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Giovanna (Odessa Gonzalez) Gonzalez Benson

Assistant Professor of Social Work

Giovanna Gonzalez (Odessa Gonzalez) Benson

Dr. Odessa Gonzalez Benson is Assistant Professor at the U-M School of Social Work and is with the U-M Detroit School of Urban Studies Faculty Cluster. Her areas of research are: refugee resettlement, refugee/migrant-led organizations, participatory approaches to urban governance and social services with refugees, state-civil society relations, critical policy studies. Dr. Gonzalez Benson pursues interdisciplinary work integrating social welfare and community perspectives with refugee studies and urban studies, particularly within the context of 'new refugee destinations' such as Michigan and the broader midwest. Currently, her work is place-based research on immigrant-run grassroots organizations in Grand Rapids and Detroit, examining institutional links, functions and use of resources and urban space. Past research examined policy-driven vis-a-vis refugee-driven resettlement, based on nationwide data on refugee-run organizations in 30 U.S. states. She draws upon years of engagement with refugee communities, diverse education and work experiences and her personal path as a 1.5-generation immigrant to inform and motivate her research. She has a PhD in Social Welfare from the University of Washington in Seattle, MSW from Arizona State University, and BA in Communications from the University of the Philippines-Diliman.

Research Interests/Focus

refugee resettlement, refugee/migrant-led organizations, participatory approaches to urban governance and social services with refugees, state-civil society relations, critical policy studies


Year Degree   School
2017 PhD Social Welfare University of Washington
2010 MSW Community Organization Arizona State University, Phoenix
2009 AS Mental Health Services Community College of the US Air Force
1999 BA University of the Philippines


Just Futures, An action research collective on displacement, migration and urban studies

Gonzalez Benson, O., Yoshihama, M., Ellis, J., Pimentel Walker, A., Usui, M. & Chang, S. (in press). Piloting participatory action research: Community as intermediary in education pathways of Congolese refugee youth. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology.

Gonzalez Benson, O. (in press). Refugee resettlement patterns in the United States: Examining labor market conditions and immigration policies in cities of primary placement and secondary internal migration. Journal of International Migration and Integration.

Wiley, C., Jen, S., Storer, H. & Gonzalez Benson, O. (in press). Discursive decisions: Signposts to guide the use of critical discourse analysis in social work. Qualitative Social Work.

Gonzalez Benson, O. & Siciliano, A. (in press). A rights-based framework in social work field education and international development work: Insights from a Global Independent Study in Tunisia. Journal of Human Rights and Social Work.

Gonzalez Benson, O., Park, Y., Temprosa, T. & Gautam, D. (in press). US non-decisionism and state violence across temporal and geopolitical distances. In L. Kingston & T. Bloom (Eds)., Statelessness and Governance: Rights, Identity and Citizenship.

Gonzalez Benson, O. & Burnett, C. (in press). Accompaniment and emergence: Social work community practice with resettled refugees. In A. Opacic (Ed.), Practicing Social Work in Underdeveloped Communities: Competencies, Methods and Techniques. European Association of School of Social Work: Springer.

Pimentel Walker, A., Checkoway, B., Gonzalez Benson, O. & Opacic, A. (in press). Development of deprived communities through multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary approaches. In A. Opacic (Ed.), Practicing Social Work in Underdeveloped Communities: Competencies, Methods and Techniques. European Association of School of Social Work: Springer.

Gonzalez Benson, O. (2021). On becoming ‘essential’: Coronavirus lessons of ontology -from the migrant farmworker and us who consume the fruits of her labor. Qualitative Social Work, 20(1-2), 186-192.

Gonzalez Benson, O. & Pimentel Walker, A. (2021). Grassroots refugee community organizations: In search of participatory urban governance. Journal of Urban Affairs.

Cross, F. L. & Gonzalez Benson, O. (2021). The Coronavirus pandemic and immigrant communities: A crisis that demands more of the social work profession. Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work.

Aby, M. J. & Gonzalez Benson, O. (2021). Funding diversity: A case study of a state-initiated, funding-driven program to diversify mental health service provision in Minnesota. Services Organizations: Management, Leadership and Governance.

