congratulations to MSW students Mara Liggett, Laura Mangan and Michelle Kerrigan, as well as Dr. Precious Skinner-Osei, Instructor in the FAU Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work, and Dr. Jill Levenson, Professor in the Barry University School of Social Work, on their successful collaboration and publication in Justice Policy Journal:

Skinner-Osei, P., Mangan, L., Liggett, M., Kerrigan, M., & Levenson, J.S. (2019).  Justice-involved youth and trauma-informed interventions. Justice Policy Journal 17(1)

“Mara, Laura and Michelle were very hands-on and got to experience the publishing process and collaboration with someone from another university,” Dr. Skinner-Osei said. “Our article covers a very powerful and relevant topic and illustrates how dire the need is for social work and criminology/criminal justice to work together.”

The students began their research for the article when they were all undergraduate students in Dr. Skinner-Osei’s research class.  Now as master’s students, they worked in partnership with Drs. Skinner-Osei and Levenson to complete the article and see it published.

“This was an exceptional opportunity for undergraduates to work with two amazing authors and professors,” Liggett said. “We are so grateful to Professor Skinner-Osei for her support and guidance in the process. The more we can understand about the treatment of incarcerated youth, the more we are able to carve a path for their success.”

In Memoriam: Our Namesake, Harvey Sandler

(L-R) Gary Rubin (son-in-law), Harvey Sandler, Robin Rubin (daughter), Phyllis Sandler (spouse), Amy Ross (daughter), David Ross (son-in-law)

With heavy hearts, we would like to express our deepest sympathy and condolences to the Sandler family for the untimely passing of Harvey Sandler, a pillar of our Palm Beach County community and specifically our School. In 2017, Harvey Sandler, along with his wife, Phyllis, generously donated $7 million to the School of Social Work, thus naming and endowing The Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work at Florida Atlantic University.

Words cannot describe the loss we are feeling within our School and College at this time. Harvey Sandler and the entire Sandler family have continually supported the School with their transformative gift, compassion, kindness and generosity. Carrying Harvey’s vision, their generous gift has allowed for the renovation and expansion of our facilities that include a state-of-the-art auditorium, a student study lounge, additional classrooms to accommodate the growth of our academic programs, and a future center for Substance Use Disorder and Recovery Research. In addition to the naming and endowing of our School, the Sandler family has been integral to the funding of students’ scholarships through the annual Phyllis Sandler Heart of Social Work event, which is the School’s largest fundraiser. Additionally, students who are actively involved in community service efforts receive direct support from the Sandler Family Scholarship. Furthermore, Harvey and Phyllis’s daughter, Robin Rubin, has recently established the Robin Rubin Center for Happiness and Life Enhancement within the Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work. This center aims to offer programming for students, faculty, staff and community members to enrich, nurture, and improve their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

Harvey and Phyllis’s legacy thrives throughout the Boca Raton and surrounding community. Their legacy includes naming the Phyllis & Harvey Sandler Center at the Levis JCC, the Harvey & Phyllis Sandler Pavilion and the Sandler Medical Plaza at Boca Raton Regional Hospital, and so much more.  Harvey and Phyllis were members of the Federation’s Ketubah Society, and The Federation’s Sandler Family Major Gifts Event was named in their honor.

We could not be more honored that Harvey and Phyllis Sandler chose to support our School because they saw the difference it makes in the community and the world. Each and every one of our faculty, students, alumni and community partners helps to carry on their legacy of giving to and transforming our community.  We are eternally grateful for Harvey’s and his family’s legacy and their belief that the world can be a better place by educating and training social workers devoted and committed to the service of those who are most vulnerable in our society.  We cannot fully express our admiration for their continued service and support to our School and the surrounding community.

Our hearts and prayers are with Harvey’s beloved family, who were the center of his life, including his wife, Phyllis Sandler, his children, Robin Rubin (husband, Gary), Amy Ross (husband, David) and Larry Schumacher (wife, Andrea), in our community, and Ricky Sandler, and Andrew Sandler (wife, Aurily) of New York, all who continue Harvey’s passion for philanthropy and community building. Harvey also had 17 grandchildren who share his commitment to helping others, and three great-grandchildren.

