tanya rhodes smith headshot

Tanya Rhodes Smith

Instructor in Residence, University of Connecticut School of Social Work
Director, Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work
Chapter Member: Connecticut SSN
Areas of Expertise:

About Tanya

Rhodes Smith’s research examines voting as a social determinant of health and social work intervention. Her work and scholarship include the development of evidence-based civic engagement training models for social workers, organizations and underrepresented populations, including formerly incarcerated. She is the Director of the Nancy A Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work and has trained thousands of social workers and leaders to be more politically active as elected officials, voting advocates, campaign volunteers, and staff. She advocates for expanded voting rights and access locally and nationally and is a member of the Hartford Votes~Vota and Full Citizens Coalitions.

In the News

Opinion: "Voting Is Power. Make It Easier.," Tanya Rhodes Smith (with Shannon R. Lane), The Connecticut Mirror, October 30, 2022.
Quoted by Bill Cloutier in "Civic Engagement Gets Youth Fired Up," YOUR VOICE, Republican American, October 8, 2022.
Quoted by Bill Cloutier in "Many People Feel Their Vote Doesn’t Matter," YOUR VOICE, Republican American, October 8, 2022.
Guest on UConn 360: The UConn Podcast, March 9, 2022.
Interviewed in "A Voice Through Voting," (with Kristin Dumont) UConn Today, November 1, 2018.

Publications

"The Voter Engagement Model: Preparing the Next Generation of Social Workers for Political Practice" (with Shannon R. Lane, Mary E. Hylton, Jason Ostrander, and Jenna Powers). Journal of Social Work Education 59, no. 2 (2023): 423-437.

Describes the implementation of a voter engagement model in social work education. Findings demonstrate the efficacy of this model in increasing social work students’ perceived importance of voting to their practice, their likelihood of voting in future elections, and their likelihood of engaging others in voting in future elections.

"The Three-Legged Stool of Voter Engagement: Social Work’s Role in Mobilizing the Vote Among Marginalized Communities" (with Adelaide K. Sandler, Mary E. Hylton, and Jason Ostrander). Critical Social Work 21, no. 2 (2020).

Highlights the increasing disparities in voter turnout among various demographic groups over the past four decades.  Describes the conceptualization of voter engagement as a three-legged stool, consisting of voter registration, regular voting, and basing voting decisions on self-interest. Stresses that neglecting any one leg weakens the potential for generating political power and influencing elected officials.

"The Power of Three: Infusing Voter Engagement in Lower Level BSW Courses " (with Shannon R. Lane, Mary E. Hylton, Jenna Powers, and Jason Ostrander). Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work 23, no. 1 (2018): 213–229.

Outlines the "Power of Three" strategy, designed to engage undergraduate students in voter outreach during their BSW studies. The approach involves assigning BSW students the goal of registering a minimum of three people to vote and engaging community members in the voting process. The findings suggest that this strategy is effective in increasing students' participation in voter engagement activities and improving their understanding of the significance of voting in the context of social work practice.