2020 Social Work PhD Graduates
New grads are putting their PhDs to work transforming social work education, communities and youth-serving systems
Although most University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work doctoral students go on to careers in academia, approximately 25 percent work in other settings where they can apply their research training. Next steps for spring 2020 PhD graduates include both faculty appointments and clinical work with diverse marginalized populations. Although their post-doctoral paths are divergent, graduates Brittanie Atteberry Ash, Ceema Samimi and Jason St. Mary are united by a shared passion to advance social justice.
Brittanie Atteberry Ash, PhD ’20
Brittanie Atteberry Ash is committed to social justice within social work education — a calling that drew her to GSSW. Her transformational work will continue as an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Arlington School of Social Work, where she will teach and research issues of power, privilege and oppression while promoting justice and inclusion within classrooms and the profession. “I will continue to conduct research using an intersectional lens to deepen the discipline’s understanding of risk and resilience among people who live at the crossroads of marginalized identities,” says Atteberry Ash, whose dissertation was titled “Social Work, Social Justice, and the Causes to Which We Are Called: Attitudes, Ally Behavior, and Activism.”
Ceema Samimi, PhD ’20
Ceema Samimi recognizes the power of young people, and it was a strong focus on youth and a chance to work with Assistant Professor Shannon Sliva that drew Samimi to GSSW’s doctoral program, where their research areas included restorative justice and the school-to-prison pipeline. Samimi will continue this trajectory as an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota Twin Cities School of Social Work, where they’ll teach in the youth studies program and pursue community-engaged research about youth organizing and school discipline. “Research isn’t about people sitting around in a room writing,” says Samimi, whose dissertation is titled “A Mixed-Methods Examination of Mitigating Racial Disparities in School Discipline.” “It’s really about working with communities to figure out what is happening in the real world and how we make that make sense on paper so that we can change policies and create programs and do things to impact communities.”
Jason St. Mary, MSW ’14, PhD ’20
Jason St. Mary was among GSSW’s first cohort of MSW students to complete the Social Work and Social Justice in South Africa course, and the experience changed the path of his life and career. The course reignited a passion for community-based advocacy and research, and St. Mary set his sights on a PhD, initially planning on a career teaching and conducting research abroad. Instead, he has returned to his home in Durango, Colorado — and his clinical social work roots — where he draws on his expertise as a program director for La Plata Youth Services, applying an equity and social justice lens that is reinforced by literature and research. St. Mary also teaches in the Four Corners MSW Program and the MSW@Denver online program and is working on two books related to his dissertation research into the lived experiences of Black South African township youth.