Social work doctoral student wins prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Foundation research scholarship

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has selected Mónica Gutiérrez, a second-year ASU PhD student in social work, as a Health Policy Research Scholar.

Gutiérrez is one of only 40 students in the nation selected for the prize. She plans to focus her research on understanding the impact of displacement, gentrification and connection to place within low-income communities and how these factors contribute to the health and well-being of vulnerable families. She is particularly interested in the use of community-based participatory research to inform social policy and systems change.

The award is valued at $120,000 and is disbursed over a four-year period.

“I feel personally connected to many of the communities that are directly affected by health inequities," said Gutiérrez. "I hope as a result of my research and the training acquired through the fellowship I can lead and collaborate across sectors to inform social policy and urban planning."

Gutiérrez believes a diverse pool of researchers and policymakers is needed now more than ever.

"With different voices in the conversation, policies and solutions can be more inclusive and relevant to a broader range of communities," she said.

Gutiérrez, a first-generation college student, earned her Bachelor of Arts from San Francisco State University and Master of Social Work degree from ASU with a concentration in planning, administration and community practice. In addition to her coursework, Gutiérrez is a research specialist at ASU’s Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center, where she works with communities to conduct evaluations and disseminate findings regarding research-based interventions aimed at eliminating health disparities.

She also is a mentor for the College Assistance Migrant Program, which provides migrant students with academic support during their first year in college to establish a strong foundation for continued academic success. As a beneficiary of mentorship herself, Gutiérrez believes mentoring plays an important role in student achievement and retention especially for first-generation college students.

"I have always had a calling to serve my community and help give back just like the many mentors I have had in my personal and academic journey,” she said. 

As a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Research Scholar, Gutiérrez will join a diverse group of scholars to collaboratively tackle persistent health challenges by creating innovative solutions through research.

“This new cohort of scholars is committed to research that challenges long-held notions about the health of our communities,” said Harolyn M.E. Belcher, director of the Health Policy Research Scholars program, director of the Center for Diversity in Public Health Leadership Training and a professor at Johns Hopkins University. “I am thrilled to work alongside them as they continue to develop into the kind of leaders who can enact real change and ultimately build a culture of health.”

Written by Miguel Vieyra