Gonzalez-Benson, O., Temprosa, T. & Shlebah, S. (2020). Policy irrelevance in refugee research: Active strategies in forced migration research. Refugee Review, 4, 69-83.

Gonzalez-Benson, O. (2020). Welfare support activities of grassroots refugee-run community organizations: A reframing. Journal of Community Practice, 28(1), 1-17.

Ibrahim, Q., Hreish, K., Hantoosh, K., Gonzalez-Benson, O., et al. (2020). Social work education in the Middle East and North Africa: Students’ perspectives at 13 universities in 10 countries. Egyptian Journal of Social Work, 9(1), 189-204.

Gonzalez Benson, O. (2020). Refugee-run grassroots organizations: Responsive assistance beyond the constraints of U.S. resettlement. Journal of Refugee Studies.

Gonzalez Benson, O., Wachter, K., Lee, J., Nichols, D. & Hylton, E. (2020). Social work research on forced migration: A scoping review. British Journal of Social Work.

Gonzalez Benson, O. (2020). Community mapping with resettled refugees: Reflections on embeddedness. Collaborations: A Journal of Community-Based Research and Practice, 3(1), 15.

Islam, E., Wahab, H. & Gonzalez Benson, O. (2020). Structural and operational factors as determinant of meaningful community participation in sustainable disaster recovery programs: The case of Bangladesh. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 50.

Gonzalez-Benson, O. & Taccolini, A. (2019). ‘Work is worship’ is refugee policy: Diminution, deindividualization, and valuation in implementation. Social Service Review, 93(1), 26-54.

Taccolini, A. & Gonzalez-Benson, O. (2019). ”And slowly, the integration and the growing and the learning”: Nuancing integration of Bhutanese refugees in U.S. cities. Social Sciences, 8(6), 1-11.

Gonzalez Benson, O.& Yoshihama, M. (2019). Post-resettlement refugee collectives in the United States: Processes of emergence and development. Sharing Society Project (Ed.), Sharing Society International Conference 2019 Proceedings. Bilbao, Basque Country, (Spain): Sharing Society Project-The Impact of Collaborative Collective Actions in the Transformation of Contemporary Societies, University of the Basque Country.

Gonzalez Benson, O., Pimentel Walker, A. P., Yoshihama, M., Burnett, C. & Asadi, L. (2019). A framework for ancillary health services provided by refugee and immigrant-run CBOs: Language assistance, systems navigation, and hands on support. Journal of Community Medicine and Health Education, 9(5), 665.

Gonzalez-Benson, O. & Park, Y. (2018). Resettled yet stateless: Elderly monoglot refugees as a limit case to citizenship. Journal of Human Rights Practice, 10(3), 423-438.

Bermudez, R., Temprosa, F. & Gonzalez Benson, O. (2018). A disaster approach to displacement: IDPs in the Philippines. Forced Migration Review, 59, 44.

Brown, M., Gonzalez Benson, O., Thompson, J., Keel, R., J. Porter & Mahoney, E. (2017). Seeking Northlake: Place, technology, and public as enabling constraints for urban transdisciplinary research. Cities, 60.

Gonzalez Benson, O. (2017). Refugee community organizations as actors upon resettlement. Forced Migration Review, University of Oxford Press, 54.

Gonzalez Benson, O. (2016). Refugee resettlement policy in an era of neoliberalization: A policy discourse analysis of the Refugee Act of 1980. Social Service Review, 90(3), 515-549.

Gonzalez Benson, O. (2016). Refugee resettlement and the non-profit sector. University of Minnesota Hubert Project.

Benson, O., Sun, F., Hodge, D. R. & Androff, D. (2012). Religious coping and acculturation stress among Hindu Bhutanese: A study of newly-resettled refugees in the United States. International Social Work, 55(4), 538-553.

Hodge, D. R., Lacasse, J. R., & Benson, O. (2011). Influential publications in social work discourse: 100 most highly cited articles: 2000-2009. British Journal of Social Work, 42(4).

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