As a way to continue Harvey’s legacy, the Sandler family has encouraged donations be made in memoriam for Harvey Sandler to the Phyllis & Harvey Sandler School of Social Work.

Make a Memorial Donation

To make a donation via check, please make payable to FAU Foundation, Inc. and write your desired fund designation on the memo line (“Social Work General Fund” or “Heart of Social Work”). Then please mail your check to:

FAU Foundation, Inc.
777 Glades Road, ADM 295
Boca Raton, FL 33431

In Our Voices: Lived Experiences of Mothers with Substance Use

Dr. Heather Howard and Dr. Marianna Colvin recently presented a PhotoVoice study which seeks to implement positive social change through the use of participants’ voices and documentary-style photographs. This particular PhotoVoice study hopes to shift maternal policy on substance use from punitive to more public health approaches.

The presentation included a panel discussion with women who used documentary photography to share their struggles with substance use while parenting and navigating dependency court. The discussion was guided by Dr. Howard and Dr. Colvin’s community-based research and the recent research article, “Mothers with Opioid Use Disorder: Moving Toward Justice, Wellness & Engagement” co-authored by Drs. Howard and Dr. Wendy Guastaferro. Featured speakers included Niki Tartal, Meagan Bailey and Miranda Duncan.

“I can’t thank Dr. Howard, Dr. Colvin, Niki, Meagan, and Miranda enough,” said a forensic social worker who works for the Office of Criminal Conflict and Regional Conflict 4th District.  “Those three women shared so candidly and beautifully. The panel discussion just talked about the insights they took away from your session. The attorneys truly took so may issues that were spoken about to heart. Niki, Meagan, and Miranda did true advocacy work today.”

Photo Gallery

Congratulations Fall 2019 Graduates

On Friday, December 13, 2019 we watched as 227 bachelor’s graduates, 19 master’s graduates and 2 doctoral candidates walked across the commencement stage to receive their diploma from the College for Design and Social Inquiry at Florida Atlantic University.

To all of our graduates, it has been our pleasure to have you in our classrooms and to watch you grow and learn in your programs.  Whether you are continuing your education or ready to apply your knowledge in the world, we look forward to watching your next chapter unfold. Remember that we are here for you and rooting for your success each step along the way.

Be well and best wishes!

  • Bachelor of Architecture
  • 105 Bachelor of Arts
  • 13 Bachelor of General Studies
  • 15 Bachelor of Public Management
  • 17 Bachelor of Public Safety Administration
  • 59 Bachelor of Social Work
  • 8 Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning
  • Bachelor of Urban Design
  • Master of Public Administration
  • Master of Science
  • Master of Urban and Regional Planning
  • Doctor of Philosophy

Want to explore the degree programs in the College for Design and Social Inquiry at FAU? Call our Academic Advising Team today: (561) 297-2316

Fall 2019 Commencement Gallery

Now Open: Robin Rubin Center for Happiness & Life Enhancement

The Robin Rubin Center for Happiness & Life Enhancement is now officially open! The Center hosts free, guided meditations every Monday and Tuesday from noon to 12:45 for students, faculty and staff. In addition, the special events calendar for the Center is growing by leaps and bounds!

On November 21st, the Center hosted the founders of Womaze, a free app centered around self-empowerment for women. The event was held in the Sandler School of Social Work auditorium with a packed house of FAU faculty and staff members, as well as many members from the community. The audience engaged with the presenters in a meaningful conversation about how to thrive through the holiday season using self-care techniques.

The Robin Rubin Center for Happiness & Life Enhancement is on a mission “to provide programming for students, faculty, staff and community members to enrich, nurture, and improve their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.” And it is well on its way!

Stay tuned for the new Center’s website coming in early 2020 and please be on the lookout for communications about future events coming soon.


“Investing In Yourself in 2020”

Thursday, January 16 | 12-1 PM | SO-112

Donna Drucker, LCSW will guide us through mind, body, spirit and relationship balance and help us build a customized action plan for the new year.


Faculty Honored as Guest Coach

A warm Owls shout out to Dr. Precious Skinner-Osei… wait… make that COACH Skinner-Osei! She was recognized as “Faculty Guest Coach” during the November 9th FAU football game, with special sideline access. Thank you to former BSW student and current MSW Advanced Standing student Dante Cousart for nominating Dr. Skinner-Osei for this much-deserved recognition.

