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Fran Danis, Ph.D. is a pioneer in the overlapping fields of violence against women and crime victim assistance including direct practice, policy advocacy, curriculum development, training, research and evaluation. Her career parallels the recognition of the need for and development of coordinated community services addressing violent crime and in particular, sexual and domestic violence. Her community organizing and advocacy led to the establishment of one of the earliest shelters for domestic abuse survivors in Texas. Her research and teaching has led to changes in state policies and numerous publications. Her leadership has made lasting changes in both NASW through a new social policy statement, and the Council for Social Work Education (CSWE) through a new annual symposium. Dr. Danis was the principal investigator of the Victims of Crime: A Social Work Response, Building Skills to Strengthen Survivors project conducted in collaboration with The University of Texas at Austin and the National Association of Social Workers/Texas and funded through the US Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime (OVC). Her research interests include the self-efficacy and competence of social workers to serve domestic violence survivors and other crime victims, the resiliency of abuse survivors and their adult daughters, developing coordinated community responses to crime victims, and collegiate sororities and relationship violence. She is the co-editor of Domestic Violence: Intersectionality and Culturally Competent Practice (2010) and Breaking the Silence in Social Work Education: Domestic Violence Modules for Foundation Courses (2004). Dr. Danis's teaching experience includes courses on domestic violence, program evaluation, nonprofit management, social work practice with communities and organizations, and policy advocacy.
Career Highlights: In 1976 Danis earned her MSW from the School of Social Welfare at Stony Brook University. In 1980 she moved to Denton, Texas and became the driving force for the development of a new non-profit agency designed to provide advocacy and residential services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. With a small band of volunteers, she became the founding executive director of Denton County Friends of the Family. 1980 was not an easy time to establish a domestic violence shelter in a conservative Texas county and Danis overcame many obstacles to convince the community that such a program was necessary. As the only staff person for several months, Danis saw the learning opportunities that the agency could provide to social work interns and began supervising students from social work programs in the area introducing this newly emerging field of practice to social work education in North Texas. She was named the Denton NASW Branch Social Worker of the Year for these achievements.
Quickly moving from local to statewide recognition, Danis was the chair of the board of directors of the Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV) for 5 years. This organization advocated for the initial authorizing legislation and funding for all the domestic violence shelters across Texas. They also advocated for shelter service standards as well as many new laws that recognized violence against an intimate partner as a criminal act. In 1984 Danis moved to Austin where she continued her statewide policy work. Hired as a government relations associate for the Texas Chapter of the NASW, she brought the advocacy skills she had learned through TCFV to bear on the broader agenda of NASW. One of her significant accomplishments was the recognition and addition of school social workers in the Texas Education Code.
In 1990 she taught her first BSW policy course at The University of Texas at Austin and was hired as the staff director for a statewide research project being conducted through the Center for Social Work Research. Success in the classroom led to additional teaching assignments including courses in administration, cultural diversity, communities and organizations, social work in an agency-based context and integrative seminar in direct practice. Success in research administration lead to her appointment as Associate Director of the Center where she facilitated the development of numerous research and evaluation projects including those that addressed violence against women issues. It was those experiences that encouraged her to seek doctoral education to pursue research in her field of expertise. In addition to her administrative responsibilities, she developed and chaired the statewide School Social Work conference for 9 years and initiated the Diversity Institute to bring social work faculty expertise in culturally sensitive practice across the university and into the community. She also co-founded The University of Texas at Austin Domestic and Sexual Violence Coordinating Council. This led to a successful U.S. Dept. of Justice (DOJ) Office of Violence against Women campus grant program. In 1998 she taught the first course on domestic violence at UT Austin. This was one of the first social work courses on domestic violence nationally.
From 1999 – 2002 Danis was named Principal Investigator for the Crime Victims: A Social Work Response, Strengthening Skills to Strengthen Survivors, a three-year national demonstration project funded by the U.S. DOJ Office for Victims of Crime and conducted in collaboration with NASW/Texas. The project focused on enhancing the capacity of professional social workers to respond to victims of violent crime and involved NASW Chapters in Florida, New York, North Carolina and Alaska. This project, featured in NASW NEWS, disseminated knowledge about the emerging practice field of crime victims’ assistance and led to the development of an innovative curriculum provided to undergraduate and graduate social work programs, and distributed to all NASW Chapters. Out of this successful project, Dr.
Danis was primarily responsible for drafting the new NASW policy statement on “Crime Victims Assistance” adopted by the NASW Delegate Assembly in 2002.
Recognizing that there were limited opportunities for social work educators in this emerging field to come together and share their work, Danis organized social work faculty across the nation to establish the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) Symposium on Violence Against Women & Their Children. This specialized track has provided yearly opportunities for faculty to not only share research in the areas of domestic violence, sexual assault, teen dating violence, children exposed to domestic violence, stalking, batterer intervention programs and human trafficking but also share how to better teach these issues in the classroom.
In June 2000 Danis defended her dissertation on Social Work Response to Domestic Violence and was awarded her Ph.D. from the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University. Her dissertation research provided evidence that social work education increased the self-efficacy of practitioners to respond to abused clients. Furthermore, social workers, no matter what field of practice they go into, will work with clients addressing domestic violence. She translated this important finding into a well-published graphic on Social Work Fields of Practice and Domestic Violence. This graphic is still available through the national NASW website.
