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Odessa Gonzalez Benson

Assistant Professor of Social Work

Giovanna Gonzalez (Odessa Gonzalez) Benson

Dr. Odessa Gonzalez Benson is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work and Detroit School of Urban Studies. Her areas of research are refugee resettlement, grassroots organizations, participatory practice, state-civil society relations and critical policy studies. She contributes to knowledge about grassroots organizations, particularly refugee-run community organizations (RCOs), aiming to inform participatory approaches to social work practice and urban governance. For instance, her studies have examined RCOs' crisis response during the COVID-19 pandemic, participation in urban governance, community health practices and role in resettlement practices. As part of her Just Futures Action Research Lab, she leads her research team in capacity building and technical assistance for RCOs in Grand Rapids, Michigan, including facilitating a vaccine outreach program and organizing efforts around the April 2022 fatal police shooting of a Black refugee community member. Second, in her critical policy studies, she examines various aspects of U.S. refugee policy, including refugee placement strategies, work policies and neoliberal discourse, using varied methodological approaches, from quantitative analyses of federal data to discourse analyses of historical text. Finally, Gonzalez Benson conducts critical theoretical inquiry about forced migration and social work practice with refugees, with work on state violence, active strategies in policy research and migrant ontologies during the COVID-19 pandemic, for example. 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, an MSW from Arizona State University, and a 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

Education

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

Websites

Missing Migrants
Just Futures, An action research collective on displacement, migration and urban studies
Year Description
2022 Gonzalez Benson, O., Routte, I., Pimentel Walker, A, Yoshihama, M. & Kelly, A. (2022, January). Refugee-Led Organizations and the COVID-19 Pandemic: Embedded and Flexible Crisis Response. Society for Social Work Research Virtual Conference.
2022 Gonzalez Benson, O., Pimentel Walker, A., Yoshihama, & Routte, I. (2022, January). Refugee Youth: Identifying Risk and Protective Factors for Psychosocial Well-Being, Substance Use, and Educational Outcomes. Society for Social Work Research Virtual Conference.
2021 Pimentel Walker, AP., Gonzalez Benson, O. & Yoshihama, M. (2021, July). Migrants Housing Migrants: The Role of Refugee- and Immigrant- Run Grassroots Organizations in the United States. International Association of the Study of Forced Migration Conference.
2021 Yoshihama, M., Gonzalez Benson, O., & Pimentel-Walker, A.P. (2021, January). The Life History Calendar method: Examining the migrant journey over time and place. Paper presentation at the Symposium on Methodological Issues in Research: Critical Discussions on Innovation, Intentionality, Diversity. Society for Social Work Research Virtual Conference.
2021 Gonzalez Benson, O. (2021, February). Families of Missing Migrants: Loss, action, hope. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Mixed Migration Center Policy Workshop.
2020 Gonzalez Benson, O. (2020, July). Application of the Life History Calendar method to research with refugees in the USA. 17th Annual International Migration, Integration and Social Cohesion (IMISCOE) Conference, Luxembourg.
2020 Gonzalez Benson, O. (2020, July). Migration-related diversity in higher education. 17th Annual International Migration, Integration and Social Cohesion (IMISCOE) Conference, Luxembourg.
2020 Gonzalez Benson, O. (2020, April). At a Loss at the Loss at Sea: The missing migrants of the Mediterranean and the (Bermuda) triangle of space, communication, and justice. American Association of Geographers, Denver, CO.
2020 Gonzalez Benson, O. (2020, January). Translation within international qualitative inquiry: Power, positionality, and the creation of meaning. Roundtable discussion at the Society for Social Work Research. San Francisco, CA.
2020 Gonzalez Benson, O. (2020, January). Social work research on forced migration: A scoping review. Poster presentation at the Society for Social Work Research. San Francisco, CA.
2020 Gonzalez Benson, O. (2020, January). Brokering law, space and culture with refugee women: Institutionalized mediation of gender roles and positionalities in the resettlement context of the United States. Invited Keynote: Refugee and Newcomer Women's Emotional Wellness. Calgary, AB, Canada.
2019 Gonzalez Benson, O. (2019, May). Work is worship: Diminution, deindividualization and valuation in U.S. refugee policy. Canadian Association for Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, York University.
2019 Gonzalez Benson, O. (2019, January). Responsive assistance beyond policy constraints: Refugee-run organizations in US resettlement. Society for Social Work Research, San Francisco, CA.
2018 Gonzalez Benson, O. (2018, July). ‘The who, when, where, and how of welfare assistance: Refugee-run organizations vis-à-vis state-funded counterparts.’ International Sociological Association, Toronto.
2018 Gonzalez Benson, O. (2018, July). Feminist Researchers Against/Across Borders Workshop, Athens, Greece.
2018 Gonzalez Benson, O. (2018, July). Informality as political action for resettled refugees. International Association of Forced Migration Conference, Thessaloniki, Greece.
2018 Gonzalez Benson, O. (2018, September). Expert knowledge and refugee resettlement. Workshop on the political crisis and refugees and asylum seekers and Science and Technology Studies, Coimbra, Portugal.
2017 Gonzalez Benson, O. (2017, January). Refugees’ labor geographies: Policy-driven versus refugee-driven geographies of resettlement. Society for Social Work and Research Conference, New Orleans, Louisiana.
2017 Gonzalez Benson, O. (2017, January). Limit case to citizenship: Resettled yet stateless elderly monoglot Bhutanese refugees in the US Society for Social Work and Research Conference, New Orleans, Louisiana.
2016 Gonzalez Benson, O. (2016, January). Refugee policy in a neoliberal era: A policy discourse analysis of the Refugee Act of 1980. Society for Social Work and Research Conference.
2016 Gonzalez Benson, O. (2016, June). Refugee organizations and intersections with health and social service practitioners. National Refugee Health Conference, Buffalo, New York.

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