With online education becoming increasingly popular in higher academia – and currently by necessity during this time of COVID-19 and social distancing – waves of college professors and students are finding themselves navigating the unknowns of online instruction formats and platforms for the very first time. Yet little is known about what virtual classroom techniques students feel are most beneficial to their overall learning experience.
Dani Groton, Ph.D., and Christine Spadola, Ph.D., LMHC, assistant professors in the Phyllis & Harvey Sandler School of Social Work, are bridging this knowledge gap with qualitative data that reveals seven preferences social work students have when it comes to how they learn best online. The results of this study were recently published in the journal article titled “Variability, visuals, and interaction: online learning recommendations from social work students” in the August 2020 issue of Social Work Education: The International Journal (Routledge).
“In the absence of traditional brick-and-mortar classrooms, with whiteboards, handouts, small group discussion opportunities and other tactile learning aids, it becomes even more important for us to identify the course adaptations our students need us to make so they can grasp, engage and retain the content virtually,” said Dr. Groton, lead author.
The research was conducted using three focus groups of 25 graduate and undergraduate social work students who were interviewed about their virtual learning preferences. Drs. Groton and Spadola identified 12 thematic codes, and all three groups expressed these seven codes as being the most important to their e-learning experience:
“Even though we focused on social work students, we feel their feedback is not unique to their chosen field of study,” said Dr. Spadola, co-author. “It is our hope that degree programs and higher ed institutions are able to use our data as a starting point for optimizing student e-learning experiences, and larger studies can be conducted to further investigate students’ ideal e-learning environments.”
This study was conducted as part of a research project funded by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine Foundation (AASMF).
Introducing Florida Atlantic University’s Newest College
On July 1, 2020, Florida Atlantic University (FAU) officially welcomed its newest college: the College of Social Work & Criminal Justice, which encompasses the Phyllis & Harvey Sandler School of Social Work and the School of Criminology & Criminal Justice. These two sister schools have formed a strong and lasting partnership rooted in a shared commitment to advocating for justice, mobilizing resiliency and promoting equality across our one human race.
Our nation is at the intersection of, firstly, an unprecedented global pandemic that has further illuminated the racial, health and economic disparities in our country and our world; secondly, an international movement for much-needed change in response to police brutality against Black people; and thirdly, an extremely divisive time in our nation’s history when so many are desperately seeking meaningful transformation and connections.
The College of Social Work & Criminal Justice is well-positioned to make a deep and lasting impact in these and many other challenging areas, including reentry and reintegration, child welfare, healthy aging, mental health, the opioid epidemic, addiction, human trafficking and many others critical social problems. Our nationally and internationally acclaimed faculty are passionately working to find answers through education, scholarship, and applied research and public service activities, as well as to inspire and prepare tomorrow’s social work and criminal justice leaders, scholars, practitioners and policymakers to effect positive change in the world.
The College of Social Work and Criminal Justice is headquartered in the Social Science building on the Boca Raton campus and also offers classes at the University’s satellite campuses in Davie and Jupiter. Our college offers a variety of degree programs, including:
- Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, the third largest major at FAU
- Bachelor of Social Work, the largest BSW program in the state
- Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice
- Master of Social Work, ranked third in the nation by GraduatePrograms.com
- Doctor of Social Work, the first DSW program in the state
The college also offers three specialization certificate programs in the Sandler School of Social Work:
As well as four post-graduate certificate programs:
School of Criminology & Criminal Justice
Sandler School of Social Work
We are also proud to have long-standing partnerships with more than 350 community agencies from Miami-Dade to Vero Beach, giving our students boundless opportunities to develop meaningful service learning experience and job readiness skills in their chosen field before they graduate.
The College of Social Work and Criminal Justice also houses a number of research and service centers within the Sandler School of Social Work, including the Child Welfare Institute, the Healthy Aging Academy and the Robin Rubin Center for Happiness and Life Enhancement.
The immense faculty expertise and strong community partnerships within our two schools produce graduates who are prepared to make a difference. Our alumni enter the fields of social work and criminal justice fully trained to analyze, implement and evaluate criminal justice and social welfare policies and practices; address discriminatory systems and processes; provide direct services to vulnerable populations; restore justice and promote equal access to care.
SocialWorkDegree.org 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.
Thank you to the more than 150 students, faculty, staff and friends in the community who joined us for the kick-off of “Community Conversations: An Illuminating Discussion Series at the Intersection of Social Work and Criminal Justice”.
Naelys Luna, Ph.D., MSW, interim dean of the College of Social Work & Criminal Justice, opened the event with a warm welcome and overview of our college, followed by an insightful presentation by Wendy Guastaferro, Ph.D., interim director of the School of Criminology & Criminal Justice, on the humble but mighty origins of public defenders.
Our guest panelists included Carey Houghwout, Palm Beach County Public Defender; Marcia Daley, social worker for the Public Defender’s Office; and Sevonte Miller, FAU social work alumnus and author. The conversation focused on the racial and socioeconomic inequities within the criminal justice system and how the fields of social work and criminal justice are partnering to help heal the disparities and bridge the divide. The event wrapped up with thought-provoking questions from the audience, fielded by Cassandra Atkin-Plunk, Ph.D., associate director of the School of Criminology & Criminal Justice.
The motto of our discussion series is “when we know better, we can do better”. We sincerely thank our resident experts for sharing their stories and showing all of us the many ways social workers and criminal justice professionals are now working hand in hand to help make our criminal justice system more equitable for all residents. We also thank them for sharing practical advice for how we, as a community, can raise our voices to effect positive change.
We hope you will make plans to join us for our next “Community Conversation” in early December 2020. Details 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!
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.”
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.
FAU Bachelor of Social Work student Leona Robinson is the first person in her family to attend a 4-year university. On First-Generation Celebration Day, Leona shared her story and how she’s supporting other first-generation students.
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.
Dr. LeaAnne DeRigne’s (Associate Professor of Social Work) recent research on the importance of paid sick leave benefits was published in the April issue of Health Affairs and has received wide press coverage and is being cited around the country by policy makers, lobbyists, and advocates pushing cities and states to mandate sick leave coverage. This is a wonderful example of research having an impact on real world policy changes.
Key findings from the study, which are representative of the nation, showed that regardless of income, age, race, occupation, full-time or part-time work status, health status or health insurance coverage, workers without paid sick leave were three times more likely to delay medical care than were workers with paid sick leave. They also were three times more likely to forgo needed medical care altogether. Furthermore, families of workers without paid sick leave were two times more likely to delay medical care and 1.6 times more likely to forgo needed medical care. The lowest-income group of workers without paid sick leave were at the highest risk of delaying and forgoing medical care for themselves and their family members — making the most financially vulnerable workers the least likely to be able to address health care concerns in a timely manner.