2025 Conference Cluster Chairs


Overview of Cluster Chair Roles and Responsibilities in the Abstract Review and Development of the Abstract-based Program Content of the SSWR Annual Conference

Cluster chairs play a significant role in the abstract review and development of the abstract-based program content for the SSWR annual conference. The multi-stage abstract review process, which is led by the cluster chairs, is intrinsic to a successful, impactful, and scientifically rigorous research conference. We could not offer the conference without the energy that volunteer reviewers, cluster chairs, and staff devote to the abstract review process.

Service Term: 3-year term
Eligibility Requirements: Prospective cluster chairs must meet the following criteria:

  • PhD in social work or social welfare (or be on a social work faculty)
  • Maintain a current program of research
  • Possess relative expertise to the SSWR clusters and topics

Recommendation Process: Every year, a number of cluster chairs rotate off. The SSWR Board, conference committee, and the Special Interest Group (SIG) conveners are asked to recommend individuals that meet the eligibility requirements.
Vetting Process: The SSWR Vice President/Conference Chair vets each of the prospective cluster chairs.  The SSWR Vice President/Conference Chair then recommends the cluster chair appointments to the conference committee and board who vote to affirm the appointments.

Abstracts submitted to the conference are categorized within 28 clusters. Each cluster is chaired by 2-4 members of the social work community for a 3-year term – in many cases we aim to appoint three co-chairs to better distribute the work. Cluster chairs have a very significant role in the abstract review process and ensuring timely notification of abstract status to authors.

Cluster chairs jointly are responsible for the following tasks in this progressive order:

  • Recruit additional reviewers (as needed);
  • Assign volunteer reviewers (each abstract is reviewed by two reviewers);
  • Complete outstanding reviews (incomplete review assignments, have conflicts of interest, or when abstract content and reviewer expertise is not a good match);
  • After the Vice President/Conference Chair oversees the abstract review score discrepancy analysis for outlying reviewer scores, the cluster chairs provide a third review for abstracts where there are outlying reviewer scores;
  • Determine abstracts acceptances across all format (individual oral papers, posters, symposia, roundtables, and workshops); and
  • Create paper sessions which contain 4-5 highly scored individual oral paper abstracts, convert highly scored papers that don’t fit thematically into a paper session to ePosters when the authors agree, and recommend prospective paper session moderators.

If you have any questions, please contact A. DeeJay Hastings, SSWR program director, dj@sswr.org.

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Download Full Cluster Descriptions and Topics (PDF)

1. Adolescent and Youth Development (ADOL)
The Adolescent and Youth Development (ADOL) cluster serves as the main track for social work and research related to the healthy development and well-being of adolescents and young adults. This cluster includes topics related but not limited to adolescent and youth experiences of violence, disconnection, homelessness, substance misuse, health and behavioral health, and criminal justice involvement.  Adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health, educational, workforce, and vocational development, and experiences in transitioning to adulthood. Work centered on youth and young adults with marginalized and intersectional identities is also supported and promoted.

Chairs: Dr. Genevieve Graff, The University of Texas at Arlington; Dr. Angela Malorni, Rutgers University; Dr. Theda Rose, University of Maryland; Dr. Yanfeng Xu, University of South Carolina

2. Aging Services and Gerontology (A&G)
The Aging Services and Gerontology (A&G) cluster serves as the main track for social work practice, policy, and research related to aging and the well-being of older adults (65 years and older). The cluster topics include long-term and palliative care, caregiving for older adults, productive aging, housing, physical, mental, and cognitive health, social networks and supports, elder abuse, health promotion and disease prevention, intergenerational relationships/grandparenting, case management, economic well-being, and technology. This cluster is particularly interested in abstract submissions on diverse, innovative approaches to aging, older adults’ health, and services that support their independence, well-being, and quality of life.

