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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. (in press). Embeddedness with community: Reflections on participatory mapping with refugees. Collaborations: A Journal of Community-Based Research and Practice.

Gonzalez Benson, O. (in press). On becoming ‘essential’: Coronavirus lessons of ontology (from migrant farmworkers and us who consume the fruits of her labor). Qualitative Social Work.

Gonzalez Benson, O. & Pimentel Walker, A. (in press). In search of participation: Refugee-run organizations in multi-scalar governance in US resettlement policy. Urban Affairs.

Gonzalez Benson, O., Yoshihama, M., Ellis, J., Pimentel Walker, A., Usui, M. & Chang, S. (in press). Refugee education and hope: Participatory Action Research with 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.

Cross, F. & Gonzalez Benson, O. (in press). The Coronavirus pandemic and immigrant communities: A crisis that demands more of the social work profession. Affilia.

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., 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.

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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