Doctoral student joins Florida Atlantic faculty

Danielle Groton

Arriving at Florida State University as an undergraduate with an interest in film and creative writing, Danielle, or Dani, Groton thought a major in marketing and advertising was a practical use of her skills. But something was missing, and she wasn’t quite satisfied with the trajectory of such a career. A visit to the FSU Career Center introduced Dani to the possibilities social work had to offer. “I had thought social work was only for working with children, but when I learned the full spectrum of issues that social workers address I became intrigued,” she reflected about her introduction to social work. “After a few classes at the College of Social Work, I fell utterly fell in love.” Dani around this time also participated in an Alternative Spring Break trip to Houston, Texas to work at a homeless services center. This experience helped her realize that she wanted to become involved with helping those experiencing homelessness.

Her BSW internship in a transitional housing program made her realize her passion for the macro elements, leading her to pursue her MSW concentration to be in Social Leadership. As Dani deepened her understanding of social work, she also developed a particular interest in program evaluation and research. She noted how difficult it was during her internships to evaluate the effectiveness of services, particularly among transient populations. Her motivation to learn more about how to address issues like this affecting homelessness and identifying effective policies and programs led her to apply for the doctoral program.

Dani’s passion for these areas and the lives of those experiencing homelessness has only increased during her time as a social work doctoral student. In June, she successfully defended her dissertation entitled: “A lower glass ceiling: Understanding the role of employment in the lives of unaccompanied women experiencing homelessness.”

“My primary focus has been employment among women experiencing homelessness, and I believe it will remain my major focus,” Dani explained enthusiastically. “I am very passionate about homelessness in general. I plan to evaluate the effectiveness of different programs and strategies targeting homeless populations. I have also recently become interested in emergency housing services and the outcomes for survivors of human trafficking.”

She hopes to continue in this vein of research when she joins the faculty of Florida Atlantic University in the fall as a tenure-track assistant professor. She plans on conducting community research and teaching graduate and undergraduate macro classes in areas like policy, community practice, and administration.

“I was able to explore a lot of different research topics and designs by collaborating with so many different people at FSU,” Dani said of her time at the FSU College of Social Work. “It helped broaden my lens as a researcher and gave me more hands-on experience than I would have received only working on projects in a classroom setting. These collaborations also brought me out into the community, which helped me as an instructor broaden my network and to know Tallahassee’s services and key players.” She is eager to move to South Florida not only for the beaches and her family who live nearby but for the opportunity to address the pervasive homelessness issues in the region.