ALUMNI Q&A | Kerry Doyle, DSW ’22
Authored by: Carson Easterly
SP2 alumna Kerry Doyle, DSW, MSSW, is an associate professor of practicum education at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. She is a licensed independent clinical social worker interested in trauma sensitive mindfulness interventions in the school setting, compassion fatigue among educators, and trauma responsive interventions. Her doctoral research examined how MSW education can better prepare school social workers to provide crisis response and trauma interventions after mass gun violence.
Why did you choose Penn and SP2?
The Doctorate in Clinical Social Work (DSW) Program at Penn is the perfect balance of practice and research. After 20 years as a clinical social worker, I wanted to study clinical practice from an advanced level as well as enter the area of research. The DSW program allowed me to study clinical social work at a level that complimented my decades of practice. It also reintroduced me to research and taught me how to incorporate it into my practice.
When did you first know that you wanted to be involved in social justice work? Why?
Social justice work is the foundation of social work practice. I knew that I wanted to be a mental health professional; however, social work’s commitment to social justice provided a lens that appealed to me more than any of the other mental health disciplines.
What did you like the most about your experience at SP2? What would you consider the key takeaways?
There are many DSW programs available now; however, I feel that the DSW program at Penn sets itself apart by its rigor. The three-year program provides advanced clinical classes as well as research-based classes that shape graduates into advanced practitioners, scholars, and researchers. I also appreciated the small cohort of 20 students. My classmates were social workers at the top of their field. I learned from not only the instructors, but also my classmates. I also made lifelong friends from this program!
What led you to your current position as associate professor of practicum education at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work?
When I entered the DSW program, I had been both a clinical social worker and social work educator for many years. In order to advance in social work education, I needed my doctorate. I selected the DSW program over the PhD because I wanted to incorporate a focus on clinical practice.
What professional accomplishments have been most meaningful to you, and why?
My doctoral research focused on crisis response and recovery after mass gun violence in schools. This was intense but needed research and I cannot thank my dissertation advisor, Dr. Werner-Lin, enough for her mentorship. Since my graduation in 2022, I have had the opportunity to present my research findings at multiple conferences and my dissertation has been downloaded over 360 times. Recently, I was asked to speak on a panel on Gun Violence at the NASW North & South Carolina Essentials Conference. This fall, I spoke at the CSWE Annual Program Meeting and am scheduled to speak at the National Center for Advancing School Mental Health conferences. I have also recently co-designed a K-12 Mental Health Threat Assessment training through the Center for Safe & Resilient Schools and Workplaces.
What are you looking forward to in your career, and how do you think your SP2 experience has or will impact your professional path?
It is my hope to continue research around mental health and violence in schools. My experience at the Penn DSW program and my mentorship with Dr. Werner-Lin have provided me the skills to become a subject expert in this area. I also remain connected with my cohort of classmates— such amazing social workers and kind individuals. I have such fond memories of the program and I am grateful that it has prepared me for the next phase of my career.
Allison Werner-Lin, PhD, LCSW