Watch the Video

Podcast Feature: Ask a Scientist

Be sure to catch Dr. Christina Spadola, Assistant Professor, as she discusses how sleep can impact our health and behavior, and how alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine may impact your night of sleep on the podcast, Ask a Scientist, hosted by Dr. Ata Sarajedini, Dean of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science.

The journal, SLEEP, ranked Dr. Christine Spadola’s research study on the relationship between caffeine and sleep quality as a 2019 Top 5 article based on impact metrics.

Welcome Home!

All of our Sandler School of Social Work colleagues, faculty, staff, and students are, once again, back home in the SO-308. That means the major renovations project is complete! The student lounge is open, classrooms are in use, the auditorium workshops are in full swing, and offices are abuzz with activity – including the new Advising Services office in SO-113. If you haven’t yet visited the new facilities, stop by and say hello!

Photos of the New 3rd Floor Space

CSWE Master’s Minority Fellowship Awardee

MSW student, Cynthia Wilks was just awarded a CSWE Master’s Minority Fellowship! After graduation, Cynthia hopes to become a therapist who uses decolonizing narrative therapy to affirm the dignity of Latinx people, promote healing from contemporary and historical trauma, and enhance their wellbeing in and self-fulfillment.

Division of Research Mentoring Program

In order to foster the exchange of ideas and best practices in funded research, senior colleagues with significant extramural funding experience have the opportunity to be paired with tenure-track and research faculty members who wish to be mentored and commit to submitting a fundable research proposal at the end of the one-year mentoring period.

The proposal submitted by Dr. Wendy Guastaferro (mentor) and Dr. Laura Backstrom, Asst. Professor in Sociology (mentee) as part of the mentoring program was awarded! Dr. Backstrom is going to work on a grant proposal for a study that will use a mixed methods design to assess decision-making processes in Early Childhood Courts with a focus on the role of community members (Guardian ad Litems, foster parents, and advocates) and social network analysis to examine the impact of the court’s actions on children whose parents come before the court.

The proposed study will follow a subsample of children through age 8 and utilize court and Department of Children and Families data to examine child well-being outcomes.

Dr. Morgan Cooley (mentee) has partnered with Dr. Nancy Jones (mentor) in Psychology on a proposal that was also awarded! Dr. Cooley’s work will be working to identify and understand risk and protective factors at the individual, family, and system levels in order to improve the well-being of foster youth, parents, and child welfare professionals.

Mentors receive $1,000 for research support, and mentees receive a course release, up to $2,000, plus travel funds up to $500 to visit a Program Officer.

Special Statement in the Aftermath of Hurricane Dorian

Looking due east toward the Bahamas, just 60 miles away from FAU’s nearest beach.

Earlier this week, our neighbors in the Bahamas, specifically in the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama Island, were catastrophically impacted by Hurricane Dorian. We recognize that there will be many more weeks and even years of recovery that take place. While we are still learning of the full impact of the storm, what we know for sure is that our Bahamian brothers and sisters are a strong, resilient group who will rise from Hurricane Dorian’s aftermath. That said, they are in tremendous need of your support. The Phyllis & Harvey Sandler School of Social Work encourages all students, alumni and all friends of the Sandler School of Social Work to get involved in the relief efforts aiding those most significantly impacted by the storm. From donating much-needed supplies, to participating as a volunteer, to making a monetary donation to organizations equipped to help, there are many ways you can make a difference right away.

Click here for ways you can get involved today.  Thank you for your generosity.

FAU Excellence in eLearning Award Winner

Congratulations to Brandy Macaluso, who was just awarded the 2019 FAU Excellence in eLearning Award for Adjunct Faculty! This honor comes with a $1,000 stipend, a certificate, a digital badge and opportunities to serve as a leader in future FAU eLearning Community of Practice events.

5th Annual Behavioral Health Conference Presenters

Dr. Keith Platt (left) and Dr. Christine Spadola (right) both presented at the United Way 5th Annual Behavioral Health Conference.

Dr. Platt presented on “Mindfulness-Based Intervention in Substance Use Disorder: Evidence of Relapse Prevention”.  Dr. Spadola, who co-presented with graduate student Cindy Wilks (center), spoke on “Promoting Sleep Health to Promote Mental Health”.

