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Shannon M. Blajeski

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Shannon M. Blajeski

Shannon Blajeski’s area of research is concerned with improving access to income for marginalized populations, particularly those at risk for long-term poverty due to early involvement with the public mental health system. Utilizing social determinants of health, person-in-environment and critical (e.g., race, disability) frameworks, her research examines risk and protective factors for staying connected to the labor market and career pathways, particularly for young adults with first-episode psychosis. In particular, she continues to build upon her dissertation research which studied the ways in with young adults who experienced a first episode of psychosis moved between temporary disability and career development and revealed a number of points of intervention to support connections to employment and education. Given that this population is typically highly marginalized, her research utilizes critical, qualitative and participatory methods of engagement.

Her future research plan builds upon her original qualitative work specifically to explore the problem of youth and young adults who enter the public mental health system before completion of high school and are “not in education, employment or training” (NEET) status. These young people are at a higher-than-average risk for long-term disability and subsequent poverty, due to early disengagement with work and education, and often a lack of future orientation that is compounded by structural disadvantages such as racism. She is currently studying how a theoretical model of risk factors for unemployment for NEET young adults can be translated to a program theory for intervention development in coordinated specialty care (CSC) programs for early intervention for psychosis.

Her research on reducing poverty and disability is informed by seven years of direct practice in community mental health settings, including two post-MSW years working with urban adults with mental illness who were predominantly homeless, and disproportionately black and indigenous people of color (BIPOC). She then spent 10 years implementing the assertive community treatment (ACT) model for adults with serious mental illness (SMI) in both urban and rural areas across Washington State before returning to the academy to pursue her PhD. She received her MSW and PhD in Social Welfare from the University of Washington in Seattle. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Matthew J. Smith in the Level-Up Lab at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, where she receives mentoring on quantitative intervention research methods specific to examining employment outcomes for adults in a large, urban community mental health center and within the Michigan prison system. In addition, she mentors research staff within Dr. Smith’s lab in qualitative methods.

Research Interests/Focus

First-episode psychosis and prevention of negative social outcomes through early intervention; reducing disparities in psychosocial treatment outcomes within EBPs; qualitative methods and community-based participatory research in intervention development; and, applying critical frameworks to traditional mental health treatments.


Year Degree   School
2019 PhD Social Welfare University of Washington, Seattle
2005 MSW Social Work University of Washington, Seattle
2000 BA Psychology University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse

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