Joining the faculty of the UWindsor School of Social Work was a homecoming of sorts for Kristina Nikolova, who graduated from its MSW program in 2012.
The assistant professor went on to earn a doctorate from the University of Toronto and completed a postdoc fellowship at Rutgers University, New Jersey, before going on the faculty of Wayne State University’s School of Social Work in 2019.
Dr. Nikolova has been researching national and international gender-based violence for more than 10 years and is particularly interested in how national policies and organizational practices can exacerbate or ameliorate the risk of violence against women and children.
Nikolova has also worked in child protection and in developing training for child protection workers to better meet the needs of vulnerable families who are experiencing multiple risk factors, including intimate partner violence, poverty, and trauma.
Her graduate studies in Windsor sparked her interest in policy research.
“My first internship during the MSW program was at a child protection agency. That’s where I first started encountering all these barriers families experience,” Nikolova recalls. “Basically, freedom from violence, and a lot of it is tied up with the policies and practices that are in place. So, before my second internship, I asked our co-ordinator to place me at a policy practicum.”
Things fell into place and Nikolova interned with the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies in Toronto.
“I was there as a policy intern, and it basically snowballed from there,” she explains. “Now, most of my research is looking at these policies and practices at the state and provincial level that we could be using to better meet the needs of families to prevent family stressors that could lead to family violence.”
She is continuing to work on a couple of major grants looking at Michigan’s poverty rate and the rate of social welfare as a potential mechanism against family violence.
“Michigan has one of the highest denial rates for welfare assistance, so a lot of families aren’t captured by the administrative data,” Nikolova says.
Families that do not get any assistance from the state end up relying on not-for-profit organizations, so her study is trying to capture both groups to make sure that nobody is left out.
Among her plans for UWindsor students is to help them learn more about international social work and how policy advocacy can be used to improve the outcomes of families involved with social service systems.