School of Social Work Plans Center For Research On Urban Social Work Practice

By Mary Beth Spina

Release Date: April 9, 1998 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The School of Social Work at the University at Buffalo has announced plans to open a research center devoted to seeking solutions to problems faced by today's urban society.

Set to open in the fall, the Center for Research on Urban Social Work Practice is the "brainchild" and long-time dream of the school's new dean, Lawrence Shulman, Ed.D. It was presented by Shulman as part of his vision statement when he interviewed for the position with Provost Thomas E. Headrick.

Shulman said a center focusing on research related to urban social-work issues "is unique among schools of social work. The emphasis on partnership with agencies and interdisciplinary collaborations reflects the school's way of moving forward on the general direction of the mission of this university."

The provost's office, he added, will fund the center's infrastructure for three years.

"Today's urban centers and surrounding communities are faced with numerous socio-economic ills in the midst of slashed or eliminated government funding and dwindling resources," Shulman noted.

Viewing these conditions as challenges rather than obstacles, Shulman said he's upbeat about the center's goals and its ability to identify factors that increase the resilience of at-risk individuals, families, organizations and communities.

"Complex social problems have no simple answers, cannot be addressed by a single profession or discipline and demand the expertise of individuals who pool ideas, expertise and resources to create solutions," he added.

With their education, background and experience, he added, the school's faculty members "are in a good position to identify problems and initiate and test new interventions," Shulman pointed out.

While the center will be located in Baldy Hall on the North Campus and associated with the School of Social Work, its projects also will be conducted on the South Campus, as well as at community-based sites. Current projects involving faculty members and researchers will come under the center's umbrella, Shulman noted. Research assistants and doctoral students also will be involved.

Shulman said a number of the projects have been funded and are in progress. He cited as an example a project working with homeless people in a Salvation Army shelter to prepare them and their children for transition to permanent housing. Other research will focus on issues including the ramifications of crime, poverty, teen pregnancy and unemployment.

Shulman announced that the center will be directed by Brenda A. Miller, Ph.D., an internationally known scholar and researcher in the area of family violence and addictions

who has served as deputy director, and then acting director, of the Research Institute on Addictions.

"Brenda Miller is an outstanding researcher and administrator; it is a real feather in our cap that we have been able to get her," he added.

Shulman said Miller will be bringing with her a grant of more than $1 million for a project on mothers' alcohol problems and children's victimization. Noting that she has obtained more than $7 million in research funding over the past 10 years, he said it's expected she will "provide mentoring and stimulus for all of our faculty at the School of Social Work in developing their own projects."

He said Miller also plans to teach an interdisciplinary seminar on research ethics and will be involved in helping the social-work faculty establish interdisciplinary contacts with researchers across the university.

Miller's research has focused on incarcerated women and their drug problems, as well as the relationship between alcohol problems and crime, including drinking and driving. During the past 10 years, her research has been on understanding the relationship between family violence/violent victimization and the development of women's problems with alcohol and other drugs. It also has expanded to focus on the effects on the children of the women whom she has studied, with the goal of developing intervention strategies.

Miller has a bachelor's degree in social welfare from the University of Illinois, Urbana. She holds a master's degree and doctorate, both in criminal justice, from State University of New York at Albany.

She is a resident of Holland, N.Y.