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GCSW PhD Students Reflect on Recent Publications



October 29, 2020

(HOUSTON, TX) - Impact factor journals Social Work and Child Welfare recently published articles co-authored by current Ph.D. Students Holly Davies (MSW '20) and Lindamarie Olson, respectively. 

Holly Davies' article "COVID-19 and first responder social workers: A mental health storm" was co-authored with Professor Monit Cheung. The article aims to qualitatively analyze the mental impacts of stress on front line social workers.

Lindamarie Olson's article, "Social work degrees and Title IV-E stipend: Predictive factors for worker retention in public child welfare" was co-authored with Professors Patrick Leung and Monit Cheung. The article seeks to gain a better understanding of those that operate within the child welfare system. 

We asked Holly Davies and Lindamarie Olson and to share how their time at the GCSW has influenced how they approach social work and their hopes for how their research will positively impact the profession. 


Name: Holly Davies
Graduation Year from the GCSW: MSW '20  
Pronouns: She/Hers

Why is it essential for us to better understand how COVID-19 impacts social workers on the front lines?

Social workers advocate for social justice and often work with individuals, families, and communities who are marginalized or have the least access to resources and health care in Houston and are the quintessential helping profession. 

Often, social workers focus on others' needs first. It is incredibly important to spotlight these workers who are working tirelessly to help others cope with COVID-19. On top of work challenges, these workers may be simultaneously facing personal challenges, such as a shortage of PPE. These factors place them at risk for contracting COVID-19 themselves.  

Who inspired you to continue your education in social work?

Many people have helped me on this path to where it isn't easy to choose! While I have always wanted to get my Ph.D. and commit to a higher level of academic research and service, it was during the GCSW trip to Ireland in 2018 that made the difference for me. It was over dinner with Dr. Cheung, Dr. Leung, and a fellow Ph.D. student, John Bickel, that they persuaded me to consider pursuing further education seriously. All three of these people are a personal inspiration in how a social worker can be compassionate and fiercely intellectual at the same time. Their generosity in volunteering time beyond their official commitments to nurture a new generation of social workers is commendable. Each one has provided mentoring, problem-solving guidance, and supported me on this journey. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have so many colleagues, professors, and friends who have encouraged me to pursue higher education.

What are some goals you hope to achieve during your time at the GCSW? 

I hope that this article serves as encouragement to fellow students to reach for the stars and pursue the academic passions that brought them to social work in the first place. I see this recent publication as a springboard and am working on more quantitative research, which I hope to publish. Social workers need to find their voice on the issues that interest them and share their knowledge with the world; that way, we can make it a more equitable and just society for all, where we are all free to pursue our dreams and live up to our potential.

Why should social workers be included in the conversation when it comes to mental health? 

Up to 65% of all mental health services in the USA are provided by clinical social workers (Reference). Social workers must have a seat front and center in mental health discussions. Social workers are often the "boots on the ground" who first notice what is amiss and awry in new situations such as COVID-19. As the initial lockdowns began in the Houston area, social workers were busy ensuring clients – especially those who are most vulnerable – were protected and safe. They advocated for rent relief, expanded PPE, ensured that victims of interpersonal and domestic violence were safe, and found solutions to all of the new issues COVID-19 thrust upon our city. Mental health is of paramount importance because it often affects physiological health and our ability to live full, creative, and fulfilled lives.

How has the GCSW helped prepare you for your recent publication?

I think the program has all the fundamental components to grow the next generation of academic social workers who aim to improve the world through research and publication. I am thankful for the MSW program. I always felt encouraged by the professors and staff to reach the next level and grow in my writing and research. I'm very grateful to my mentor this year, Dr. Cheung, who afforded me the opportunity to co-author an article for the NASW press and guided me to follow my passion for combining writing with a social work research perspective.



Name: Lindamarie Olson 
Pronouns: She/Hers

Why is it important for us to better understand the retention rates of social workers who operate within the child welfare system?

We need to understand the factors that affect retention and turnover to inform the child welfare system about significant changes they can make that will lead to a more productive workforce. For example, a past study conducted by the CWEP team led to Child Protective Service workers gaining a $12,000 salary increase through the Department of Family and Protective Services. The translation of research such as this to practice and policy can transform the worker’s individual lives, those they serve, and the system they operate within.

Who inspired you to continue your education in social work?

When I was in my BSW program, I worked at a lockdown residential treatment facility for adolescents. The case of one adolescent had a profound impact on me and how I now view the world. He had experienced significant trauma throughout his life yet remained courageous and hopeful for what was to come. His story and the countless others I heard that summer ignited my passion to better understand the effects of trauma on both the brain and behavior and how to serve youth who interact with both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems in the best way.

What are some goals you hope to achieve or have already achieved, during your time at the GCSW? 

The main goal in front of me now is to complete my dissertation. However, during my time at the GCSW, I have reached many goals, such as publishing, presenting at national and international conferences, and receiving a dissertation grant.

Our college’s vision is “to achieve social, racial, economical and political justice, local to global,” how does your recent publication fit into that vision? 

Our recent publication fits into this vision as it shines a light on the economic justice needed within the child welfare system across the world. We were able to present these findings at CSWE and an international conference last year. At the international conference, we were able to talk to leaders from around the world who are seeking to do this work. Disseminating our findings globally and encouraging other scholars to create a child welfare system that is just at every level is one step in achieving our college’s mission.

How has the GCSW helped prepare you for your recent publication? 

I worked for Dr. Leung and Dr. Cheung as an RA on their CWEP team for three years. I am grateful for their dedication and commitment to public child welfare and developing me as a professional through many opportunities to write, conduct data analyses, work on grants, and network with leaders at DFPS that prepared me for this recent publication.