For some students, social work is more of a calling than a career, and for some, it is about social justice and advocacy. These students see social work as an avenue to help people and make a difference.

Four School of Social Work doctoral students received fellowships of $4,000 from the National Institute of Transportation and Communities. These students are Kris Hohn, Rupal Parekh, Vivian Miller and Erin Murphy. Craig Keaton, social work graduate student, also received a fellowship of $3,000 from the institute.

These recipients’ research focuses on different areas of social work while incorporating the importance of transportation.

Murphy’s research is about homelessness and the homeless population’s lack of access to transportation services and upward mobility. Murphy said she applied for this fellowship because she thought it would be a unique way to contribute to homelessness and the effects of transportation on the homeless population.

She plans to use her fellowship money to attend national and international conferences to share the findings of her research on a wider scale.

“I fell in love with the homeless population, and social work is my avenue to be able to do whatever I can to help them,” Murphy said.

Hohn heard about the fellowship from her mentor, social work professor Courtney Cronley. Her research area is health disparities and how transportation barriers can influence different ones.

Hohn said as part of the doctoral program, students apply for grants all the time, and when a grant or fellowship comes through, it’s very exciting.

“So I can use that money to help get a larger sample, a more nationally represented sample, so that I can take this research further,” Hohn said.

Parekh also heard about the fellowship from her mentor, social work professor Noelle Fields. Her research focuses on social isolation among older South Asian adults and the impact of transportation.

She plans on going to temples, talking to older people and seeing how their transportation dependence impacts their quality of life.

“This just further allows me to, kind of allow me, do this research in a deeper, more meaningful way,” Parekh said.

Miller was informed about the fellowship by her dissertation committee chairperson. She is conducting a systematic view of literature from the past 20 years related to the affect of transportation barriers on family and loved ones visiting nursing home residents.

Miller wants to focus on transportation as the barrier. She said being awarded by the fellowship feels like a great opportunity.

“Social work, to me, means advocating for at-risk, vulnerable populations and giving people that don’t have a voice a voice,” Miller said.

Keaton said professors Stephen Mattingly, Cronley and Fields informed him about the fellowship while he worked on a project during summer. He said he could not have done this without them.

“I really see this as a big privilege and opportunity to just kind of further the work that we’re doing. Not only the interdisciplinary work that we’re doing, but the work we’re doing in the School of Social Work,” Keaton said.

Keaton started working on an interdisciplinary project with the School of Social Work, computer science and civil engineering departments.

He worked on developing a smartphone app that will be tested with older adults in Tarrant County. The app can be used to assess their transportation disadvantages, track their daily transportation data and communicate with a social worker to collect quality data about their experience with transportation disadvantage.


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