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School of Social Work Hires Two New Assistant Professors

Y. Joon Choi
Y. Joon Choi

Jennifer ElkinsJennifer Elkins

Posted Aug. 15, 2011
Reported by Emily Williams

The University of Georgia School of Social Work recently hired two new assistant professors. Y. Joon Choi and Jennifer Elkins joined the faculty in Tucker Hall this semester.

"The School of Social Work is delighted to have 2 new assistant professors on board," said Maurice C. Daniels, dean of the School of Social Work. "Dr. Choi's research interests and expertise will be a great asset to the school's instructional programs, research, and community outreach priorities. And, the School will greatly benefit from the direct practice background and research interests of Dr. Elkins. We look forward to her contributions to our clinical concentration as well as research and public service."

Choi grew up in Seoul, South Korea, and was stirred by the turmoil she witnessed as a college student at Ewha Womans University in the 1980s and early 90s, especially after a high profile case involving the gruesome murders of several prostitutes by American service men.

"It became a turning point in my life as well as my professional life because it was the first time I started paying attention to women's issues," she said.

After moving to the U.S. to pursue a M.A. degree in international relations at City College of the City University of New York, Choi began working at an Asian women's shelter and soon realized she wanted to get her MSW to make a bigger impact for Asian women in the U.S. After graduating from the University of Michigan, Choi spearheaded a community organizing effort focusing on the prevention of domestic violence in Asian communities. The organization she founded and worked for received a grant from the CDC. The grant required an element of evaluation, which inspired Choi to pursue a doctoral degree in social work at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Her dissertation surveyed Korean ministers in Virginia and Maryland to better understand their attitudes and responses to victims of domestic violence in their congregations, which she believes is an important step in better understanding access to services for Korean battered women. She plans to use the results to design prevention and intervention strategies to reduce domestic violence in the Korean immigrant community.

"Atlanta has witnessed a pretty big increase in Asian immigration," Choi said. "I thought it would be a great place for me to work with the Korean population and other Asian populations to really address domestic violence issues in the community."

Choi will teach Theory and Practice with Organizations and Communities and Foundation Research in her first year.

Elkins, who earned her Ph.D. at Columbia University, brings a strong practice background as a therapist. Her practice and research expertise focus on interpersonal violence, child maltreatment and sexual abuse; and post-traumatic stress disorder. After earning her MSW from the University of Wisconsin, Elkins began working in an intensive clinical setting where she counseled severely traumatized children and adults experiencing domestic violence, sexual assault and child maltreatment. Many of the children she saw had a level of complexity and severity in their mental health diagnoses that didn't fit neatly into any categories, making it difficult for professionals to intervene.

"Part of the reason I wanted to go back and get my doctorate was to better understand how these kids experience interpersonal abuse and violence via applied research, but also to have the opportunity to help train the next generation of social workers and scholars so that they be more effective working with these populations," Elkins said.

Elkins' dissertation used nationally representative data to examine the role of risk and protective mechanisms on the behavioral, psychological and academic outcomes of sexually abused boys. "The findings were very complex," she said. "Much of our perceptions and our knowledge base about sexual abuse is based on research and practice experience with females. The findings from my study really point to a need to better ascertain the extent to which this applies for males."

Elkins' long-term goal is to use this research to help further advance social workers' ability to understand, prevent and intervene with diverse populations who have experienced chronic and severe interpersonal violence and child maltreatment.

Elkins will teach Social Work Practice with Groups and Human Behavior in the Social Environment this year.