Chairs: Dr. Holly Dabelko-Schoeny, The Ohio State University; Dr. Jooyoung Kong, University of Wisconsin; Dr. Christina Miyawaki, University of Houston

3. American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian and Global Indigenous Populations (Indigenous Cluster)
The Indigenous cluster serves as the main track for social work practice, policy, and research related to Indigenous Peoples, Communities, and Populations. This cluster is particularly interested in abstracts that center Indigenous led and driven research, practice, and policy.

Chairs: Dr. Shanondora Billiott, Arizona State University; Dr. Claudette Grinnell-Davis, The University of Oklahoma

4. Asian and Asian-Pacific Islander-Focused Research (AAPIFR)
Dedicated to the comprehensive exploration of topics crucial to the health and well-being of Asian and Pacific Islander (API) communities, the API-Focused Research (APIFR) cluster serves as the primary track for social work and research within these communities. Organized into thematic categories, our focus areas include Health and Mental Health (encompassing substance use and prevention), Social and Cultural Dynamics (covering immigration, discrimination, civic participation, and culture), and Community and Policy Issues (with a focus on neighborhood/community dynamics, policy, and prejudice/discrimination). Encompassing such dynamic topics, APIFR cluster aims to illuminate the unique challenges faced by the API communities, offering a platform for abstract submissions proposing innovative approaches. We are particularly keen on contributions addressing health disparities, racial discrimination, and the enhancement of mental health interventions tailored to API communities. Your insights and innovations in these areas will contribute nuanced perspectives and solutions to the broader conference theme.

Chairs: Dr. Isok Kim, University at Buffalo; Dr. Hee Yun Lee, The University of Alabama; Dr. Saumya Tripathi, Binghamton University

5. Black and African Diaspora Focused-Research (BADFR)
The Black and African Diaspora Focused-Research (BADFR) cluster serves as the main track for social work research related to Black and African American people who descend from Africa. This cluster includes, but is not limited to, topics about the multifaceted experiences, histories, and contributions of people of African descent across the globe. Research in this area focuses on the impact of slavery, colonization, and systemic oppression on Black individuals and communities. This cluster also values scholarship that emphasizes the strengths, creativity, and agency of Black people to navigate and challenge these structures. It also explores themes of identity, belonging, migration, and cultural exchange within the context of the African Diaspora. Black and African Diaspora Focused research not only enriches our understanding of the past but also informs efforts to address present-day challenges and envisions a more equitable and inclusive future for Black communities globally.

Chairs: Dr. James Ellis, University of Michigan; Dr. McKenzie Green, Virginia Commonwealth University;  Dr. Abril Harris, University of Washington; Dr. Camille Quinn, University of Michigan

6. Child Welfare (CW)
The Child Welfare cluster is the primary track for research on the child welfare service system. This includes a broad range of programming: from prevention to intervention, family preservation, kinship and foster care, permanency/reunification, adoption, as well as system-level issues in child welfare policy, management, and workforce retention. The cluster seeks high quality research that uses innovative approaches to address challenges within child welfare services, including racial disproportionality and alternatives to traditional child welfare practice models.

Chairs: Dr. Hui Huang, The University of Texas at Arlington; Dr. Miriam Landsman, University of Iowa; Dr. Erika Lewis, University of Maryland; Dr. Abigail Williams-Butler, Rutgers University

7. Communities and Neighborhoods (C&N)
The Communities and Neighborhoods (C&N) cluster serves as the main community-focused macro social work research track. This cluster includes topics such as research on all forms of community practice including but not limited to community organizing, community building, community development, and mutual aid; research that is community-engaged, community-based participatory research (CBPR), or youth participatory action research (YPAR); research on how communities are impacted by state or federal policies and practices; and research on how communities (place-based, identity-based, and interest-based) affect their members.

Chairs: Dr. Megan Gilster, University of Iowa; Dr. Amy Krings, Loyola University Chicago; Dr. Samantha Teixeira, Boston College

8. Crime and Criminal Justice (C&CJ)
The Crime and Criminal Justice (C&CJ) cluster serves as the all-inclusive track for social work research across juvenile and adult legal systems. This cluster highlights topics such as macro, mezzo, and micro issues pertaining to juvenile and adult legal systems, life-course development of crime and delinquency, physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral health needs of individuals affected by the legal system, and research across the system continuum (prevention, intervention, treatment, reentry/reintegration). This cluster is particularly interested in research using innovative approaches – research questions, study design, methods, conceptualization – to disentangle the system and structural inequities endemic to the legal system.

