Smith Receives Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy Award
June 9, 2020
Jessica Smith, a doctoral candidate in public policy and administration at the VCU Wilder School, has been awarded a grant from the Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy to support her dissertation project, "Assessing School Safety in the Age of Threat Assessment: A Policy Study."
The Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy awards dissertation grants with the following mission:
- To support emerging scholars through small grants;
- To promote scholarship with a social policy application; and
- To encourage projects that address contemporary issues in the social sciences.
Smith’s total grant award will be in the amount of $7,500. She is among a group of impressive previous recipients from the nation's most prestigious universities and leading programs in social policy such as Princeton University, Cornell University, Harvard University and many more.
Smith also recently co-led a team with Wilder professors, Hayley Cleary, Ph.D. and Sarah Raskin, Ph.D., to win a $2,000 grant from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues that supports teams of researchers doing policy-relevant work.
“I am so proud of Jessica for winning extramural funding to support her work, and this demonstrates that a variety of funders consider her dissertation topic a critically important social policy issue,” said Hayley Cleary, Ph.D.
Learn more about Jessica Smith’s dissertation, how the grant will help, and her future plans:
What is your dissertation topic and why?
My dissertation topic is threat assessment teams in K-12 public schools. Before I started my Ph.D., I worked for the Commonwealth at the Center for School and Campus Safety. There, we researched various school safety initiatives, trained school employees and law enforcement, and evaluated school safety practices from around Virginia. While I was working there, we worked to pass Threat Assessment legislation in Virginia - making the state the first to mandate threat assessment teams in all K-12 public schools. Since then, several other states have followed suit. However, there is minimal research on how these teams impact overall school safety and how team members feel about the teams. Threat assessment teams work in schools to identify, assess, and potentially intervene with individuals posing threats of targeted violence (i.e. a school shooting) and can have a lot of impact on a school community. So, it is important to gather as much information as we can about how these teams are operating within schools.
How will you use the grant and how can it help you?
I am extremely grateful for the grant award and recognition for this topic. My dissertation currently features a mixed methods approach. For the qualitative portion, my goal is to conduct focus groups with threat assessment team members throughout the Commonwealth. It is my hope to use grant funding to assist in travel and incentives for focus group participation.
Have you won previous grants as well? If so, which ones?
Yes! In January of this year, my amazing chair, Dr. Hayley Cleary, and one of my committee members, the outstanding Dr. Sarah Raskin, joined me as Co-PI's on a State and Local Policy Grant from SPSSI (the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues).
The goal of this project is to influence state and local educational policy through applied research. In this case, results from my dissertation will be presented to state and local agencies. We wrote an entry for SPSSI's most recent newsletter and more information can be found here.
What do you plan to do upon completing your doctoral degree?
After finishing my degree, my goal is to go into academia. I would like to continue my school safety and threat assessment research. Also, during my time as a teacher’s assistant, I have truly enjoyed working with students and teaching in the classroom. In being a professor, I think I would be able to do both - impact local and state policy through research, and work to advance the education of students.