Cindy was also recently awarded a scholarship from the International Association for Social Work with Groups (IASWG) and was invited to speak at their annual symposium in New York earlier this month.

“I Never Knew I Could Have a Major Impact”

Tarcel King graduated with her Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree in Fall 2018  from the FAU Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work and has recently been accepted into the Master of Social Work (MSW) program here at FAU. She is also an Outreach Peer Specialist at The Lord’s Place, a non-profit organization committed to “breaking the cycle of homelessness”.  Check out this touching story of how Tarcel is making an impact in the lives of individuals and families through her work at The Lord’s Place:

“Helping Helen” – published by The Lord’s Place on May 15, 2019

Change Agent of the Year Faculty Award

During their April 17 awards ceremony, the FAU Weppner Center for LEAD & Service-Learning named Instructor Robin Rubin, Instructor in the FAU Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work, the Change Agent of the Year. Rubin was nominated by Emily Kilgore, a senior social work student and member of the Elite Owls.

“Receiving this award that is student-nominated means so much to me,” Rubin said. “Making a difference in the lives of students at FAU is my passion!”

Congratulations, Class of 2019!

On Thursday, May 2, 2019, 289 bachelor students, 139 masters students and 9 doctoral students – including the inaugural cohort of the first Doctor of Social Work program (DSW) in the state of Florida – accepted their diplomas from the College for Design and Social Inquiry at Florida Atlantic University. To all of our graduates, it has been our pleasure to have you in our classrooms and to watch you grow and learn in your programs.

Whether you are continuing your education or ready to apply your knowledge in the world, we look forward to watching your next chapter unfold. Remember that we are here for you and rooting for your success each step along the way.

As you move forward into your future, remember the words of Dr. Manny Gonzalez, DSW Program Coordinator and Associate Professor in the Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work, “Know what you know, know what you don’t know, but know what you know well.”

Be well and best wishes!

  • 28 Bachelor of Architecture
  • 121 Bachelor of Arts
  • 21 Bachelor of General Studies
  • 10 Bachelor of Public Management
  • 18 Bachelor of Public Safety Administration
  • 62 Bachelor of Social Work
  • 18 Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning
  • 11 Bachelor of Urban Design
  • 2 Master of Nonprofit Management
  • 5 Master of Public Administration
  • 1 Master of Science
  • 127 Master of Social Work
  • 4 Master of Urban and Regional Planning
  • 2 Doctor of Philosophy
  • 7 Doctor of Social Work

Want to explore the degree programs in the College for Design and Social Inquiry at FAU? Call our Academic Advising Team today: (561) 297-2316

Spring 2019 Commencement Gallery


Explore FAU 2018 – College Expedition

More than 100 prospective students and family members visited the College for Design and Social Inquiry during the “College Expedition” portion of Explore FAU 2018.  It was a great opportunity for Owl hopefuls to visit the colleges and departments they’re most interested in and speak with faculty and existing students about what it would be like to be a student in their respective degree programs.

FAU Graduate Research Day + AFTA Scholarship Recipient

MSW student Haidee Cano represented the Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work well at the FAU Graduate Research Day and won first place in Community Engaged Research. Morgan Cooley, Assistant Professor, also served as a judge at this event.

Cano is also the recipient of an American Family Therapy Academy (AFTA) Diversity Scholarship and will attend the AFTA Conference in Oakland, Calif., this June.

Congratulations, Haidee!

Students Visit Tallahassee for Legislative Education and Advocacy Day

On April 3rd, 2019, 67 undergraduate and graduate students and two faculty members – Associate Professor LeaAnne DeRigne, Ph.D., and Assistant Professor Danielle Groton, Ph.D. – from the Sandler School of Social Work attended Legislative Education Advocacy Day (LEAD) in the Florida state capital of Tallahassee. This annual event encourages students and professional social workers to “stand up and speak out on important issues facing the social work profession in today’s legislative arena… supporting legislation that impacts our profession and our clients,” according to the National Association of Social Workers – Florida Chapter (NASW-FL), which represents approximately 4,500 social workers throughout the state.

