Research Programs & Projects

Full-time tenured faculty at Columbia University's School of Social Work engage in multidisciplinary research drawing from their backgrounds in social work, economics, demography, sociology, public administration, neuroscience,  medicine and psychiatry, public health, and law. Working with colleagues from across Columbia and universities around the world, they have established research centers, programs and projects focused on the family, complicated grief, urban demography, workplace innovations, HIV and drug abuse intervention and prevention, criminal justice, and disability policy. The following is a partial list of their leading-edge research initiatives (click on the title for more information):

  • Center for Complicated Grief

    Founded: 2008
    Director: Katherine Shear, MD, the Marion Kenworthy Professor of Psychiatry in Social Work
    Mission: Originally the Complicated Grief Program, the Center for Complicated Grief develops treatments that can help people with complicated grief. It also trains mental health professionals on recognizing and treating this condition.
    Partnering organization: Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
    Related article: "A New Treatment Program for the Grief That Won't End," by Simone Scully (Spectrum, Winter 2013)
  • Center for Research on Fathers, Children & Family Well-being

    Founded: 2007
    Director: Ronald B. Mincy, Maurice V. Russell Professor of Social Policy and Social Work Practice
    Mission: The Center for Research on Fathers, Children & Family Well-being aims to expand knowledge and disseminate new findings on the role of fathers and father figures in the lives of disadvantaged children.
  • Center for Social Policy and Practice in the Workplace (Workplace Center)

    Founded: 1969
    Director: Lauren B. Gates, Senior Research Scientist
    Mission: The Center for Social Policy and Practice in the Workplace examines the interdependent relationship of the workforce and the workplace to facilitate evidence-based strategies to enable successful outcomes for workers and organizations alike. It works with service providers, corporations and unions throughout the nation around issues of disability, gender and substance abuse, as well as broader issues surrounding workplace diversity.
  • Columbia Population Research Center

    Founded: 2006
    Co-directors: Irwin Garfinkel, Mitchell I. Ginsberg Professor of Contemporary Urban Problems, and Constance A. Nathanson, Professor of Clinical Sociomedical Sciences (Mailman School of Public Health)
    Mission: The Columbia Population Research Center promotes the health and well-being of vulnerable populations in New York City and in more than 50 countries in the developing world through multi-disciplinary scholarly research.
  • Global Health Research Center of Central Asia

    Founded: 2007
    Director: Nabila El-Bassel, the Willma and Albert Musher Professor of Social Work 
    Co-director: Louisa Gilbert, Research Scientist
    Mission: The Global Health Research Center of Central Asia addresses a range of health threats—HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), hepatitis C, substance abuse, malnutrition, mental health—affecting the quality of life for people in Central Asia and surrounding regions.
    Related initiatives: Silk Road Project, a pilot study in the Barakholka Market; Project Renaissance, a pilot study first in Shu and then in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
  • Access to Achievement: Model Districts Education Project in India

    Launched: 2012 
    Co-directors: Nirupam Bajpai, Senior Research Scholar, Earth Institute; Denise Burnette, Professor of Social Work; and Monisha Bajaj, Assistant Professor of Education, Teachers College. 
    Mission: Access to Achievement is a collaborative, five-year demonstration project of the Columbia Global Centers (South Asia), the Government of India, and key stakeholders in primary education in India. The project draws on the experience to date of the Global Center’s Model Districts Health Project and on current scientific evidence and models of best practice to develop, implement and evaluate a high-quality, cost-effective, scalable program of primary education in two rural districts of India—one in Assam and the other in Andra Pradesh.
  • Community-Family Integration Teams (C-FIT) Project in Jordan

    Launched: 2010 by the Jordanian government with funding from UNICEF
    Co-Principal Investigators: Craig Schwalbe, Associate Professor of Social Work; Robin Gearing, Associate Professor of Social Work; and Michael MacKenzie, Assistant Professor of Social Work
    Coordinator: Rawan Ibrahim, Columbia Middle East Center
    Mission: The Community-Family Integration Teams (C-FIT) aims to develop evidence-based programs that promote the healthy growth and development of children who are victims of child maltreatment and youth who are in conflict with the law in Jordan. C-FIT has been highlighted by UNICEF as a priority initiative. 
  • Disability Research Group

    Launched: 2012, with funding from the Institute for Biotechnology Futures (IBTF)
    Principal Investigator: Michelle Ballan, Assistant Professor
    Mission: In collaboration with IBTF centers and researchers, the Disability Research Group seeks to address four specific areas that are underdeveloped in the research on quality of life for individuals with disabilities and their families: violence, sexual and reproductive health care, direct practice, and bioethics.
  • FEGS-CUSSW Research-Practice Partnership

