Dr. Valandra is an associate professor in the School of Social Work with a joint appointment in the African and African American studies program in Fulbright College at the University of Arkansas. She also serves as the Director of African and African American Studies. Her research interests include public child welfare policy and practice, gender-based violence prevention, and culturally responsive research and social work practice and policy. She earned a B.S. in Business Administration and an M.B.A. from the University of Nebraska – Omaha. As a child welfare scholar at the University of Minnesota, she also completed a MSW and PhD in Social Work with a focus in child abuse, gender-based intimate partner violence, and sex trafficking of women and children of African American heritage.
Dr. Valandra’s post-MSW experience includes work in child protection, serving as an area training manager for the IV-E Child Welfare Training System in Minnesota, and social service work with families experiencing the intersections of poverty, intimate partner violence, homelessness, and incarceration. Her work experience informs her research and teaching. She teaches courses in research methods, advance practice with adults, social work with African Americans, and has created teaching modules on culturally responsive practice with African American families experiencing incarceration and working with children and families experiencing incarceration. Dr. Valandra’s research agenda emphasizes the strengths and protective factors developed within intergenerational parenting and family networks that mitigate risks and promote resilience and recovery. Her research and practice standpoints include, critical race, feminist, multi-systems life course, intersectional, Afrocentric and social justice frameworks.
Dr. Valandra has acquired over $168,000 in funding over the past five years from the Arkansas Workforce, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, and the Bernice Jones Endowed Chair at the University of Arkansas. She has presented her research at over 30 international, national, and regional conferences and served as an invited reviewer for 10 international and national peer-reviewed journals. Dr. Valandra has published articles in several peer-reviewed journals including Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research, Advances in Social Work, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work, Journal of Ethnographic & Qualitative Research, Oxford University Press – Encyclopedia of Social Work Online and a chapter in Mothers, Mothering and Sex Work. She has also published a chapter on Afrocentric Intergenerational Assessment and Recovery from Sex Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation in Social Work Practice with Survivors of Sex Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation - Columbia University Press and article on African American Men’s Perspectives of Intra-racial, heterosexual intimate partner violence using a multi-systems life course framework in the Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research.
Dr. Valandra serves as a mentor for the Honors College First Generation Mentoring Program and the LGBTQ+ Mentoring Program on campus. She is a founding member Let’s Talk Northwest Arkansas, a program providing outreach and education on domestic violence and sexual assault affecting the lives of African Americans in Northwest Arkansas. She also serves on the board of the Northwest Arkansas Center for Sexual Assault and as the wellness-advisor and diversity consultant for Just Communities of Arkansas. She has a passion for social and economic justice and equity and values diversity and inclusion for all people.