This year’s legislative priorities included:

  • Increase funding and accessibility for mental health with a focus on school safety.
  • Increase behavioral health services to address the opioid crisis in Florida.
  • Promote and support legislative efforts and policies that are aligned with social, economic and environmental justice and oppose policies and actions that are not.
  • Promote Telehealth and social work mobility licensure legislation.

Reflections on the New Zealand Mosque Shootings

On behalf of the Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work, we extend our deepest condolences to the victims and their families, and our sympathy, support, and love for the Muslim community in New Zealand and around the globe.

As we learn the details of the March 15thshooting that killed 49 worshippers and wounded many others in two Christchurch mosques, we may feel shocked, angry, and sad. A house of worship is supposed to be a sanctuary, a refuge for prayer, reflection, and community comfort. That the alleged gunman would broadcast live footage of the mass murder on social media makes the situation even more disturbing and cruel.

We must not allow these horrifying events to spawn further acts of Islamophobia, White supremacy, or violence. We must counter the narratives of hate and intolerance with the messages of acceptance and respect for the dignity and worth of all people, regardless of religion, ethnicity, refugee status, or other social identity affiliation. We must identify people at risk of committing violence and intervene in a compassionate way to prevent such atrocities. We may not have all the answers, but inaction is not an option. Even small acts of kindness, respect, awareness, compassion and caring may have powerful effects.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, March 19th, 2019 from 9:00 am – 4:30 pm, our School in partnership with the FAU Brain Institute and the FAU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, will host the 2019 Violence Summit, which offers a series of workshops discussing violence from different perspectives.  Our keynote speaker is Dr. Jeremy Richman, Yale University Department of Psychiatry and father of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim, Avielle Richman.

We are honored to have such a strong showing of community support at this sold-out event. Our time together tomorrow could be an important step as we work together to tackle this complex issue and to create a community where diversity is not only embraced – but celebrated.


Naelys Luna, PhD
Professor and Director
Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work

Broward County Schools’ Social Work Intern of the Year

Congratulations to our Master of Social Work, Jennifer Karson, who was just named Broward County Schools’ Social Work Intern of the Year! We sat down with Jennifer for a quick Q&A to see what she has planned once she graduates with her MSW degree in May.

Q: What does it mean to you to be awarded this honor?
Receiving this award is such an honor for me, as I believe a social worker’s role in a school is critical to the growth and achievement of the students and their families. Throughout my internship with Broward County Public schools, I have been fortunate enough to work in all levels of the school setting, including individual and group counseling with students, community outreach for families in need, and working with the school’s administrative staff and teachers on ways to increase social-emotional learning throughout the school. This award is very meaningful to me because of how meaningful this internship has been to both my professional and personal development.

Q: What role has the Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work at FAU played in your journey thus far?
The Sandler School of Social Work could not have been a better choice for me to receive my Masters in Social Work. It has provided me with the opportunities necessary to challenge and support my professional and personal development. Each professor and member of the Sandler School of Social Work ensure that each student is receiving the necessary clinical knowledge and practice experience to move forward and start a career after graduation as a competent and caring social worker.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation, I plan on continuing to work with youth in an educational/school setting and work toward gaining my licensure.

Q: What would you ultimately like to become in your social work career?
I ultimately would like to be a School Social Worker, but I also have a passion for advocacy and policy development so I am hoping to be in a position in the future that includes the two.

Q: What advice do you have for incoming freshmen who are considering studying social work?
Really explore all the opportunities that come your way so you can find what you are truly passionate about. And once you find what that is, take the initiative and immerse yourself in the field of social work through practice and coursework, and take advantage of everything this field has to offer!

We look forward to watching Jennifer’s exciting future continue to unfold!

National Association of Social Workers – FL Chapter Awards Top Honors

The Florida Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers recently awarded their annual top honors. Congratulations to these familiar faces who were among the big winners!

Palm Beach Unit

Assistant Professor Heather Howard, MSW, Ph.D., LICSW – “Social Work Educator of the Year”
Master of Social Work student Haidee Cano – “Social Work Student of the Year”

Broward Unit

Instructor David Landsman-Wohlifer, Ph.D., LCSW – “Social Work Educator of the Year”
Doctor of Social Work student Taryn Jamarillo – “Social Work Student of the Year”

SUDTalks 2019 Tickets on Sale Now

The Delray Beach Drug Task Force, in association with the FAU Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work, is proud to present SUD Talks 2019 (short for Substance Use Disorder Talks, a la the wildly popular TED Talks series, which features brief, eye-opening lectures).

