Center on Race and Social Problems

Helen E. Petracchi, Ph.D., ACSW

University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work
Area(s) of Interest: 

Dr. Petracchi’s primary scholarly interests lie in improving the professional delivery of social work services to vulnerable populations. To this end, she has focused on identifying the service needs of vulnerable populations, and instituting and evaluating innovations in educational delivery strategies to more effectively prepare social work students for practice. As part of her work with vulnerable populations, Dr. Petracchi coauthored a state of the region report (with Dr. R. Engel and K. Brown, 1999) and a book, The Hmong in America: Providing Ethnic-Sensitive Health, Education, and Human Services (with Dr. K. McInnis and M. Morgenbesser, 1990). Her work has also published in the Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare as well as the Wisconsin Medical Journal.

Early on, Dr. Petracchi’s explored the rapid growth of distance education programs in social work education with the intent of assessing the instructional quality of distance learning. Articles on these topics have appeared in several peer reviewed journals including the Journal of Social Work Education, the Journal of Teaching in Social Work, Research on Social Work Practice, The Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work, the Journal of Continuing Social Work Education, and the Journal of Computers in Human Services. Dr. Petracchi has also coauthored a chapter in Information Technologies: Teaching to Use—Using to Teach (with Dr. M. Patchner and S. Wise) and an article, “Techno-Presence in Pennsylvania Public Child Welfare Agencies: Implications for Continuing Education” appears as a CD-rom publication (sponsored by the National Association of Social Workers and the Council on Social Work Education, 1999). Most recently, Dr. Petracchi’s research has focused on service-learning pedagogy in social work education; in combination with the civic engagement movement in higher education. Dr. Petracchi has evaluated service learning in a living-learning community at the University of Pittsburgh (articles under review). Based on these findings, her current study, “An Assessment of Service Learning Activities in CSWE-accredited Social Work Programs” is designed to: 1. Examine the extent to which service-learning is a required component of social work education in accredited social work programs nationwide; 2. Identify the ways service learning is incorporated into accredited baccalaureate and graduate curriculum; and, 3. Assess perceived benefits which may accrue to students engaged in service learning.