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College of Social Work

Social, Community and Economic Development

Our research teams investigate communities from South Carolina to Tanzania, looking at identity, poverty, social capital, racial disparities and civic engagement.

Our faculty examine community from many angles. Recent research highlights include the following:

Refugee and Immigrant Communities

Faculty members explore refugee and immigrant life domestically and abroad. Our faculty are involved in major federally funded national research projects that look at undocumented youth in the United States, including South Carolina, and the impact of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Faculty are also examining the rule of law in protracted refugee crises with JUSTRAC, the cooperative agreement between the Rule of Law Collaborative, the University of South Carolina and the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. We also examine east African refugee migration patterns and the African refugee population in the United States.

Identity in an Urban Transitional Neighborhood

In a project funded by the National Science Foundation, faculty studied neighborhood attachment and collective action in African-Americans in the West End neighborhood of Atlanta, which is undergoing rapid gentrification and urbanization. To give voice to the neighborhood and empower the community to shape its own identity in the midst of change, 15 residents were recruited to take photos around the neighborhood for six months and tag them on Instagram with the hashtag #WEandUSC. Social media increased neighbors’ awareness about community challenges and assets and helped residents coalesce around shared identity. The project also gave rise to the hashtag #WestEndBendEndATL, now used by residents and business owners and printed on T-shirts.


Topics of Interest

  • The role diverse social networks play in gaining access to information and resources for community level development
  • Social capital leading to collective action for large-scale, sustainable community change
  • Domestic and international programs benefiting marginalized populations
  • Poverty alleviation programs
  • Community building programs
  • Relationships between social cognition, prejudice and stereotypes and violence
  • Youth violence prevention
  • Youth and community-based civic engagement
  • Race and racial inequalities


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Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.