SUD Talks is an annual, must-see event open to students, faculty, staff, and the South Florida community. Hear dynamic and engaging speakers deliver compelling messages surrounding substance use disorder: prevention is essential, treatment works, and recovery is attainable and sustainable. Then walk away filled with hope and an understanding of how we can all reduce stigma and make a difference!

Why Now
Substance Use Disorders have reached pandemic proportions in our country and the battle against the ever-rising tide of addiction is never ending. Come join us on March 9, 2019 and hear how others are making a difference and how you can too. Come hear how all of us can change the way we think, feel, believe, and treat Substance Use Disorder across the United States.

Your Ticket Makes a Difference
The money raised from this event provides scholarships for Social Work students attending the Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work at FAU and funding for the programming efforts of the Delray Beach Drug Task Force.

Featured Speakers

  • Kathryn Helgaas Burgum: First Lady of North Dakota and recovery advocate
  • Andrew Burki: Founder of Life of Purpose Treatment and Director of Public Policy for City Line Behavioral Healthcare Group
  • Susan Cheever: acclaimed best-selling author
  • Dr. Heather Howard: Assistant Professor in Social Work at FAU
  • William Cope Moyers, Master of Ceremonies: Vice President of Public Affairs and Community Relations for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation
  • Scott Strode: Founder & National Executive Director of The Phoenix

Where to Be and When
SUD Talks 2019 will take place on Saturday, March 9th from 3:00-5:30 PM, followed by a Q&A, at the FAU University Theatre. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit

Chances are, we all know someone who will benefit from this message of hope. Thank you for spreading the word!

2019 Division of Research Mentoring Award Winner

Dr. Morgan Cooley, Assistant Professor, was awarded the Research Mentoring Award 2019 by the FAU Division of Research for the 2019 calendar year term. “This award reflects the high opinion of the review group concerning the quality of [Morgan’s] proposed mentoring activities and the likelihood to succeed in her proposed activities,” according to the DoR’s announcement letter. Congratulations, Dr. Cooley!

2018 Alumni Talon Award Winner

Robin Rubin, MSW was honored at the FAU Talon Awards on November 8th as part of the 2018 Homecoming festivities. She was selected as the Alumni Talon Award winner for her commitment to teaching others to build their reservoir of position emotions, which she shares in her course entitled Social Work and Positive Well-Being in the Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work.

Robin Rubin also spearheads the annual Phyllis Sandler Heart of Social Work event, which helps to fund scholarships for students, and she was an integral part of the Sandler’s generous gift, which named the School. Congratulations Instructor Rubin!

MSW Student Named Minority Fellow by Council on Social Work Education

The Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work is pleased to recognize Dre Johnson for being awarded a Minority Fellowship from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Johnson is one of only 40 students nationwide to receive this prestigious designation.

“Being named a CSWE Minority Fellow has truly been one of the most gratifying moments of my life,” Johnson said. “To me it means the voices of those who live between the margins will be heard. It speaks toward the collective work of a village and hopefully inspires other minorities to pursue their dream.”

In addition to being an Honorable Owl, Johnson is an experienced lobbyist, educator, and advocate who has published research on Systematic Racism and Equality – but his journey did not start here. Johnson was born and raised in New York, where he attended the State University of New York College at Brockport. There, Johnson earned the opportunity to become a member of the prestigious Phi Alpha Social Work Honor Society. With his determination and ambition, Johnson decided to extend his education by studying African & African-American studies at the University of Ghana, located in West Africa.

Johnson is conducting research with professors about the evolution of clinical social work and how social workers can play a role in preventing mass shootings in schools. He will present on this topic at the NASW-FL Annual Social Work Conference, in June. In his internship at Broward County Public Schools, Johnson serves as a dependency court liaison, helping support children and families entering the foster care system by providing a link to direct services in the community and working with students to meet their mental health needs.

