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Social Work Department
Chair, Faculty & Staff
Sapna Thwaite, PhD, Interim Department Chair
Ryan Ashley, LMSW, CAADC
Ryan Ashley joined the University of Michigan-Flint in August 2015 and teaches courses in Substance Abuse Treatment. He has 19 years of experience working in community mental health and providing mental health services and substance abuse treatment to individuals. While he did his field work, Mr. Ashley really enjoyed the clients he worked with whether they were individuals, kids, or parents. Many of the clients he treated had very serious mental conditions. Seeing his clients progress over time and noticing how much they had changed was a rewarding part of his experience working in community health. Mr. Ashley recognizes a growing need for substance abuse treatment specialists in the field of social work and enjoys teaching courses in this area.
Amy Collings, PhD
Dr. Amy Collings joined the Social Work department in the fall of 2014 as a lecturer. She obtained her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Eastern Michigan University in 2009 and subsequently specialized in Clinical Health Psychology completing her internship at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and her two-year fellowship through the MSU Consortium of Advanced Psychology Training (Genesys Regional Medical Center). Dr. Collings also works for the Veteran's Health Administration, stationed at the Flint CBOC as their fully-licensed primary care psychologist. Her clinical work focuses on the interface of psychological and physical health concerns in an integrated environment, focusing on weight management, smoking cessation, diabetes management, chronic pain management, health promotion, and individual/group therapy for mental health concerns and substance use disorders.
Prior to joining UM-Flint, Dr. Collings held adjunct lecturer appointments through the College of Medicine at Michigan State University and the Department of Psychology at Eastern Michigan University. Her research interests center on integrated primary care, eating behavior, and behavioral health, which has been published in Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, Eating Behaviors, Psychological Reports, and Eating and Weight Disorders. At UM-Flint, Dr. Collings teaches the social work statistics course (SWR270), the working with Veteran's course (SWR321), the substance abuse treatment dual-diagnosis course (SAT330) and occasionally the research design course (SWR470).
Nancy Grigg, MA
Ms. Nancy Grigg earned a BA in English-Specialization in Writing at the University of Michigan-Flint and continued her studies here as well, receiving her MA in English Language and Literature-Composition and Rhetoric in May of 2014. She then joined the Social Work Department in September 2014 as a Lecturer, where she teaches EHS 120: Ecology of Social Work and Education, EHS 220: Building a Sustainable Community, and UNV 100: So You Want to Change the World.
Ms. Grigg brings several years of experience working in the Marian E. Wright Writing Center as a writing tutor, as well as a Graduate Student Research Assistant for the Nursing Department. She also has prior experience volunteering and working in K-12 educational settings. Ms. Grigg has been working with students, staff, and faculty in developing new ways to improve student engagement and writing outcomes, as well as utilizing high impact practices and civic engagement activities to further develop each student’s personal and professional development.
Sheryl Groden, PhD
Dr. Sheryl Groden joined the Department of Social Work fall 2017. She received her MSW from UC Berkeley and her PhD in Social Work from Michigan State University. Dr. Groden uses both quantitative and qualitative methodologies in her research. Dr. Groden’s scholarship interests are in mental health and aging, the role of Complementary and Alternative Therapy/Medicine (CAT/CAM) within social work practice and education, Integrative medicine and older adults, and the intersection of personal and academic identity.
Prior to joining UM-Flint Dr. Groden taught at Michigan State University School of Social Work and coordinated MSU’s Levande Program in Gerontology. Dr. Groden’s practice background includes work with older Holocaust Survivors and their families, community-based geriatric social work and as a medical social worker. She will be teaching Micro Social Work Methods (SWR440). Her articles have been published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and the Field Educator.
