School of Social Work

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

Outdoor portrait image of Muna Saleh, wearing a red shirt and necklace.
Muna Saleh, a doctoral student in the VCU School of Social Work, is working on a research project centered around trauma, health and well-being in refugee communities. (Allison Bell, VCU School of Social Work)

Living in a community of Somali refugees in Rochester, Minnesota, Muna Saleh experienced the collective trauma of resettlement, though it was rarely talked about.

“Growing up in a refugee household, nestled in a larger refugee community, it kind of became a norm, some of the ways that trauma presented itself,” says Saleh, a rising third-year Ph.D. student in the VCU School of Social Work. “I never knew the time before migration, but post-migration, there were people who were really struggling with their mental and physical health, and there was a shared collective, identity-based trauma. And even the way that trauma was taught to me growing up, it was very individualized – discrete events happening to you – and there’s not a lot of talk about these collective traumas and their relationship with physical health.”

Drawing on her personal experience and with skills she developed as a clinical social worker, she is seeking ways to improve the health and well-being of refugees resettling in the U.S. – and during the 2023-23 school year earned multiple national awards to support her research.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation named Saleh one of 40 national Health Policy Research Scholars, a competitive interdisciplinary award that includes mentoring, networking, specialized workshops and funding of $30,000 for up to four years. She was also one of 10 students in the country selected as a doctoral student policy fellow for a fellowship jointly sponsored by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) and the Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education in Social Work (GADE).

“I wanted to research more about community-based participatory research, how communities see their own capacity to become resilient in their resettlement process and how they can inform policy later on down the road, since a lot of their voices are currently left out,” Saleh says.

»  See the full story at VCU News.

Categories Community, Research, Students
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