School of Social Work

No. 28 M.S.W. Program in the U.S.

Dr. Karen Chartier of the VCU School of Social Work is participating in three sessions at the Society for Social Work and Research Conference in Washington, D.C., Jan. 16-19.

How many times have you presented at SSWR?
I have presented at SSWR every year since coming to VCU in 2013.

Portrait of Dr. Karen Chartier, smiling
Dr. Karen Chartier, associate professor, VCU School of Social Work

Why is it important to present research and connect with colleagues at a conference like this?
Conferences like SSWR are a great opportunity to listen and learn about the work that others are doing. It might spark a new idea or future research project or generate a solution to an obstacle you have come up against with your own project.

What do you like best about the SSWR conference?
SSWR is one of the conferences where I get to see and catch up with colleagues from other universities that I have met over the years. It is amazing to me the friendships that I have developed with colleagues who I see once or twice a year. That part I really enjoy.

Of the presentations or events you are participating in this year, do you have a favorite; and if so, why?
I cannot say I have a favorite. However, I am looking forward to presenting as a part of a round table panel with four social work researchers from other universities. We will be talking about our experiences having a NIH career development award. My NIH K01 award, “Ethnicity and Alcohol Dependence: Phenotypes, Genes, and the Social Environment,” is what brought me to VCU to collaborate with faculty in our School of Social Work and from other disciplines across the university.

Can you share any details about the origins and/or takeaways from the projects on which you are presenting?
(Ph.D. student) Leah Bouchard’s poster and (Ph.D. candidate) Keith Watts’ poster came out of a course I taught in the Ph.D. program. When I started teaching the course, I heard that students were looking for more “hands-on” experiences in their coursework. To this end, we used VCU’s Spit for Science student survey data. Spit for Science is a longitudinal survey of behavioral and emotional health in a sample of VCU undergraduate students from their freshman to senior years and beyond.

School of Social Work Ph.D. students received the survey codebooks and dataset, developed individual data analysis plans, and carried out the steps for testing their proposed hypotheses. The course also involved a focus on dissemination. Each student gave a research talk as a part of the course and, as such, finished with a completed research project that they could present at a conference if they chose. This is one of a number of ways that Leah and Keith started to develop their own research agenda starting in their first year of the program.

All or most faculty are also presenting with students. Can you talk about the importance of this collaborative experience, from both the faculty and student perspectives?
I have described on many occasions how lucky I was to be supported by strong mentors, both during my doctoral program and in the years after. As a faculty member, I think it is important to do what you can to pass that experience forward.

View a complete list of all VCU social work presentations from #SSWR2020.

Categories Faculty and staff, Research
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