Graduating Social Work Ph.D. student offered position at LSU

Thursday, Feb 28, 2019

She wasn’t expecting it. Still, she’s pleasantly surprised.

A graduate student in the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Arlington will be among the newest faculty at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge this fall.

LSU has hired Bernadette Ombayo, a Ph.D. candidate at UTA, to teach classes each semester in its School of Social Work.  While there, she also will research the impact of intimate partner violence on academic achievement and associated risk factors among minority youths, especially African and African-Americans.

Ombayo accepted the position in February.

“When I went to LSU…it felt like home,” she said recently.

Ombayo originally is from Matunda Moi’s Bridge, on the outskirts of Kitale, in northwestern Kenya. She also has lived in Bowling Green, Ky., where she taught Swahili in the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program.  She earned a Master of Social Work degree at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green.

She will begin instruction at LSU on Aug. 15 and research work soon thereafter, she says.

Part of her attraction to LSU is the Baton Rouge area’s large numbers of immigrants, particularly from Somalia and the Congo.

According to the American Immigration Council, an advocacy organization for foreign-born U.S. citizens, roughly four percent of Louisiana’s residents are immigrants. More than 185,000 immigrants lived in the state in 2015, the most recent year for such data, according to the Council.

Many of Louisiana’s immigrants are educated. More than 40 percent have attended college or have earned a degree, the council’s data shows.

Ombayo plans to research the impact of teen dating violence and the burden of immigration on the academic achievement of school-aged immigrants. Louisiana is home to 13,000 immigrant children.

 “I was looking for an area where my (social work) research would contribute a lot,” she says of her recent job search. “I was looking at places where there were (a significant number of) African immigrants.”

“If I can study similar populations (in the United States), then I can replicate similar populations back home,” she says of her native Kenya.

Ombayo likely will collaborate with LSU’s existing faculty in various research areas. During her interview with the university’s faculty, she discovered some members have research interests similar to her own.

The university’s collegial environment also was appealing, she says.

“Several people said ‘Oh, if you come here, maybe I can work with you on this’,” says Ombayo. “Most people are doing research in areas that I want to do.”

For now, Ombayo is preparing to defend her dissertation. The defense is scheduled in April. Her research work is titled “Teen Dating Violence and School Outcomes: The Mediating Effects of Health Related Behaviors.”

Ombayo is among several doctoral candidates expected to graduate in May.

The UTA School of Social Work’s doctoral program recently was ranked No. 25 in the nation by, making it the highest-ranking doctoral social work program in Texas.

The doctoral program is highly competitive. Only between eight and 12 students are selected each year to begin the program. 

The School of Social Work offers full-time Ph.D. students fellowship awards to cover tuition and an annual stipend for graduate research and teaching assistantships. The funding is available for up to three years of study.