Chairs: Dr. Pajarita Charles, University of Wisconsin; Dr. Aaron Gottlieb, The University of Chicago; Dr. Bo-Kyung Elizabeth Kim, University of Southern California

9. Disability (D)
The Disability cluster serves as a central track for social work research and practice focusing on disability-related issues. This cluster encompasses a broad range of topics, including but not limited to: inclusive education, accessibility in communities, disability rights and advocacy, social and employment barriers for people with disabilities, assistive technologies, health disparities in disability, mental health and disability, and intersectionality in disability experiences. We are particularly interested in abstract submissions that address innovative approaches, challenges, and solutions in the fields of disability research and practice.

Chairs: Dr. Kristina Lopez, Arizona State University; Dr. Stephen McGarity, University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Dr. Laura Wernick, Fordham University

10. Gender (G)
The Gender cluster serves as the primary track related to research surrounding/engaging topics of gender, including transgender and gender diverse individuals. Topics include, but are not limited to; sexism, ciscexism, misogyny, transmisogyny, misogynoir, gender joy, gender euphoria, gender roles, etc., as well as gender as related to health/healthcare (including sexual/reproductive health and behavioral health), employment/labor, gender wealth gap, feminist economics, education, immigration, violence, families, parenting, connection, community organizing, policy, and justice. We are especially interested in work taking a critical, intersectional, and/or feminist lens, and welcome all methodologies and methods.

Chairs: Dr. Amy Beth Castro, University of Pennsylvania; Dr. Shanna Kattari, University of Michigan; Dr. Ankur Srivastava, University of North Carolina

11. Health (H)
The Health cluster focuses on the multifaceted landscape of health and social work in health settings. It delves into the intricate interplay between social and structural drivers of health, aiming to understand their profound impact on health and disease.

Key Themes:
Epidemiology, Prevention, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Chronic Diseases: This theme explores the epidemiology, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of chronic diseases, offering a comprehensive investigation of the multifaceted dimensions. Chronic diseases include cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, HIV/AIDS, and COVID-19, among others. This theme examines the prevalence, risk and protective factors, screening and diagnosis methodologies, and treatment modalities.

Social and Structural Determinants of Health: Understanding health outcomes requires analyzing the broader social context in which individuals live. This theme investigates how social determinants such as socioeconomic status, education, neighborhood and built environments, social and community context, and healthcare access and quality intersect with structural factors like systemic racism, discrimination, and policy decisions to shape health inequities.

Social Work Roles in Health & Interprofessional Teaming: Within this theme, the focus is on the provision of healthcare services and the role of health social workers in addressing the psychosocial needs of patients as well as working collaboratively with other professions for best outcomes. It explores strategies for delivering culturally competent care, promoting patient advocacy facilitating access to resources for marginalized populations, and addressing provider secondary traumatic stress.

Health Policy: This theme delves into the development, implementation, and evaluation of health policies at local, national, and global levels. It examines policy frameworks aimed at disease prevention, healthcare financing, access to care, and the promotion of population health.

Health Equity: Central to all themes in this cluster is the pursuit of health equity. It involves addressing systemic injustices, dismantling barriers to care, and fostering inclusive policies and practices that promote equitable health outcomes for diverse populations.

By exploring these interconnected themes, the Health cluster aims to advance knowledge, inform policy and practice, and ultimately contribute to the achievement of optimal health and well-being for all individuals and communities.

