PhD Program Committee Meeting

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Bringing Our Best Minds Together for Big Ideas

Meredith C. F. Powers (PhD Student)

Making Change Happen

Meredith Powers originally planned to major in environmental studies as an undergraduate student, but after her first social work class she realized she’d found her academic home. In her current research, she brings together her passion for the environment and her love of social work. For her dissertation, she is studying social workers who do environmental work as part of their professional role. While some people have a misconception that social work is only about “saving children” and environmental work is only about “saving the trees,” Powers says that we have to work for sustainable change in both the physical and natural environment as well as the social environment. As she said, “You save the trees so that you can save the children. And you teach the children to save the trees.”

Powers believes that larger social change can only grow from what we change within ourselves. Because of this, she is a strong proponent of self-care, especially for those in helping professions. “It doesn’t matter what our passion is or who we’re trying to help,” she said. “If we don’t care for ourselves, we burn out. And then we’re no good to anyone.”
Powers’ ultimate goal is to teach. She hopes that at the end of her career, those who have read her work or been in her classes will have implemented greater self-care and greater care for the environment as a result.

Research Interests

Meredith C. F. Powers’ current research interests and dissertation topic centers on social work related to environmental and social justice issues. She is especially interested in using photovoice, a CBPR technique, when working with communities. She is also interested in immigrant and refugee work, human trafficking, fair trade, and adoption.

Dissertation Title

(Working title) On becoming a professional social worker: Exploring professional identities which include a response to the environmental crisis


  • Freedman, D. A., Pitner, R., Powers, M. C. F., & Anderson, T. A. (accepted for publication). Developing a grounded theory of socio-environmental attributes of community environments: A photovoice study with public housing residents. Submitted for review to The British Journal of Social Work on January 21, 2012.
  • Powers, M. C. F. & Freedman, D. A. (2012). Applying a social justice framework to photovoice research on environmental issues: A comprehensive literature review. Critical Social Work.
  • Whiteman, D. & Powers, M. C. F. (2012). Environmental leadership through campus project teams: Green structures for linking students, faculty, and staff. In Deborah Rigling Gallagher (editor), Environmental Leadership. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE Publications. 
  • Powers, M. C. F., Freedman, D. A., & Pitner, R. (2012). Snapshot to civic action: A photovoice facilitator’s manual., 2012.
  • Powers, M. C. F. (2011, June). Summary Report for Social Change Model Leadership Training. Presented to The Learning Center for Sustainable Futures, the National Clearinghouse for Leadership Programs (NCLP) and the Center for Student Studies (CSS).
  • Powers, M. C. F., Freedman, D.A., Pitner, R., & Anderson, T. P. (2011, May). Summary Report: Using photovoice to engage a public housing community in the examination of neighborhood context. Prepared for the Columbia, SC Housing Authority.


  • Powers, M. C. F. (Oct, 2012). Care of Creation: Professional Social Work Responses to the Ecological Crisis. Paper presented at South Carolina National Association of Christian Social Workers Annual Convention, St. Louis, MO.
  • Powers, M. C. F. (March, 2012). Roles for social workers in response to the environmental crisis. Paper presented at South Carolina National Association of Social Workers Spring Symposium, Columbia, SC.
  • Powers, M. C. F. & Wolfer, T. A. (March, 2012). Social work practice in religious congregations. Paper presented at South Carolina National Association of Social Workers Spring Symposium, Columbia, SC.
  • Powers, M. C. F. (2011, March). Developing a sustainable, life-enhancing pace. Paper presented at Green Quad Learning Center for Sustainable Futures, Columbia, SC.
  • Powers, M. C. F. (2010, August-November). Leadership for a better world. Professional development series presented at Green Quad Learning Center for Sustainable Futures, Columbia, SC.

Volunteer Work

  • Trade Justice Mission 2010- Present. Granville, OH. 
    Education and advocacy for victims of trafficking 
    Marketing and sales of jewelry made by survivors of trafficking
  • St. Jacob’s Lutheran Church 2007- Present. Chapin, SC
    Sunday School teacher
    Stewardship team member
    Environmental sustainability coordinator 
    Missions and outreach team member

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