Exposure to community violence, either as victims or witnesses, is a widespread and persistent problem in many of America’s urban cities. In the U.S., the number of adolescents murdered each year can fill a high school of almost 6,000 students. As alarming as these figures are, the frequency of non-fatal adolescent injuries is at least 120 times that of youth murders, and it is estimated that more than 1.2 million crimes against adolescents go unreported yearly. Exposure to community violence has been linked to mental health problems, poor academic performance, involvement with risky peer networks, and more recently, as Professor Voisin’s work has documented, engaging in unsafe sex which increases the chances of contracting HIV. Collectively, these are problems which disproportionately affect African American and Latino youths. According to research by Voisin, studies on the impact of community violence have been generally artificially compartmentalized to examine discipline-specific outcomes (e.g., mental health, education performance, delinquency, and more recently risky sex) and have not adequately considered the interrelationships among these various domains which represent a major focus of Voisin’s scholarship. Through engaged research, teaching, service, and training, Voisin is committed to illuminating the broad impact of community violence on the developmental trajectories of young persons.
For more than a decade, Professor Voisin has been conducting numerous studies which seek to better understand the various ways in which community violence exposure impacts the mental health, educational, and sexual trajectories of urban youth, with a major focus towards HIV prevention and intervention. His research has been funded by competitive awards from the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the W.T. Grant Foundation, among others. His prior research has informed public policy and provided support for the passage of the Soto, Delgado Bill approved by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. This bill will provide a state advisory council which will make recommendations to the Illinois Department of Public Health on effective prevention messages to deter youths from engaging in risky behaviors that lead to HIV/AIDS infections. Voisin’s research has been cited by the Anne E. Casey Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, the California Department of Education, the Nebraska Department of Education, and the National Institutes of Health, among many others.
His most recent U.S.-based study (2012-2015) is entitled “Network Support Engagement in HIV Care for Younger Black Men” is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. A second focus of his research is on the role of culture and gender in sexual decision making, and on global HIV prevention and intervention. He has conducted and corroborated on international studies in the Caribbean and South Africa. Currently, he has partnered with international collaborators and is developing a study which examines the impact of partner violence on the sexual behaviors of married and unmarried female college students in Egypt, a critical problem for which there is little empirical research. Professor Voisin is Principal Investigator of the STI/HIV Intervention Network (SHINE) at SSA, which was developed to conduct innovative multidisciplinary problem-solving research to reduce the disproportionate impact of STIs and HIV on vulnerable populations.
Dexter R. Voisin is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Service Administration and a Faculty Affiliate at the Center for the Study of Race, Culture, and Politics and the Center for Health and the Social Sciences. His fields of special interest include community violence exposure, adolescent sexual risk behaviors, the role of gender in adapting to risks, international HIV prevention, and social work practice.
A central focus of Voisin’s scholarship is examining the impact of community violence on a wide range of problem behaviors and impact of gender on risk and protective youth trajectories. His research demonstrates that the problems of community violence exposure are correlated with youth mental health problems, school failure, negative peer networks, and high rates of HIV-related risk behaviors, which are interconnected outcomes in the lives of adolescents, particularly those who live in urban communities.
Professor Voisin has published numerous peer-reviewed studies, with publications in accepted in such journals as AIDS, AIDS Education and Prevention, the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, the American Journal of Public Health, Children and Youth Services Review, the Journal of Adolescent Health, and the Journal of Health Psychology. Due to his expertise on adolescent sexuality, trauma exposure, and international HIV prevention, he is highly sought after as a peer reviewer and has reviewed articles for various academic journals across many disciplines.
Voisin was appointed a Visiting Professor (summers 2004, 2005, 2007) at the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies in the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. In 2010, he was appointed co-editor of the Journal of HIV/AIDS and Social Services. He was also appointed a consulting editor for Social Work: Journal of the National Association of Social Workers (2003-2008), the Journal of HIV/AIDS Education and Prevention (2004-2007), the Journal of HIV/ AIDS and Social Services (2003 to 2010). In 2012 he was appointed to the editorial boards of the Journal of Adolescent Health, BMC Public Health, and in 2013 Social Work Research. In 2010, he was appointed to the Illinois Statewide Committee for Juvenile Justice Programs, Disproportionate Minority Contact Subcommittee and in 2013 to the Illinois African American Family Comission by the Office of Governor Pat Quinn.
His expertise and research findings have been frequently cited by numerous members of the international, national, and local media such as Al Jazeera Television, BBC World News Radio, India Times, the Sunday Business Post (Irish newspaper) Svenska Dagbladet (a leading Swedish national daily), the Associated Press, CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, National Public Radio, The Powers Report, the Washington Times, Southern California Public Radio, Chicago Public Radio, the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Public Television, the Chicago Tribune, CBS Chicago, FOX News Chicago, CLTV, and numerous news blogs.
Professor Voisin has more than 21 years post-M.S.W. clinical experience, and at SSA he teaches direct practice in the core curriculum, and a doctoral course on models of prevention. He has also taught advanced courses on effective cross-cultural practice and clinical social work research. He has extensive social work practice expertise in the areas of substance abuse, adult psychopathology, and adolescent and family therapy. Professor Voisin has also delivered a number of keynote speeches and conducted training for practitioners based on his research findings.
Professor Voisin received his B.A. (psychology, cum laude) from St. Andrews College, M.S.W. (practice) from the University of Michigan, and Ph.D. (advanced practice) from Columbia University School of Social Work.
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