Chairs: Dr. Chiara Acquati, University of Houston; Dr. Julie Berrett-Abebe, Fairfield University; Dr. Yeonwoo Kim, The University of Texas at Arlington

12. Immigrants and Refugees (I&R)
The Immigrant and Refugee Study (I & R) cluster is a hub for social work research dedicated to the multifaceted field of migration. Our cluster encompasses a wide range of topics, reflecting our commitment to comprehensively understanding the complex issues that immigrants and forcibly displaced populations face. Some key areas of focus within our cluster include forced migration (with or without recognized legal documents by the receiving country), resettlement, immigration policy (e.g. border control and migration integration policy), human trafficking, internal displacement, statelessness, war and conflict, and the intersection of mental health with (forced) migration (e.g. intergenerational trauma). At the I & R cluster, we strive to shed light on the challenges and opportunities presented by migration in a world that is increasingly on the move. We welcome abstract submissions that explore and address various aspects of immigrant and refugee experiences, from the legal and policy dimensions to the psychological and social impacts. Our cluster is particularly interested in research and contributions that delve into the often-overlooked nuances and complexities of immigration, with a commitment to promoting inclusivity and understanding. We encourage scholars, practitioners, and advocates to join us in the exploration of these vital issues and contribute to the growing body of knowledge that informs policies and practices related to (forced) migration.

Chairs: Dr. Mary Held, University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Dr. Wooksoo Kim, University at Buffalo; Dr. Mitra Naseh, Washington University in St. Louis

13. Inequality, Poverty, and Social Welfare Policy (IP&SWP)
The Inequality, Poverty, and Social Welfare Policy cluster concentrates on social policy and social work research that delves into examining, exploring, analyzing, and evaluating the impact of policy and practice innovations and interventions aimed at reducing poverty and economic inequality, promoting financial well-being, and enhancing social welfare.

Chairs: Dr. Jin Huang, St. Louis University; Dr. Kathryn Maguire-Jack, University of Michigan; Dr. Branden McLeod, University of Illinois at Chicago

14. International Social Work & Global Issues (ISW&GI)
The International Social Work & Global Issues (ISW&GI) cluster serves as a main track for social work research related to international social work and global issues. This cluster includes topics related to but not limited to comparative studies and cross-national research.

Chairs: Dr. Nataliia Gusak, Bryn Mawr College; Dr. Ifrah Magan, New York University; Dr. Proscovia Nabunya, Washington University in St. Louis

15. LatinX Focused-Research (LXFR)
The LatinX Focused-Research (LXFR) cluster is the main research track dedicated exclusively to the experiences of Latinx populations within a domestic (i.e., United States) and international context. This cluster includes topics related but not limited to: Latinx health and mental health, acculturation, social service access, implementation science, Latin American migration, community-engaged work with Latinx populations, and immigration-related issues.

Chairs: Dr. Manuel Cano, Arizona State University; Dr. María Piñeros Leaño, Boston College; Dr. Carolina Vélez Grau, Boston College

16. Mental Health (MH)
The mental health cluster serves as the main track for advancing mental health research related to culturally responsive prevention, screening, assessment, treatment/intervention, rehabilitation, policy, and evaluation. This cluster includes research on all topics related to mental health including but not limited to Depression and Anxiety Disorders; Serious Mental Illness; Mental Health Treatment and Services Co-morbidity; Systems of Care; Trauma Exposure; Trauma-Informed Care; Psychiatric Epidemiology; Prevention and Resilience; Culturally Responsive Practice; and Psychiatric/Psychotropic Medications.

Chairs: Dr. Amy Blank Wilson, University of North Carolina; Dr. Lindsay Bornheimer, University of Michigan; Dr. Quenette Walton, University of Houston

17. Military Service Members, Veterans and Their Families (MSVF)
The military service members, veterans and their families (MSVF) cluster serves as the main track focused on research about military and veteran populations. Cluster topics include military and veteran mental health, substance use/misuse, suicide, and homelessness. Additional topics include deployment stressors, combat exposures, deployment and post-deployment health, post-deployment reintegration, military sexual trauma, the military-to-veteran transition, and health services utilization in the Military Health System, Veterans Health Administration, and civilian health facilities. Additional populations of interest include military chaplains, military healthcare providers, military social workers, student veterans, women, racial and sexual minorities, military families, military spouses, military couples, and military children.