Bernadette Hilliker, LMSW, IMH-E(II)
Bernadette Hilliker is a licensed Master’s Social Worker and holds a level two endorsement from the Michigan Association of Infant Mental Health. She is currently working at GCCARD Head Start as the Mental/Behavioral Health Specialist of the Mental/Behavioral Health Department. She is responsible for a team that supports not only the families of the GCCARD Head Start program but the children, staff and classrooms as well. Bernadette teaches classes at the University of Michigan – Flint in both Social Work and Substance Use and Abuse. She has taught classes at Michigan State University in the Master’s Social Work program. She has served as the co-chair for the Genesee County GISD Trauma Informed Alliance and has worked for Michigan State University as a Field Liaison with Master’s level social work students as she is passionate about working with future social workers.
Bernadette’s expertise is in working with Infants, Children, Adolescents and Families. She has studied Infant Mental Health, Play Therapy, as well as many theories in working with people. Bernadette has been working in the Flint and Genesee County area for over 20 years with children and families. She is a trained instructor in the F.L.I.P.-IT. She has had training in Triple P, Mom Power and Conscious Discipline which are innovative techniques when working with families and children. She is passionate about working with and supporting Flint and Genesee County Families.
Mark Jagos, MSW
Mark Jagos graduated from the University of Michigan in 1986 with his master's degree in social work. He taught at UM-Flint from 1989 to 2004 and returned in the winter semester of 2014. He worked for Genesee County in Flint, Michigan as a social worker for 30 years in the field of criminal justice ,and retired in 2012. Mr. Jagos was involved in a prosecutorial diversion program as a case worker and a supervisor. He was also an administrator with the Genesee County Office of Community Corrections. In this position, he wrote grants and managed state funding for local substance abuse programs designed to be alternatives to incarceration.
After retiring from Genesee County, Mr. Jagos worked at New Paths, Inc., which is a community corrections facility in Flint. He managed an alcohol treatment program at circuit court probation and conducted needs assessments on circuit court probationers. He worked in this position until September 2014.
Woojong Kim, PhD
Dr. Woojong Kim joined the Social Work department fall 2017. She received her PhD in Social Work from Michigan State University in 2014. Her research interests are policy and practice approaches for economically and socially disadvantaged women and children. Her current research focuses on impacts of child care assistance on low income working families and children. Prior to joining UM-Flint, Dr. Kim taught at Michigan State University School of Social Work and University of Toledo Social Work Program. She also worked as a project supervisor for research on women in prison at Michigan State University. She currently teaches social work research methods. Her scholarly works can be found in Research on Social Work Practice, Evaluation and Program Planning, the Prison Journal, and Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research.
Jean Liwak joined the Social Work Department in July 2014 after serving 14 years in the College of Arts & Sciences Dean’s Office. Ms. Liwak serves the Social Work Department as an Administrative Assistant. She supports and works closely with the Department chair, and faculty and staff in the office. Other responsibilities include student support, event planning, financial, human resources and other University processes as needed.
Julie Ma, PhD, MSW
Dr. Julie Ma joined the Social Work department in September of 2016. She received her Ph.D. in Social Work from Michigan State University in 2015. Her primary research interests center around the effects of neighborhood and family processes on the well-being of children. Her current research focuses on the risks of neighborhood disadvantage, harsh parenting, and parental substance abuse in child development, particularly on behavior problems and maltreatment in early childhood. Prior to joining UM-Flint, Dr. Ma taught at Michigan State University School of Social Work and supported a parent education program in Ypsilanti, MI. She currently teaches social work theory (HBSE). Her articles have been published by Family Relations, Child Abuse and Neglect, International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, and Children and Youth Services Review.
Laura Macias, LMSW, CSW-G
Laura Macias earned a BA in English here at the University of Michigan-Flint and continued her educational journey at the University of Michigan receiving her MSW in December 1999. She joined the Social Work Department in September 2016 as the Academic and Professional Mentoring Coordinator. She brings 16 years of experience working in the micro, mezzo, and macro field of social work. She also has seven years of experience teaching diverse levels of social work courses for undergraduate students.
With gerontology as her specialty area, Ms. Macias has been working for the past 10 years developing programs and providing psychotherapy treatment for the elderly and their families here in Flint. Having a certification in Gerontology has enabled her to have an understanding of the unique issues that members of the elder population face.
