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Congratulations to Professor Rachel Venema, who won the UIC Graduate College Outstanding Thesis Award.  There were four awards for each division in the graduate college, and Professor Venema received the award for the Behavioral Sciences Division.

Prof. Venema & Her Advisor Prof. Venema's Award Ceremony

Professor Venema with her advisor, Dr. Amy C. Watson.


Congratulations to Professor Rachel Venema, a recipient of the 2012 Alice Dan Dissertation Research Award from the Center for Research on Women and Gender at UIC.  Professor Venema received this award for her study entitled "Police Officer Decision Making in Reported Sexual Assault Cases.”  The study aims to contribute to the understanding of how our criminal justice system views and responds to the gender-based violence issue of sexual assault.

Professor Joe Kuilema was supported by the Sociology and Social Work Department’s Deur Award Fund to attend the seminar “Justice: Theory Meets Practice in Honduras” from June 18 to 29, 2012, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.  Seminar attendees grappled with questions relating to Biblical and philosophical definitions of justice, causes of injustice, and practical ways to work towards justice.  These questions were thought about theoretically but also in the context of practice, specifically through encounters with the Association for a More Just Society, a Honduran non-governmental organization co-founded by Calvin sociology professor Kurt VerBeek, and Transform Honduras.  The seminar was also featured in the Huffington Post  Professor Kuilema will use this experience to strengthen the social work capstone seminar content in the areas of justice, human rights, and advancing social justice.

Professor Lissa Schwander spent 6 weeks in Jamaica this summer collecting data for her dissertation “Gathering together: The role of church-based social networks in facilitating Jamaican migration.”  For this study, Professor Schwander is interviewing church members/regular attenders at three Protestant churches in Kingston, Jamaica, to explore the role the church community plays in facilitating migration of individuals and families.  She received a Michigan State University Graduate Office Fellowship to support this research.

Professor Kristen Admiraal is receiving support from the American Cancer Society-Michigan Cancer Research Fund doctoral level Training Grant in Oncology Social Work.  Professor Admiraal received this award for her project titled “Quality of Life Outcomes Among Older Adults with Colorectal Cancer.”  Her work takes an ecological approach to understanding how the social and psychological health of older adults is affected by a diagnosis of colorectal cancer.


Social work profs work to set up social work program in Liberia

A team of Calvin social work faculty has worked for five years to develop a bachelor of social work (BSW) program in Liberia: the first of its kind in a country ravaged by back-to-back civil wars. To build the BSW program, the Calvin professors partnered with the faculty at Mother Patern College of Health Sciences in Monrovia and social work professors Judi Meerman and Greg Scott from local Kuyper College. For the complete story, go to


Social work student becomes queen mother in Ghana village

Calvin social work student Rebecca Dyer was crowned as the "development queen mother" in Adenkrebi, Ghana, on Dec. 2, 2010. Go to for more details.


Melissa Stek helps families and children become literate together

Go to and read the "RapidBlog: Schools of Hope" article by Lindsay McHolme that talks about how Americorp member Melissa Stek is making a difference in the lives of students and their families at Burton Elementary.


Social work in Liberia

On Friday, Oct. 30, Professors Joe Kuilema and Rachecl Venema gave a presentation at the NACSW Conference in Indianapolis, IN, entitled "Generals to Generalists: Student Perceptions of Social Work in Liberia." They presented preliminary findings from their research on perceptions of the social work profession among the first indigenously educated cohort of social work students in Liberia. Both Kuilema and Venema had spent three weeks in Monrovia, Liberia in January 2009 co-teaching a community development course at Mother Patern College of Health Sciences.

The conference presentation gave a brief introduction to the history of Liberia, examining the role that the United States played in the formation of the country as well as the continuing effects14-year civil war still has on the country. In addition to this background information, the presentation examined student views on what social work is, what their role and interest in it are, and what sorts of unique issues social work can address in their country. 

Conference attendees were particularly interested in how social work translates cross-culturally and internationally, as well as the extent to which violence against women was identified as a key issue by the students surveyed. Kuilema and Venema are planning to continue their research this January as part of the department's on-going partnership with the social work program at Mother Patern College of Health Sciences in Monrovia, Liberia. 


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