Chairs: Dr. Eric Hardiman, University at Albany; Dr. Donna Schuman, The University of Texas at Arlington; Dr. Nikki Wooten, University of South Carolina

18. Organizations & Management (O&M)
The O&M cluster concerns a wide range of research on organizational behaviors and management issues in various service fields. Most health, social, and human services are delivered within organizational settings, and many organizations engage in interdependent relationships with their environments. Thus, the cluster invites abstracts addressing the following topics at individual-level (e.g., user experience within organizations), relational level (e.g., user-provider interactions), organizational level (e.g., inter-organizational collaboration), and regional/system-level (e.g., public-nonprofit social service contracts) with various methodological approaches.

Chairs: Dr. Theresa Anasti, Washington University in St. Louis; Dr. Bridgette Davis, The University of Chicago; Dr. James Mendiberg, Hunter College

19. Race and Ethnicity (R&E)
The cluster serves as the main track for social work research related to issues, problems and analyses related to race and ethnicity. This cluster is particularly interested in abstract submissions that address pressing social problems, offer theoretical contributions, apply a critical lens and use innovative methodologies, such as historical, participatory, action-oriented, arts-based, big data and discursive methodologies. This cluster includes topics related but not limited to: Racial Policies, Issues, and Gaps, Anti-Racism, Racial and Ethnic Discrimination, Ethnic Minority Groups, Ethnic Minority Wellbeing.

Chairs: Dr. Odessa Gonzalez Benson, University of Michigan; Dr. Ryon Cobb, Rutgers University; Dr. Laila Noel, The University of Texas at Austin

20. Research Design and Measurement (RD&M)
The “Research Design and Measurement” cluster is pivotal in advancing social work research through innovative methodologies. It emphasizes the development and application of both quantitative and qualitative research designs, fostering methodological rigor and creativity. This content area is dedicated to exploring novel approaches for data collection, analysis, and interpretation, ensuring that research outcomes are reliable and impactful. It also prioritizes advancements in measurement techniques, enhancing the precision and accuracy of data in social work studies. This cluster serves as a methodological cornerstone for researchers aiming to contribute sound insights into the multifaceted field of social work research.

Chairs: Dr. Antoinette Farmer, Rutgers University; Dr. Michael Killian, Florida State University; Dr. Tanya Renn, Florida State University

21. Research on Social Work Education (RSWE)
Research on Social Work Education SSWR Cluster focuses on qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods, and conceptual ideas that highlight scholarship related to social work education. The primary aim of this track is to offer the latest and most advanced thinking regarding trends, innovations, opportunities, and challenges facing social work education with the goal of improving and enhancing the undergraduate, master’s, and postgraduate educational experience.

Chairs: Dr. Joan Blakey, University of Minnesota; Dr. Rolanda Ward, Niagara University; Dr. Ellie Wideman, Maryville University

22. School Social Work (SSW)
The School Social Work Cluster focuses on research examining, exploring, analyzing, and evaluating the role of school social work practices, interventions, and policies that influence student and school well-being. This includes, but is not limited to, research on school advocacy, policy, and leadership; school climate and culture; anti-racism, diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in schools; interprofessional collaboration; school health clinics; school discipline; student learning supports; student-teacher relationships; extracurriculars and out-of-school time activities tied to schools; school-based mental health interventions; crisis management; case management; student and family support services, and school-community partnerships.

Chairs: Dr. Samantha Bates, The Ohio State University; Dr. Laura Hopson, The University of Alabama; Dr. Kevin White, East Carolina University

23. Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SO&GI)
The Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) cluster serves as the primary track for social work and research related to the lived experiences and health outcomes of sexual and gender minorities. This cluster includes topics related but not limited to: discrimination, gender, sexual health, sexual practices, youth, intersections of identity, relationships, community, belongingness, religion, policies, and culture.

