« Belmont home

Student Research

Belmont Undergraduate Research Symposium (BURS)

BURS 2012Each year, social work students join with other undergraduates at Belmont in conducting independent research in their fields of study.  In the spring, the students present their research findings to a community of peers at the Belmont Undergraduate Research Symposium (BURS).  This opportunity provides excellent preparation for advanced study in social work and enhances understanding of the profession.

Recent Research Presentations by Social Work Students

Human Trafficking: The Importance of Training Officials in Recognizing Victims Hidden in Plain Sight

Christine Sidwell, Elena Harmon, Amy Draper, Madeline Fowler, Emily Kroll, Carly Seagren, and Natalie Webb

Faculty Advisor: Jennifer Crowell, MSSW, Ph.D.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has reported incidences of human trafficking in 78 of 95 Tennessee counties. The purpose of Senate Bill 1655 and House Bill 1870, as introduced by Senator Kelsey and Representative Coley, is to prepare and implement training programs for law enforcement officers and state personnel.  These training programs will equip personnel to identify human traffickers, respond to the victims effectively, and ensure a comprehensive approach that will address current gaps in protocols and services. As social workers who believe that all people matter, we strive to support policies that uphold the dignity and worth of vulnerable populations. Our efforts to bring about social change must involve properly educating law officers and first responders regarding the issues that surround the care and support of survivors.  This presentation will illustrate the devastating issue of human trafficking, specifically as it relates to Tennessee.  We plan to evaluate the fiscal feasibility of implementing the legislation, as well as analyze the strengths and limitations of the bill.  We will then explore specific recommendations that seek to expand the efficiency and feasibility of the proposed training program.  To conclude, we will identify how social work values are reflected in the proposed legislation.  By ensuring that officers and other state personnel are both informed, and equipped to respond to the needs of survivors, we are taking a step forward in the fight against sex trafficking.

HB 1860 Registered Sex Offender Notification Systems

Dina El-Rifai, Rachel Gowen, Courtney Hickey, Whitney Ingram, Alex Marcotte, Katie McMurray and Jeanine Oehlrich

Faculty Advisor: Jennifer Crowell, MSSW, Ph.D.

House Bill 1860/Senate Bill 2398 introduces the implementation of an optional community notification system regarding residences of sex offenders, throughout the state of Tennessee. The passing of individual community notification systems would require a two-thirds vote by each municipality. If implemented, this notification system aims to alert certain residences, schools and child-care centers that a sexual offender or violent sexual offender is living within a certain radius. In addition to the previously mandated $150 administration fee, negotiable within each municipality, sexual offenders will be required, under this bill, to pay an additional fee of $50 to defray the notification cost. This paper and presentation will analyze the bill for strengths and limitations, in addition to highlighting the populations at risk and important stakeholder groups. This paper will also include recommendations to enhance this bill. The National Association of Social Worker’s core values and their relationship to this bill will also be examined. This paper and presentation aims to provide insight and raise awareness regarding registered sexual offenders and the effects of House Bill 1860/Senate Bill 2398, for the purpose of empowering all individuals affected by its potential implementation.

Proposed House Bill 1377 (Carr) and Senate Bill 1437 (Overbey); Production of Methamphetamine in Household to be Considered Child Abuse

Allison Short, Bryan Griffith, Caroline Geeze, and Jon Sanders

Faculty Advisor: Jennifer Crowell, MSSW, Ph.D.

In 2012, the state of Tennessee reported 1,585 meth lab incidents or seizures, the second highest number in the nation. Of those occurrences, many revealed that a child had been exposed to the production of meth. In this analysis we examine the primary functions of HB 1377, introduced by Rep. Carr, and SB 1437, introduced by Sen. Overbey, which proposes a change to the laws that would allow for charges of child abuse to be filed against anyone engaged in the production of methamphetamine when a child is present. Current law states that a parent can be charged with child abuse  when bodily harm to a child is immediate and detectable at the time of a meth lab seizure. This bill suggests that the presence of immediate bodily harm to a child is not necessary to charge a parent with child abuse. This change would allow for a broader definition of child abuse that includes the mental and physical injuries incurred to the child that may present themselves in the future.


The provisions of this bill reflect the National Association of Social Workers’ core values of “dignity and worth of a person” and “social justice,” in that it fights for a population of children that has little ability to fight for itself.


We examine both the strengths and limitations of the bill as well as propose recommendations to make the bill more effective. 

Social Work Department  |  Phone: 615-460-6401