To remain motivated, Johnson relies on his favorite motivational quote from human rights activist Malcolm X: “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

See Dre Johnson’s Portfolio

Watch Dre present to the Broward County Public Schools Foster Care Program Office regarding a resolution to make November National Adoption Month, and check out their Tweet below:

View on Twitter

Senior Social Work Student Crowned Homecoming Queen 2018

Senior social work student Tajae Stringer believes that actions, not popularity, are what defines a person’s character, and this is a personal creed she has been practicing long before she was named Queen. Tajae has service hours on her transcript dating back to Fall 2015, her first semester at FAU, and she was on the Dean’s and President’s List in both Fall 2017 and Spring 2018.

After being nominated by her former sorority sister, completing an application, essay, and interview, and then being selected by her peers in a campus-wide vote, Tajae was named Homecoming Queen during the Saturday, November 10th homecoming football game.

How did you feel when you were on the field before your name was announced?

TS: Prior to hearing the announcement that I had won, I was soooooo nervous. I didn’t realize how many people were in the stands until I was on the field and saw them all looking at me. Right before we headed out to the center of the field, I heard some of my friends screaming my name, and hearing them definitely calmed my nerves a lot.

What does it mean to you to be named Homecoming Queen?

TS: Many times, in movies, the winning homecoming royalty members are typically extremely popular and viewed as the faces of their school. However, I do not believe that homecoming royalty should be determined by one’s popularity, but instead by their actions. I live by the quote, “actions speak louder than words” because, regardless of who you are or what title you have in front of your name, the longest impression you will leave on others is through your own personal actions.

FAU Homecoming 2018 Queen and King, Tajae Stringer and Juwan Hayes

FAU Homecoming 2018 Queen and King, Tajae Stringer and Juwan Hayes

What is your advice for students just starting their college careers at FAU?

TS: I came to FAU from Connecticut not knowing anyone in the state at all. It was quite overwhelming, but I knew that if I wanted to enjoy my experience here, I would have to get involved. Since I have been here, I have joined the Mentoring Project, Major Platforms, Women Empowerment Club, National Council of Negro Women, Fashion Forward, and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.

I have also worked at the Center for Teaching and Learning and as a Resident Assistant in Heritage Park Towers. In addition to my campus involvement, I have also been volunteering at Pearl City CATS since my freshman year as a tutor for the children at their after-school program. Through all of my involvement, I have really gotten the chance to build connections with so many wonderful individuals and give back to my community.

How does it feel to represent the Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work at FAU with your crown?

TS: It’s a true honor. My experience with the Phyllis and Harvey Sander School of Social Work has been nothing short of amazing. Ever since I started taking more of my core classes for my major, every professor, advisor, and classmate I’ve met has made such a positive impact in my life, and I can’t wait to make the same type of impact in the future when I am a social worker. It truly is amazing to be surrounded by such supportive individuals who care to make a difference in the lives of others.

What are your plans after graduation?

TS: I am currently interning at the Department of Children and Families (DCF) in West Palm Beach. I shadow the Child Protective Investigators when they go out on their cases and when they go to court for shelter hearings. I am hoping to be accepted into the MSW Advanced Standing Program here at FAU after I graduate. In the future, I would love to start my own non-profit organization for children who come from low-income families to help support their academics and provide them with the necessary resources to do so.

Workers Without Paid Sick Leave Endure Financial Worries


Many Americans, even middle-class earners, are living paycheck-to-paycheck. While worrying about making ends meet is a common concern for many Americans, new research shows that it is even more troublesome for working adults without paid sick leave.

A study by researchers at Florida Atlantic University and Cleveland State University, published in the Journal of Social Service Research is the first to investigate the relationship between paid sick leave and financial worry. Even when controlling for education, race, sex, marital status, employment and insurance, the researchers have shown a positive association between not having paid sick leave and reporting financial worry.

Results show that Americans without paid sick leave were more likely to worry about both short-term financial issues like housing expenses, as well as long-term financial issues such as retirement or future bills for an illness or accident. The highest odds of reporting worry were associated with normal monthly bills. Indeed, respondents were 1.59 times more likely to report being “very worried” about these bills. Similarly, respondents who lack paid sick leave were 1.55 times more likely to report being “very worried” about paying rent, mortgage or other housing costs compared to workers with paid sick leave.

Concern about making the minimum payment on credit cards was statistically significant, too. The average U.S. household credit card debt topped $16,000 in 2017. Conversely, workers with paid sick leave were less likely to report worrying about common financial obligations.

