Social Work


Spring 5-2020

Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

Type of Paper/Work

Banded Dissertation


Mari Ann Graham


Based on research that implies rural social work differs from urban social work, this dissertation takes an ecological systems approach to explore the complexities of rural America and the ways in which communities are providing or withholding support from its members. It makes recommendations for social work to partner with religious communities as well as best practices for teaching in an online platform.

A Scholarly Personal Narrative (SPN) examines my personal experience with growing up in a rural community, the prevalence and necessity of dual roles, and how my social location as a rural being affected the way I create and maintain relationships, both personally and professionally, which is vastly different than how the urban model of social work dictates, creating confusion and challenges in my first years as a practicing social worker.

A second conceptual article explores the complicated relationship existing between the religion and mental health, and ways in which religious communities could be doing harm to those in mental health crisis. It argues for and suggests ways that the two entities should align and work together, particularly in rural communities where there are not enough mental health practitioners.

The final product is a book chapter to be published as part of a handbook of best practices of teaching online discusses the importance of intentionally making space to create and maintain meaningful relationships. These relationships, both peer-to-peer and instructor-to-student, are vital to the success of the online learner. This chapter details ways to create a discussion based classroom that encourages voices to be heard and connections to be made.

This dissertation demands social work education include rural social work as part of their curriculum. While it is a relatively small part of the United States population, the needs are great and the available resources are scarce. Those working among this population must understand the culture of rural America, how relationships are made and formed, and how communities are structured, which is vastly different than urban areas. Thus, rural social workers need a specific set of skills and these must be included in social work education, particularly in online education where the greatest number of social workers are receiving their education.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License

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