She took her pioneering leadership to the University of Missouri-Columbia where she brought her considerable practice and research experience into the classroom and taught courses on social work administration, program evaluation, legislative and community advocacy, and domestic violence. While there, she once again co-established another campus domestic and sexual violence coordinating council also leading to the DOJ funding for programs on relationship violence on campus. Connecting with medical experts in the area of sexual assault, Danis served as a project evaluator for a DOJ OVC funded project on hospital response to sexual assault victims in Missouri. Through her research she uncovered the practice of hospitals billing rape victims for conducting forensic rape exams. Her data led the way to major change as this practice has been banned and funding for rape exams is now provided by the state.
Danis returned to Texas and was named Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of Texas at Arlington School of Social Work. At UT Arlington, Danis was responsible for providing leadership and coordination of all academic affairs & related matters including BSW, MSSW, PhD and Field Education programs, Office for Student Success and Recruitment and Admissions Office. Danis served as the initial point person for the school’s reaccreditation process due to her training as a site visitor and her experience on the board of CSWE. She successfully led the effort to transform the curriculum to incorporate educational competencies, practice behaviors, and their assessment. Dr. Danis assumed the role of teacher outside the classroom. She mentored assistant professors, doctoral students, and provided exceptional mentorship to adjunct faculty. Danis was responsible for the appointment, orientation, and supervision of thirty to fifty Graduate Teaching Assistants and Adjunct Faculty per semester. In addition to the responsibilities of her office, Danis became the Regional Principal Investigator for the multi-state evaluation of “Moving Ahead through Financial Management” Intervention funded by the Rutgers School of Social Work and Allstate Foundation. This project provided financial literacy training to domestic violence abuse survivors and was provided both in English and in Spanish. Given her national reputation, her course syllabus on domestic violence has continued to be a blueprint for other social work educators initiating courses on violence against women at their institutions.
Danis’s service to both NASW and CSWE continued throughout her career. She held simultaneous appointments to both the NASW Commission on Women’s Issues and the CSWE Council on the Role and Status of Women. She was also a member of CSWE Leadership Council and served as chair of the Commission on Professional Development.
Since leaving UTA in 2014, she served as a substitute Associate Professor at the College of Staten Island (CUNY), where she once again initiated their first course on intimate partner violence. She has also founded a consulting firm specializing in research and evaluation for gender justice. Recent projects include evaluating an online-based Human Trafficking Emergency Housing app and working as a consultant on a National Institute of Justice funded project to uncover violence against women in the oil patch of North Dakota.
Biographical Data: Fran Danis was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1953. She is a first-generation college graduate and witnessed the struggles of her divorced mother to gain her own credit and make ends meet to provide for her 3 children. As an undergraduate (1970-1974), she attended Stony Brook University during the peak of the second wave of feminism. She joined the newly established Women’s Center and worked to create a rape awareness/prevention advocacy program, organize Women’s Weekend Conferences, publish a women’s literary magazine and facilitate consciousness-raising groups. Learning that the “personal was political” Danis embraced feminist theory and leadership as the underlying philosophy for her life’s work. Many years later, she learned that her great grandmother for whom she is named was sent to the US from Russia to protect her from the pogroms against Jews and particularly the sexual assault of young Jewish women. For Danis, the personal is political became personal again.
Significant Achievements and Awards From the beginning, Dr. Danis has been recognized for her exemplary work. In 1981, only 5 years after graduation with her MSW, she was named the 1981 Social
Worker of the Year for the Denton Branch of NASW/Texas. In 1986, fewer than ten years after receiving her MSW, she was awarded Congressional Recognition for Community Leadership by Congressman Tom Vandergriff. In 1995 she became the first person in Texas to be honored by two different NASW local units when she was named Austin Unit Social Worker of the Year. In 2002 she and founders of the MU Domestic and Sexual Assault Coordinating Council were was awarded the DOVE Award for Organizational Excellence and in 2003, Dr. Danis received the Outstanding Faculty Award from the University of Missouri School of Social Work Alumni Association. In 2004 she was named a Global Scholar by the university providing her with the opportunity to travel to Moscow and St. Petersburg to study domestic violence. In 2015 she was named “Consultant of the Month” by the Dept. of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center. In 2016 the University of Texas at Arlington, named her Associate Professor Emerita.
Dr. Danis is a prolific writer and trainer. Her ability to disseminate research in the area of victims’ assistance and domestic violence is demonstrated by the publication of nearly fifty journal articles, technical reports, book chapters, encyclopedia entries and books. Her published work has been cited over 900 times. Among these are:
Danis, F.S. (2003). Social work response to domestic violence: Encouraging news from a new look. Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work, 18 (2), 177-191.
Danis, F. S. (2003). The criminalization of domestic violence: What social workers need to know. Social Work, 48 (2), 237-246.
Danis, F.S. & Lockhart, L. (2003). Domestic violence and social work education: What do we know, what do we need to know? Journal of Social Work Education, 39 (2), 215-224.
Danis, F.S. (2005). Flora’s vest: The personal is political is personal again. Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work,
Lockhart, L. & Danis, F.S. (Eds.). (2010). Domestic Violence: Intersectionality and Culturally Competent Practice. New York: Columbia University Press: Foundations of Social Work Knowledge Series.
Danis also wrote a 16 page “OVC Bulletin” entitled “The Victim Assistance Field and the Profession of Social Work” in 2006 that was published by the United States Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime. She has presented nearly 100 times at the local, regional, state, national and international level as a trainer, lecturer, and keynote speaker.
Thank you Fran for all you do for victims of sexual and domestic violence! We are truly grateful and proud to follow in your footsteps. #HerStory