    Launched: 2010, by the Federation Employment and Guidance Service (FEGS)
    Principal Investigator: Allen Zweben, Senior Associate Dean for Research and Academic Affairs and Professor of Social Work 
    Mission: The FEGS-CUSSW partnership is aimed at identifying, implementing, and testing best practices in the treatment, rehabilitation, and recovery of persons with mental conditions. It will support community-based training and opportunities for CUSSW faculty, researchers, and students.
  • Jordan Social Work Education for Excellence Program (JSWEEP)

    Launched: 2008, at the invitation of Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan
    Mission: JSWEEP supports the establishment of the social work profession, builds the capacity for a 21st century model for social work education, and facilitates the emergence of a cadre of social work professionals who can lead effective governmental and non-governmental social welfare organizations in Jordan. 
    Co-directors: Jeanette C. Takamura, Dean and Professor, and Nabila El-Bassel, the Willma and Albert Musher Professor of Social Work
    Coordinator:  Sara Miller
    Partners: CUSSW, Columbia Global Center Middle East, Jordan River Foundation, King Hussein Cancer Center, Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, Ministry of Social Development, National Council for Family Affairs, UNICEF, University of Jordan
  • Multiple Family Group Psychoeducation for Grandmother Caregivers and Young Adolescent Kin Affected by HIV/AIDS

    Initiated: 2012
    Directors: Denise Burnette* (Professor of Social Work) and Esther Salang Sloilwe (University of Botswana, Health Sciences, Department of Nursing)
    Web site: Centre for the Study of HIV and AIDS:
    Mission: In Botswana, one in four people is living with HIV/AIDS and 93,000 children (12% of those under age 18) are orphaned due to the disease.The majority of orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) are aged 10-14, and over half are cared for solely by grandparents--typically a grandmother. This formative research involves a systematic review or rapid evidence assessment of interventions relevant to the target problem and population and the collection of extensive qualitative data (focus groups, in-depth interviews, observations, archival documents
    and artifacts of material culture) from key stakeholders in urban, peri-urban and rural Botswana. There are two aims:
    1. to develop a low-cost, evidence-based, consumer-driven Psychoeducation Multiple Family Group (PE-MFG) intervention for grandmother caregivers and co-resident young adolescent OVC.
    2. to assess the feasibility of piloting, implementing and testing the effectiveness of the PE-MFG intervention in a large-scale RCT.
    *Professor Burnette is conducting this project as a Senior Fulbright Scholar at the University of Botswana Centre for the Study of HIV and AIDS, 2012-13.
  • Promoting Community Collaboration in HIV Research in Spain

    Initiated: 2011 
    Principal Researcher: Rogério M. Pinto, Associate Professor
    Mission: The aim of this project is to investigate the attitudes of HIV prevention services providers toward scientific research along with their involvement in evidence-based practice. Grounded in community-based participatory research theory and practice, the project compares and contrasts providers in New York City and Madrid.
  • Social Intervention Group

    Founded: 1990
    Director: Nabila El-Bassel
    Co-director: Louisa Gilbert
    Mission: The Social Intervention Group tries to advance the science of intervention and prevention research among highly vulnerable populations by addressing the concurrent problems of HIV, substance abuse, intimate partner violence, and trauma. It designs, develops, tests and disseminates innovative approaches to ameliorating and preventing such problems—recently concentrating on AIDS, substance abuse and related social ills in low-income, urban communities.
    Related Initiatives: 
    • HIV Intervention Science Training Program (HISTP) for Underrepresented New Investigators: founded in 2007; funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), with the goal of increasing the numbers of underrepresented investigators conducting HIV intervention and HIV-related health disparities research by assisting with their training; directed by Nabila El-Bassel and Associate Professor Elwin Wu, Associate Professor.
    • Multimedia Connect, a computer-supported HIV prevention intervention for couples at risk for HIV; developed in conjunction with the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL); released in 2007 with funding from National Institute of Mental Health; led by Associate Professor Susan Witte.
    • Multimedia WORTH (Women on the Road to Health), a computer-supported drug use and HIV prevention intervention for low-income, urban female offenders that addresses intimate partner violence and other gender specific risk factors for HIV; developed in conjunction with the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL); released in 2009 with funding from the National Institute for Mental Health; led by Nabila El-Bassel.
  • Studying Brazil’s National Family Health Strategy

    Initiated: 2007 
    Principal Researcher: Rogério M. Pinto, Associate Professor
    Mission: The aim of this project is to examine the role and impact of transdisciplinary teams in Brazil’s National Family Health Strategy, particularly the unique contributions of community health workers. This research is grounded in community-based participatory research theory and practice.