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Frederick E. Berry Library and Learning Commons

Salem State University: Faculty Publications 2020

Rebecca Mirick

Davis, A. & Mirick, R.G. (2021). Microaggressions in social work education: Learning from BSW students’ experiencesJournal of Social Work Education, Online Publication.


This survey of BSW students (N=909) reports on their experiences with microaggressions in their social work education. About one third (31.8%) of participants reported experiencing a microaggression committed by a social work faculty member. A relationship was found between experiencing a microaggression and participants’ social identities, specifically gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, disability or ability, and region of the United States where they were raised. Qualitative data describing the microaggressions revealed 6 themes about the instructor’s behavior: devalues, discriminates, or stereotypes; only accepts some viewpoints and shuts down diverse perspectives; makes assumptions about the student’s background; uses the instructor’s position to further an agenda or opinion or fails to intervene; refuses to acknowledge diverse identities in the classroom; and omits curricular content on some social identities. Implications for social work education and recommendations to prevent, reduce, and address microaggressions in social work education are identified and discussed.


Mirick, R.G. (2020). Social work instructors’ attitudes, beliefs, and practices about teaching suicide content. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 40(5), 468-487. 


In 2012, the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention recommended more education in suicide prevention for mental health professionals. This study of social work instructors (N = 225) explored attitudes, beliefs, and feelings toward teaching suicide content in practice courses; the content covered; barriers to teaching about suicide; and desired supports. Overall, instructors were confident and perceived themselves as knowledgeable, teaching primarily assessment, crisis intervention, and safety planning. However, some instructors described teaching outdated material (e.g., “no suicide” contracts) and some best practices were sparsely covered. Recommendations are presented here, including increasing training opportunities and creating materials and guidelines to support instructors teaching this content.



Davis, A. & Mirick, R.G. (2020). Microaggression, macroaggression, or mistake? Exploring BSW students’ perspectives. Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work, 25(10), 197-219 


Social work students from marginalized backgrounds commonly experience microaggressions in social work education. This qualitative study explored how BSW students and recent graduates from diverse backgrounds perceived microaggressions in social work classrooms. Through semi-structured interviews, participants (N=20) responded to five vignettes of microaggressions based on real-life examples. They shared their perception of whether each example was a microaggression and why, as well as their expectation for how an instructor should address these incidents. A thematic analysis was carried out with the transcribed interviews. Although participants felt prepared to identify microaggression, there was disagreement about whether each vignette was an example of a microaggression. Four themes arose in their criteria: intention, marginalization, stereotyping, and power dynamics. Three themes arose in their expectations for faculty responses: taking action, repairing the relationship, and preventing future microaggressions. Implications for social work education are discussed


Mirick, R.G., Davis, A., & Wladkowski, S. (2020). Social work dissertation committee chairs’ perceptions of their role. Journal of Social Work Education, 56(1), 155-169.  


This descriptive study used a mixed-methods approach to explore social work dissertation committee chairs’ (N = 150) conceptualizations of their role including their understanding of successful relationships, perceptions, and experiences with the scope of the role. Most chairs had no formal training and learned through their own experiences as students and committee members. The majority believed the chair role included academic support but disagreed on whether the role should include psychosocial support (e.g., self-care, physical, mental health) and family support (e.g., pregnancy, parenting, family issues). Qualitative data provided further details and examples of how chairs learned or prepared for their role, conceptualized their role, and defined successful and challenging relationships and the scope of their role. Implications for social work education including strengthening training for chairs and supports for chairs and students are discussed.


Mirick, R.G. & Wladkowski, S. (2020). Women’s experiences with parenting during doctoral education: Impact on career trajectory. International Journal of Doctoral Studies15, 89-109.  



This study explored the experiences of women doctoral students and their perceptions of the impact of this experience on their academic careers.

While more women than men graduate from doctoral programs in all non-STEM fields, women are more likely to take non-tenure positions or positions at less prestigious programs such as community colleges or teaching focused institutions. This creates a lack of diversity at research intensive programs as well as potentially highlighting gender inequities within the pipeline from doctoral education to full professorship. The source of these differences in career outcomes are not fully understood, and it is unclear whether mothers are self-selecting away from research intensive positions, they are less able to obtain the required professional training for these experiences, perhaps in part due to a lack of university based supports, or they experience discrimination based on gender biases around caregiving.


Mirick, R.G. (2020). Online peer review: Students’ experiences in a writing-intensive BSW course. Journal of Social Work Education, 56(2), 394-400.  


This teaching note describes the use of anonymous, online, graded, peer review in an undergraduate social work human behavior in the social environment writing-intensive course. Students (N=37) provided written feedback describing their learning from writing and receiving peer reviews. Students identified learning from receiving the peer reviews, improving their writing through the identification of their own common writing errors, and developing a better understanding of the writing process, as well as learning gained from writing peer reviews, including learning from viewing others’ writing assignments and developing the ability to provide feedback to peers that is both supportive and constructive. Implications for social work instructors are described, including grading peer reviews, providing guidelines for peer reviewing, being transparent about the perceived benefits of peer reviewing for students, and using online course technology to complete peer reviews outside of class, decreasing the amount of in-class time required.


Wladkowski, S. & Mirick, R.G. (2020). Supports and recommendations for pregnant and newly parenting doctoral students in health professions. Journal of Social Work Education, 56(2), 312-326.  



Female doctoral students with children face significant barriers to successful program completion, leaving programs at higher rates than students without children. This qualitative study (N=28) explored female doctoral students’ experiences with institutional and programmatic supports during their pregnancy and transition to parenthood within social work (n=16) and other professional health care fields (n=12). Results highlight the availability of specific formal supports such as leave of absence, lactation space, and childcare as important. Due to a lack of formal supports, many used informal supports. Finally, recommendations for doctoral programs are provided. Addressing the needs of parenting students may result in beneficial outcomes for both students and institutions by increasing opportunities for academic success and lowering attrition rates.