“For Americans who are working without paid sick leave, a day lost can translate into lost wages or even place their employment in jeopardy. This contributes to the shaky financial situation in which many families already find themselves,” said LeaAnne DeRigne, Ph.D., senior author and an associate professor of FAU’s Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work within the College for Design and Social Inquiry. “Given worry’s known relationship to health, mental health, and employment productivity, findings from our latest study are really disconcerting.”

For the study, the researchers used the National Health Interview Survey 2015 data release and sampled 17,897 working adults between the ages of 18 and 64 in the U.S. in current paid employment. More than 40 percent of the sample size did not have paid sick leave, more than half were female, more than half were married, nearly three-quarters had some college education; and the majority (62 percent) were non-Hispanic white. The average age was 41.2 years, the mean family size was 2.6 persons; and more than 79 percent worked full-time.

Paid sick leave allows employees to balance work and family responsibilities while also managing their own health and that of their family members. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 68 percent of Americans and only 31 percent of part-time workers have access to paid sick days. Hispanic workers have the lowest access rates at only 45 percent. Only the U.S. and Japan do not mandate a national sick leave benefit.

“The costs of providing sick leave benefits may be lower than employers think when taking into account the costs of workers coming to work when they are sick or performing sub-optimally,” said Patricia Stoddard Dare, Ph.D., co-author and a professor in the School of Social Work at Cleveland State University. “Both employers and policy makers should consider the potential cost savings associated with offering a few guaranteed paid sick days.”

In their prior research, DeRigne and Stoddard-Dare showed that workers without paid sick leave benefits also reported a statistically significant higher level of psychological distress. They were 1.45 times more likely to report that their distress symptoms interfered “a lot” with their daily life and activities compared to workers with paid sick leave. Those most vulnerable: young, Hispanic, low-income and poorly educated populations. Their other research findings also showed that working adults without paid sick leave were three times more likely to have incomes below the poverty line and were more likely to experience food insecurity and require welfare services.

With this latest study, DeRigne and Stoddard-Dare have identified another vulnerability among these workers – an increased risk of financial worry. The researchers stress that mandating paid sick leave benefits may provide an additional safety net to support working families, especially low-income households for which a day of lost wages can be very difficult to absorb.

“The risk and fear of losing one’s job due to illness related absences can lead to people working while sick, which has serious public health implications especially as we are entering peak flu season,” said DeRigne. “Our research is providing further evidence of the importance of paid sick leave benefits to the economic health of families and in general to society.”

Co-authors of the study are Cyleste Collins, Ph.D., Linda M. Quinn, Ph.D., and Kimberly Fuller, Ph.D. from Cleveland State University.

Our Reflections on the Shooting Tragedy in Pittsburgh, PA

On behalf of the Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work, we express our heartfelt sorrow and condolences to the family and friends of the 11 members of Etz Chaim (Tree of Life) Synagogue who were tragically killed while praying and studying Torah on the Sabbath. We know the impact of this anti-Semitic attack goes well beyond Tree of Life, affecting individuals across the country, abroad and Jewish communities.

As we reflect on this act of violence—as well as recent bomb threats, murders motivated by racism and homophobia, and other acts of hate—we may feel sad and disillusioned. In these challenging times, it is and more important than ever to maintain our resolve to make things better, to help heal the world. Despite increased incidents of anti-Semitism, racism, and bigotry, we also see acts of bravery, compassion, altruism and hope. The responses of law enforcement personnel and medical professionals in Pittsburgh were truly heroic. The outpouring of love and support from people of many different faiths, beliefs, and cultures has shown that we can come together and begin to heal.

As we move forward, each of us can make a difference. We can reach out to those of different backgrounds and beliefs, building bridges, opening communication, and learning about each other. We can challenge bigotry by promoting greater understanding, respect and acceptance. We can advocate for legal and social policy reforms to foster safety and security for all. We can enhance social work and mental health services to help identify people at risk and offer early intervention and support. We can also become more involved politically to ensure that our leaders focus on issues of safety, security, equality, and acceptance. Even small acts of social action, advocacy, kindness, and compassion may have significant effects.

“Shalom” (peace) is not just a greeting or a prayer; it is an action that we must take.

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