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 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

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.

“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!”