Chairs: Dr. Daniel Jacobson Lopez, Boston University; Dr. Jama Shelton, Hunter College; Dr. Keith Watts, University of Kentucky

24. Social Work Practice (SWP)
The social work practice (SWP) cluster focuses on research that advances effective, ethical, and culturally competent practice at micro, mezzo, and macro levels. Key areas of focus include intervention research and direct practice, diversity, equity, and inclusion, ethical issues, and macro practice issues including policy practice and workforce development. Submissions should contribute to evidence-based social work practice as well as advancing social work values and ethical principles and may encompass various research methodologies and specific topic areas. Though all submissions will be considered, preference will be given to submissions that demonstrate alignment with SSWR’s Grand Challenges and the conference theme.

Chairs: Dr. Otima Doyle, University of Illinois at Chicago; Dr. Ray Eads, University of Illinois at Chicago; Dr. Jessica Bagneris, University of Houston

25. Substance Misuse and Addictive Behaviors (SM&AB)
The Substance Misuse and Addictive Behaviors cluster is the primary track for social work research on substances like alcohol, opioids, marijuana, tobacco, and other drugs, and addictive behaviors such as gambling, sex, technology use, and more. Cluster-related research covers the entire lifespan and includes individuals, groups, families, and community contexts to understand substance misuse and addictive behavior dynamics. Submissions of intervention strategies, epidemiological investigations, policy analyses, assessment processes, and measurement exploration are encouraged. The cluster values innovative research that enhances recovery, deepens our understanding of root causes and prevalence, and influences societal responses to substance misuse and addictive behaviors.

Chairs: Dr. Dale Dagar Maglalang, New York University; Dr. Orion Mowbray, University of Georgia; Dr. Jennifer Putney, The University of Vermont

26. Sustainable Development, Environmental and Climate Justice (SDE&CJ)
The Sustainable Development, Environmental, and Climate Justice (SDE&CJ) cluster is dedicated to investigating and acting on the social and policy dimensions of global and local environmental change. The cluster encompasses practice, policy, and research inquiries into climate and environmental justice, including diverse dimensions such as food, water, and energy security and sovereignty, sustainable development, environmental sustainability, disaster impacts and risk reduction, intersections of migration and environmental change, as well as community impacts and actions in response to interconnected socio-environmental challenges.

Chairs: Dr. Marissa Kaloga, University of Otago; Dr. Felicia Mitchell, Arizona State University; Dr. Smitha Rao, The Ohio State University

27. Violence against Women and Children (VAWC)
The Violence Against Women and Children cluster serves as the main track for social work research, policy, and practice on gender-based violence, abuse, and harm that may include family violence, human trafficking, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and teen dating violence. The cluster is particularly interested in community-based participatory research, intersectional, mixed methods designs and intervention research.

Chairs: Dr. Meredith Bagwell-Gray, Kansas University; Dr. LB Klein, University of Wisconsin; Dr. Abha Rai, Loyola University Chicago; Dr. Leila Wood, University of Texas Houston Health

28. Work and Work-Life Policies and Programs (WWLP&P)
The Work and Work-Life Policies and Programs (WWLPP) cluster serves as the main track for social work research, policy, and practice related to labor conditions, work-life balance, and their effects on individuals and families in today’s economy. Topics include but are not limited to:

• Job conditions and dynamics: unemployment, underemployment, job quality
• Worker wellbeing: worker performance, occupational health and safety, and worker health and economic wellbeing
• Families and work: spillover of work on children and families, including economic wellbeing, parent-child relationships, mental health, child development, child care and early education programs
• Labor relations and management: unions and labor relations, management practices, occupational social work, workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion
• Work-life policies and programs: employee assistance programs; workplace and government policies, such as paid family leave; labor standards; safety net policies and programs’ intersection with work; workplace-based interventions; job training and development
• Workplace inequality: inequality at work, effects of work on social inequality

Chairs: Dr. Yoonsook Ha, Boston University; Dr. Sehun Oh, The Ohio State University; Dr. Alejandra Ros Pilarz, University of Wisconsin

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