Doctoral Student Spotlight: Monica Adams

Monica Adams decided to pursue the social work profession because she always enjoyed working with and helping people. “In Jr. High I was a Candy Striper at a local hospital. In high school I worked in a daycare center. I initially wanted to be a teacher, but felt I could make a greater impact as a social worker. My mindset at the time was that teachers have the same set of students for the whole school year, whereas social workers work with a lot of different people during the course of a year. I wanted variety in my interactions with people. I saw social work as an opportunity to work with lots of different people and to offer help to those in need.” 


Adams chose to attend Kent, because of the location, program structure and her interactions with Dr. Sar. She found the doctoral program at UofL to be affordable, and the class schedule on Thursday and Friday was an easy commute for her from Ohio to KY for weekly classes. “I stayed in a decent, economy hotel Thursday night each week. As a commuter I also liked that I did not have to be in Louisville during the summer and could do my independent studies in Ohio. Finally, Dr. Sar was very easy to talk to from our first encounter and able to answer all my questions. I figured if all the faculty were like him, then this would be a good fit for me.”


During the past 26 years, Monica has primarily worked in mental health providing services to children and families in a variety of settings including residential, outpatient services, a medical clinic, and an emergency department. She has also worked with adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities in a community setting and adults in a hospital setting.


Adams’ research interest is in health disparities. Her dissertation research focused on the socio-environmental aspects of overweight and obesity among women with low incomes. The qualitative dissertation is titled: Identifying Protective Factors Against Overweight and Obesity within the Social Environments of Women with Low Incomes.  This study examined the five levels of the social environment outlined in the Social Ecological Model for health and used Resilience Theory to identify risks and protective factors within each level. My dissertation committee consisted of: Drs. Emma Sterrett-Hong (chair), Adrian Archuleta, Maurice Gattis, Vicki Hines-Martin (U of L School of Nursing) and Sheila Barnhart (UK School of Social Work).   


Adams, who recently successfully defended her dissertation, will be joining the faculty at Binghamton University in Binghamton, NY in the position of Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Work after graduation.


The new PhD grad’s advice for students considering a doctoral education in social work is to make sure you fully understand the differences between the PhD in Social Work and the D.S.W. This includes knowing how you plan to use your doctorate upon graduation. “You want to be pursuing the degree that fits with your career goals. Both will require a significant investment of your time and energy so you want your investment to pay off in the end!” Adams suggests that should a prospective student decide the PhD is the right choice for them, it’s okay to start out having a general area of research, because their topic will get narrowed down and start to take shape as they advance through the program. “A PhD program is about helping you to become an expert in a specific area of interest and preparing you to be a competent researcher. My experience during my time with the Kent School’s PhD program was extremely rewarding. Was it challenging? Yes. But where there is no challenge there is no growth. All of the faculty and staff I encountered were supportive and this helped tremendously with working through the challenges!”