Lilia Bottino, SSW ’14 says “As a writer and a musician, I have seen firsthand.” A core tenet of the training in the School of Social Work focuses on challenging structures and relationships that foster the inequities that undermine the promotion of health. Lily and other students have been taking advantage of their on-campus program’s opportunity to work directly with Add Verb—UNE’s unique and dynamic program that uses the arts for health and wellness promotion and in the curriculum.
With funding from The Bingham Program and the Van Otterloo Family Charitable Foundation, a behavioral research team has conducted three years of a longitudinal study looking at the impacts of two of Add Verb’s programs, The Thin Line (on coping with eating disorders) and You the Man (bystander engagement in dating violence/sexual assault prevention). Research team members include Nancy Shore, Ph.D., Associate Professor, School of Social Work; Peter Herrick, MSEd, Adjunct Research Professor, College of Graduate Studies; Allison Morrill, JD, PhD, Research Associate Professor; Gary Cattabriga, director of Analytics, and Cathy Plourde, MA, director of Add Verb.
Other students who have participated in the research process are Carin Stromgren SSW ‘13; Elisa Orme, SSW ‘13, and Claire Schroeder, SSW ’14. They are applying knowledge and skills learned in the classroom to work in the field: writing literature reviews, conducting focus groups, developing posters with preliminary findings, transcription, data management, and collaborating on articles to be submitted to peer reviewed journals. All of the students indicate how the opportunity to be a part of the research process has been a positive in their academics. For Lily, “It has even inspired my educational track, as I am taking the course Practice with Children, Adolescents and Parents to gain more knowledge about clinical work with youth, schools and communities.”
Elisa noted that her work on this project has helped with her abilities in other programs: “I watched [Professor Nancy Shore] do it, got instructions, then went to do it myself. It’s a lot more than just following instructions! It gave me the confidence to do things in my internship, and made me more confident to be able to go into the jail support group.
Carin, who has recently begun her first job as a social worker with teens, appreciated the chance to study an issue in depth, finding, in the process of a literature review and focus groups, a better sense of the issues and a better sense of their application within interventions. “The insight the high school students offered was striking and incredible for youth just starting to learn. The kids are really knowledgeable. If the problem of dating violence is already happening it is hard to stop. By reaching kids, the hope is that we are preventing the problem.”
Elisa added, “This research was valuable for me. I wouldn’t have engaged in any one topic to this level.” Having presented some of the preliminary findings to the Board of Trustees, Elisa was excited to have talked to Robert McAfee [M.D., Trustee Emeritus] and learn about his efforts in domestic violence and the American Medical Association over 30 years ago. “He was super excited about the research, and that we are dong prevention on this level. It’s great to see how this has progressed.”
Reflecting on her involvement in these longitudinal studies during her first year of the MSW program, Lily shared with Interim School of Social Work Director Clay Graybeal that “it has had a powerful impact on me, and I am so grateful. It has complemented my classroom experience, particularly in the Research I and II courses. I hope that other students and faculty from UNE will have the chance to get to work with or learn more about Add Verb, because it has been a truly meaningful experience to me, and has impacted me as a future social worker.”
Findings from the first three years of the studies indicate that the research subjects have an increased knowledge, are more appreciative of how serious the issues are, and an increased likelihood of taking an action either for themselves or on behalf of another person, and that these findings persist over time. The studies’ early preliminary findings have attracted attention, and more funding: When presenting at the American Public Health Association in November, 2012, Co-PI and Add Verb Director Cathy Plourde was approached by faculty from Melbourne, Australia’s Deakin University for collaboration. A cultural adaptation of the play and the education program, as well as a new research study, are now underway in the Australian state of Victoria.