Producing original research as a distance MSW Student: Q & A with Yolanda Arredondo

Yolanda Arredondo with her Capstone Research Group
Arredondo produced original research, surveying child custody evaluators in Colorado, with members of her MSW capstone project group: (l to r) Meagan Cohee, Brittany Brigham, Josie, Mines, Yolanda Arredondo, and Michelle Shewmake.

School of Social Work graduate student Yolanda Arredondo received her MSW degree in Fall 2019. Originally from Loveland, CO, Arredondo currently lives in Denver. She chose to complete her graduate study in social work through the Denver cohort of the distance MSW program.

Designed to be accessible to students who are seeking a graduate degree while balancing other work and life demands, CSU’s distance MSW program is a three-year, part-time hybrid program that combines online coursework with two intensive learning weekends per semester.

Learn more about why she came to CSU, producing research related to stopping family violence to make an impact in Colorado communities, and her new connections with fellow social workers.

What brought you to CSU?

I currently work for the Colorado Department of Human Services in the Division of Child Welfare. The field of child welfare has a lot of opportunities at all levels of social work practice. I am interested in more macro social work, including policy reform.

I entered the MSW program in order to grow as a professional, be competitive in the job market, and expand my understanding of macro-level practice. In looking at the three main social work programs in the state I felt CSU was the best fit, not only because of the quality of the advanced generalist program, also because of the option for the part-time distance program as a working professional. I had a few colleagues who had received either a BSW or MSW from CSU and spoke highly about the learning experience.

What drew you to the field of social work?

I believe in social justice and I believe in protecting vulnerable populations like children. I have worked in the fields of domestic violence advocacy and now child welfare for the past 12 years. I want to see outcomes improve for families involved in the child welfare system, that we are able to keep families together and keep them from penetrating deeper into systems like child welfare or criminal justice as often as possible.

Neglect is the most common form of child maltreatment and it is impacted by other root causes like poverty, oppression, lack of resources. I wanted an MSW program that would help me learn more about various social justice issues at every level of practice, from helping an individual struggling with mental health or substance use, to macro policy initiatives aimed at supporting families.

Describe your MSW capstone research project.

My capstone group’s research project, Colorado Child Custody Evaluators Professional Background and Practices of Intimate Partner Violence, was exciting because it was original research in the state of Colorado.

It was an anonymous survey of child custody evaluators, who may be asked to assess for intimate partner violence when one or both parents make allegations during a child custody case. The evaluator has to make recommendations to the court regarding parenting time and decision making, and their recommendations weigh heavily on the final custody court orders.

My group successfully defended our research project, and we have plans to share our research with other state groups such as the state’s Domestic Violence Program, the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and the Colorado State Court Administrator’s Office.

Our faculty advisor, Neomi Vin-Raviv, MPH PhD, was an invaluable resource to my group throughout the last two semesters as we worked on this extensive project. She made herself available so often for web conference calls and regular communication via email.

In a distance program, where as a student I do not have the advantage of regular face-to-face contact with instructors, Neomi was a consistent support and helped our project be the best it could be through high expectations and accountability.

What do you find most exciting about your research?

What I find most exciting about our capstone is that it is original research in the state of Colorado on child custody evaluators and supports the Social Work Grand Challenge of stopping family violence. We learned about a population with an important role in assessing for intimate partner violence that could impact their recommendations about best interest of the child(ren).

We also identified implications for future research and possible areas of policy reform in Colorado. My group plans to offer presentation of our findings to various stakeholders, from domestic violence victim advocacy agencies to Colorado judicial branch personnel.

I appreciated working in a group on the Capstone because the various skills and insights of each member improved the project overall as we discussed, revised, and analyzed information. The collaboration among the group, with the support of Neomi, meant our project was meaningful to us all.

What are your plans following graduation with your MSW degree?

Since I am employed with the state Division of Child Welfare, I will continue to integrate the skills and competencies I have learned in the MSW program into my daily work. I have made some great connections through my internship, the capstone research project, and course instructors at CSU. In addition to continuing to work in the field of child welfare, I would like to explore opportunities to teach social work practice at the university level.

The School of Social Work is a part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.

Read about more of the outstanding graduates in the College of Health and Human Sciences.