News & Announcements - Focus on Graduate Students

Social Work doctoral student is recipient of external minority fellowship opportunity thanks to the support of UT Arlington faculty and past mentorship provided by alumni.

Council on Social Work Education Minority Fellowship Award RecipientTracey M. Barnett has received the Council on Social Work Education Minority Fellowship, also referred to as the Mental Health & Substance Abuse Fellowship Program (MHSAFP). MHSAFP is designed for social workers, with a social work Master's degree, who are preparing for practice, teaching, consulting, training, policy development, or administration in mental health and substance abuse with ethnic minorities.

"Dr. Alexa Smith-Osborne suggested that I apply for the fellowship. I had always had an interest in military families and cardiovascular disease risk factors, but I had yet to narrow my research focus. At the time I was not quite sure what my research topic would be, but I knew that I wanted to combine the two. When I sat down and saw what the fellowship required, I was able to put the pieces of the puzzle together to figure out how best to apply for the fellowship," says Barnett. "Dr. Smith-Osborne wrote me a letter of recommendation. Dr. Joan M Blakey, a MHSAFP Alumnus, as well was very helpful during the application process and provided valuable guidance. Without their help, I would not have applied for the fellowship."

Recipients of the MHSAFP are expected to show an interest in, and commitment to, careers in mental health and/or substance abuse with specialization in the delivery of services to ethnic and racial minority groups in the United States. This expectation the MHSAFP has set falls in alignment with Barnett's area of research, focusing on obesity and cardiovascular disease, particularly how obesity prevention in early ages can prevent developing cardiovascular diseases later in life by comparing African-American civilians and African-American military service members.

Barnett's research is comparing African-American civilian families and African-American military families and focusing on how these two unique groups cope with exposure to stress, trauma and the effects that come as a result, in particular obesity and cardiovascular disease, and what preventative measures can be implemented to manage exposure to stress and trauma."

"Some of the current research shows that individuals sometimes cope with stress and trauma in the form of making changes in dietary intake, and how much and often food is digested. Say you have a woman who is taking care of her parents and children, while her husband is off somewhere like a military camp or off fighting a war. How is this individual managing stress and maybe trauma in the form of carrying on with everyday tasks with the absence of her partner or spouse versus another woman in a similar situation with the exception that her partner or spouse is present."

Barnett states that when she was at The University of Alabama pursuing her master's in social work, she had an opportunity to meet Dr. Cassandra Simon, who received her doctoral degree from UT Arlington, and Dr. Josephine Pryce, who was a former professor in the UT Arlington School of Social Work. These two professors sparked an interest in Barnett to purse researching issues that relate to health disparities and military life. The mentorship that was provided by these two faculty members motivated her to pursue doctoral studies.

Council on Social Work Education Minority Fellowship Award RecipientBarnett says that the choice to attend UT Arlington for doctoral studies was clear. In addition to the mentoring relationships she developed with Simon and Pryce, Barnett, who is originally from Mississippi and had attended The University of Mississippi for her bachelorĂ­s degree, was also impacted by another UT Arlington alumnus.

Dr. Susan C. Allen, associate professor of Social Work at Ole Miss, inspired Barnett to pursue advance studies. At the time, Barnett served as the president of the student social work organization at Ole Miss and Allen was the group's advisor. Barnett recalls that having been inspired by these distinguished individuals who at one time or another attended the University, either as a student or faculty member, was a clear indication that UT Arlington would be the right place for her too. "Dr. Allen was a student from UT Arlington; She got her master's and doctoral degree from UT Arlington. She always said nice things about the University and that made me want to come here. I wanted to attend UT Arlington. I wanted to go where Drs. Allen, Pryce and Simon went."

Since being at the University, Barnett says that her first year has been amazing and she is thankful for the people and opportunities that she has been exposed to. "One of my graduate research advisors, Dr. Katherine Sanchez has connected me with The American Heart Association in Dallas and I am working on projects with them. I am really thankful to have built this and similar connections while here."

"I am also thankful for Dr. Smith-Osborne, who is the chair of my diagnostic committee; she is the military expert on campus as I call her. There have been a lot of people who have guided me and given me great advice. Dr. Eusebius Small, an MHSAFP alumnus, has shared valuable advice such as post-doctoral career options and his experiences as a minority fellow when he was a doctoral student at The University of Houston. I am working with our PhD program Director Dr. Beverly Black and Dr. Richard Hoefer on a project titled 'Preventing Teen Dating Violence: The Role of Domestic Violence Shelters.' Dr. Black gave me my first experience of starting a research project from the very beginning and seeing it all the way through the end. I am so grateful for this experience."

"The fellowship I received is a blessing. Besides receiving a monthly stipend, I also receive funds to attend the Council on Social Work Education annual conference. This year the conference was in Washington, D.C. Dr. Black, Dr. Hoefer and I attended the CSWE conference, where I presented my first conference paper presentation. Another thing that makes this fellowship so special is it had paid for all my conference expenses. This was a great opportunity for me as I had a chance to build a network with faculty members and students across the country that share similar interests and are doing similar research."

"Looking back, what worked for me and what helped me get to the place where I am today was most importantly God, my family, friends and surrounding myself with faculty members and graduate students striving to reach the same goals as I had set for myself. I appreciate all the mentoring, advice and tips that I have received, without which I would not have made it to this point."