Recent MSW Graduates Named Finalists for Research Award

June 10, 2013
by Erika Braxton-White
Jessica Goodman, left, and Jennifer Brizuela

Jessica Goodman and Jennifer Brizuela are now on the short list of Master of Social Work students who took on a research project and became finalists for the California Social Work Education Center (CalSWEC) MSW Student Research Award, a program designed to encourage master’s degree-level social work students to engage in research design and implementation. 

“It is important for students to be both consumers and creators of research,” said Micki Gress, senior clinical fellow of field education and co-director of the CalSWEC Public Child Welfare and Mental Health stipend programs at the USC School of Social Work. “The CalSWEC student research award not only allows graduate-level students to participate in important research that contributes to the growth of our field, but it also gives them the opportunity to develop skills that will be valuable both academically and professionally.” 

CalSWEC, a partnership of schools of social work, public human service agencies and other related professional organizations dedicated to developing a professional social service workforce that can effectively serve California’s diverse communities, established the award program as a way to encourage and support student research that could contribute to the evidence base for policy and practice of public human services.

The program is a two-tiered process. The first tier, which recent graduates Goodman and Brizuela have already completed, involves submitting a research proposal. This year, students from 22 schools sent in proposals, and 10 were selected as finalists to proceed with conducting their research using a $250 award. The second part of the process – whose deadline is June 15 – consists of students completing their research and submitting an executive summary outlining their findings. Five winning projects will be selected to receive additional $500 awards.

Goodman and Brizuela's proposal, “Evaluation of Master's Level, Title IV-E Stipend Recipient Training,” compares the progress of students in the USC School of Social Work’s Families and Children concentration currently enrolled in the CalSWEC Title IV-E stipend program to Families and Children concentration students who are not enrolled in the program. Through a survey, they will evaluate both groups’ field practicum experiences and assess whether the group field instruction seminar that CalSWEC students take is effective in pulling together what they learn in class with what they experience in the field, which it is designed to do.

“I have always been apprehensive about engaging in research,” Goodman said. “Yet, this process of creating the proposal and launching the study really helped demystify the research process for me and sparked in me an interest that I never thought I had.”

Goodman and Brizuela participated in the CalSWEC Title IV-E stipend program, which provides financial support for California students preparing to work in the fields of public child welfare or mental health. Students who are in good academic standing and interested in working with public child welfare agencies or state, county or county-operated mental health agencies during their field placement and after graduation are eligible.

A major component of the CalSWEC training is its support and development of high-quality field instruction and supervision of social work students in the program. The group field instruction model, which was developed at the USC School of Social Work, is one pilot model currently being funded by the program and at the center of Goodman’s and Brizuela's research project. Gress and Jolene Swain, clinical professor of field education and co-director of the school’s CalSWEC stipend programs, started group instruction to deliver consistent, collaborative field education and enhanced case supervision.

“This new model not only integrates CalSWEC competencies and Council on Social Work Education policies and accreditation standards, but it does so while providing a space where students learn and practice skills in a supportive group setting,” Swain said.

Gress praised Goodman’s and Brizuela’s research efforts, which could help future MSW students at USC get the best possible field education instruction.

“The way I see it, Jessica and Jennifer are already winners,” Gress said. “The students and faculty here at USC are committed to advancing the field of social work and public child welfare, and this research award is a testament to the quality and ability of our students, as well as USC's leadership position within in the field.”