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2 School of Social Work centers integrate to strengthen research capacities, community partnerships


Natasha Mendoza, Sabrina Oesterle, School of Social Work, SIRC, CABHP, Arizona State University

Natasha Mendoza (left) director of the Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy and Sabrina Oesterle, director of the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center, Arizona State University.

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February 22, 2021

Two Arizona State University research centers — the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center and the Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy – are integrating to strengthen their research capacities and their community partnerships, School of Social Work Director James Herbert Williams announced.

“Each center has a distinguished record of conducting high-quality research by partnering with communities to address important community needs,” Williams said. “This combining of research capacities and structures will benefit our communities and the school.”

Both centers are based at the School of Social Work and for now the Center for Applied Behavior Health Policy will remain as an independent unit under the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center's umbrella, said Sabrina Oesterle, School of Social Work associate professor and Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center director.

Each center has its own community advisory board, both of which will remain separate, Oesterle said. 

Williams said the Center for Applied Behavior Health Policy's administrative responsibilities for the ASU Community Collaborative are transitioning to the School of Social Work and the initiative will remain at the former Westward Ho hotel on the Downtown Phoenix campus.

The collaborative is an interprofessional service unit that provides ASU students with real-world service learning opportunities, while enhancing the quality of life and functioning of individuals and communities. About 300 seniors and individuals with disabilities live in subsidized housing at the Westward Ho. 

“We will continue to provide services to Westward Ho residents and continue training (School of Social Work) students,” Williams said.

Williams said the school also will administer continuing education opportunities, such as an annual summer institute and winter institute, that formerly fell to the Center for Applied Behavior Health Policy.

The centers’ integration will allow services to be provided more efficiently, said Center for Applied Behavior Health Policy Director Natasha Mendoza, a School of Social Work associate professor.

“Leveraging the research infrastructure (at the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center) allows us to be a more productive entity,” Mendoza said.

The integration will prevent the possibility of both centers competing for the same grants, Mendoza said. Combined, they can create a stronger application that will benefit the community, she said.

The Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center's work in prevention and the Center for Applied Behavior Health Policy's emphasis on intervention also will be maximized by integrating the two centers, as each will be able to better support the other’s efforts, Mendoza said.

The centers and the School of Social Work are part of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

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