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The Lab



As one of the emerging social work research labs funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and National Institute of Justice, we apply rigorous social science research methods to develop and evaluate interventions targeting some of our country’s biggest social problems. Our mission at the Level Up: Employment Skills Simulation Lab is to help bridge the equity gap in employment opportunities for underserved groups. We are pursuing this mission within the context of the Grand Challenges of Social Work by:


Harnessing Technology for Social Good

We aim to enhance equity in employment to underserved groups by developing, evaluating, and supporting the implementation of internet-based simulations that focus on Leveling Up one’s skills to get and keep their jobs.


Ensuring Healthy Development for All Youth

Youth ages 16 to 26 with disabilities have critically low employment rates compared to their peers without disabilities. We aim to help enhance federally-mandated transition services supporting youth with disabilities in high school or post-secondary educational settings. Our research will develop and evaluate whether simulation trainings can effectively enhance skills and real world outcomes in youth with disabilities. If the simulations are effective, we seek to support the sustainability of  implementing these tools in transition services.


Promoting Smart Decarceration

Individuals returning to their communities after completing their prison sentences are known as returning citizens. Moreover, returning citizens  have critically low employment rates that are associated with higher rates of recidivism. We aim to help enhance the implementation of evidence-based practice within the justice system to promote Smart Decarceration. 


Eradicating Social Isolation

Unemployment, especially among individuals with disabilities, can lead to extensive social isolation. We aim to reduce this isolation by developing and evaluating technology-based interventions that could help them obtain and sustain employment.