Melvin C. McDowell Jr., LMSW, CFLE
Melvin C. McDowell Jr. joined the University of Michigan-Flint Social Work department in January 2017. A Flint Native, he obtained his associates degree from Mott Community College and his bachelor’s degree in family life education from Spring Arbor University. He earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Southern California. Mr. McDowell began his journey in the human services field over 16 years ago working at Planned Parenthood with a group called Teen Scenes. It was in this role that he put on skits, plays, and presentations for children and teens of all ages concerning life skills, good touch bad touch, stranger danger, communication, HIV/AIDS, STI's/STD's, and sexual education. He later worked for several years in the school system with children who were in special education and has also worked with juvenile offenders in a residential setting. He served five years at Community Mental Health with families who have children with severe emotional disturbances. While contracting as a clinical therapist at two clinics in Saginaw County, Mr. McDowell also is the owner and Clinical Director at McDowell Healing Arts Center, in Saginaw, Michigan.
Mr. McDowell is a Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE) through the Council of Family Relations and a part-time doctoral student at Walden University. He is married with three daughters. At UM-Flint he has taught SWR 100 (Introduction to Social Welfare) and SWR 490 (Integrative Seminar in Social Work).
Julieanne Muir, LMSW, SSW
Julieanne Muir joined the University of Michigan-Flint Social Work department in January 2016. She earned her MSW from the University of Michigan and a BA in Sociology and Psychology from the University of Michigan. Ms. Muir has 17 years of experience in various capacities in the field of social work as a school social worker, professional development trainer/facilitator, mental health professional, master’s level field instructor, and college lecturer. Ms. Muir engages her students to address issues of equity, inclusion, diversity and social justice, and values furthering students' understanding of themselves and others, as well as systems, practice and policy in the field of social work.
Ms. Muir currently teaches SWR 325 (Patterns of Domestic Violence), SWR 330 (Protective Services), and SWR 335 (Social Services in Schools).
Henry Tidwell, LMSW
Henry C. Tidwell completed his LMSW at Eastern Michigan University. He earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan. Professor Tidwell is a former Flint city police officer and Genesee County park ranger. He teaches several substance abuse and social work courses at the University of Michigan-Flint.
Kasie White, LMSW
Kasie White joined the Social Work Department as the BSW Field Education Coordinator in May 2015 bringing her passion for social work and assisting students to connect to programs within our community to enhance their individual learning. Ms. White holds a bachelor's degree in social work from the University of Michigan-Flint and a clinical master's degree in social work from Michigan State University. She has served in various leadership positions in Genesee County ranging from working with older adults, medical social work, homeless services, and disconnected youth services.
Ms. White has worked in vastly different arenas but at the core she works to empower individuals. Now being with the University she states “it is wonderful to experience the University of Michigan’s commitment to student success and community collaboration." She teaches the field practice and macro social work courses. She is working with the field faculty team to bring additional community supports and opportunities for the senior BSW students and the Social Work Department. Her belief is “working together as a community changes lives.” She teaches SWR 360, SWR 440/441, SWR 460/461 and CDR 330.
Todd Womack, MSW
Todd Womack has been an instructor at the University of Michigan-Flint for six years. His professional experience covers over 25 years of micro and macro practice in the profession of social work. He has a B.S. from St. Cloud State University and a M.S.W. from Clark Atlanta University. He is the father of 3 boys Ngozi, Osei and Ande and the husband of Roshanda. Bill Gates explains that when he would interview prospective employees, that he desired to select the applicant whose qualifications placed them in the top ten percent of the top ten percent of all possible applicants. Therefore in the spirit of this framework, Mr. Womack explains that he teaches as if students are the top ten percent of the top ten percent of the student body. He states: "My expectation of students is high because it is my goal to prepare social workers for practice that brings only their best into the therapeutic relationship with families. It is always my hope that a student’s experience here at the University of Michigan-Flint will clarify for them their call into the profession of social work."
Mr. Womack teaches UNV 100, EHS 120, EHS 220, SWR 100, SWR 121, SWR 240, SWR 304, SWR 340, SWR 460, SWR 461 & SWR 490.