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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

“Tennessee Human Trafficking Task Force”

Ali S. Hearon, Kelley E. Street, Casey M. Parker, Jenny A. McGee, & Savannah J. Flowers

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Lorraina Scholten

A proposed amendment, (to TCA Title 4, Chapter 3; Title 38 and Title 71, Chapter 1) H.B. 0919/S.B. 1036, advocates for an Anti-Human Trafficking Taskforce to be developed in Tennessee. While awareness of the problem of human trafficking has spread in recent years, agencies that are working to combat the problem have, so far, been kept separate. This bill would provide bi-annual opportunities for governmental and non-profit agencies to collaborate, and devise a more holistic strategy to address the issue of human trafficking. In Tennessee, 85% of all counties in the state have reported at least one case of human sex trafficking within the last two years. This is an important issue for the state of Tennessee that could be alleviated by an all inclusive, state-wide task force that comprehensively addresses the problem. 

“TennCare Fiscal Responsibility Act”

Rachel Davis, Elizabeth Kronk, Jasmine Hunter, & Sarah Manley

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Lorraina Scholten

Senate Bill 0804 and House Bill 0937 as introduced by Senator Kelsey and Representative Durham seek to amend Tennessee Code Annotated Title 4 and Title 71, in order to ensure Tennessee’s present and future governors preserve the state’s right to deny expansion of Medicaid. While intended to be fiscally responsible for Tennessee’s budget, the bill inhibits growth of necessary health care safety nets. In fact Social Work values stand in stark contrast to the consequences of opting out of Medicaid Expansion, under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, particularly the enhancement of human well-being. Further analysis exposes the bill’s limitations to holistically care for the individual, despite the bill’s strengths in other areas. Because the purpose of the “TennCare Fiscal Responsibility Act” is primarily related to Tennessee’s budget, special attention will be paid to refute supposed fiscal irresponsibility of Medicaid expansion. Looking toward the future, established in extensive policy analysis, five recommendations will advocate breaking down systemic barriers to healthcare. These recommendations are firmly founded in the Social Work core values and will launch an alternative course of action to the current expansion crisis.

“The Third Grade Literacy Trap”

Leslie A. Deakins, Chelsea R. Gray & Elizabeth J. Halvorson

Faculty Advisor:  Dr. Lorraina Scholten

House Bill 308 and Senate Bill 272 as introduced by Representative Parkinson and Senator Kelsey seek to change the process through which third graders can advance to the next grade level in relation to subject of reading. Under present law, beginning with the 2013-2014 school year, a student in the third grade will not be promoted to the next grade level unless the student has shown a basic understanding of curriculum and ability to perform the skills required in the subject of reading as demonstrated by the student's grades or standardized test results. However, such student may be promoted if the student participates in an LEA approved research-based intervention prior to the beginning of the next school year. These provisions do not apply to students who have individualized education programs (IEPs).The project’s purpose is to explore the strengths and limitations of this proposed legislation.

“Unequal Childhoods: Consequences of TANF Sanctions on Tennessee’s Children”

 Capri Lofaro, Ruthie McGonagle, Meghann Searcy, Dorothy Wallis

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Lorraina Scholten

A proposed amendment (to T.C.A. Title 71, Chapter 3, Part 1), H.B. 0261/S.B. 0132 attempts to reduce Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) payments for parents or caretakers with children who have failed to maintain satisfactory progress in school.  As of January 2013, the current number of TANF recipients in Tennessee is 129,172 individuals, with 94,142 being children. According to current research, there is a direct correlation between the number of sanctions imposed on a family and the level of academic achievement and classroom attendance. Research suggests that the potential negative consequences of this bill on the emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being of the recipients far outweighs the possible benefits. Implications from existing professional literature and the core values of social work as well as recommendations for improvements to the bill will be presented.

"Safety, Not Security"

Melissa Auter, Cora Boone, Rian Jones, Shelby Stone, Matthew Thompson

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Lorraina Scholten

Senate Bill 0570/ House Bill 0006 proposes to allow school personnel to possess a firearm on school property if the person has a handgun carry permit, is authorized by the school superintendent, has had forty hours of basic school police training, and uses frangible bullets. The current doctrine states that the only persons authorized to carry firearms on school grounds are designated officials, officers, faculty, and staff who are acting in a direct security or law enforcement capacities. By looking at the current bill and the amendment, SB 0570/ HB 0006, we plan to find strengths and limitations, connections to social work values, and propose five recommendations. By analyzing all of the above, we believe that this bill is more reactionary, opposed to precautionary. In allowing non-law enforcement and non-security personnel to carry firearms on school grounds, children are at a greater risk of being exposed to the threat of gun violence; the possibility for accidental firearms discharge and the possibility of a weapon falling into the hands of a child are drastically increased. The perception of an increased sense of security can be quickly negated as a review of the possibility of an increased chance of violence is conducted. In short, the possibly benefits of arming faculty are not congruent with the possible threat of harm to children.

Social Work Department  |  Phone: 615-460-6401
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