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SP2 Alum Receives Prestigious Award for Dissertation

Headshot of Micheal Shier

Faculty & Research, Alumni


Micheal Shier, PhD, recently received the Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools Doctoral Dissertation Award for 2015 – 2016. Shier, a School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2) alum, accepted the award in the spring.

“It was a great honor to have my dissertation research recognized by the Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools (NAGS). I am extremely grateful for being selected for this prestigious award… and thankful for having my dissertation nominated by the University of Pennsylvania’s Provost, and for the great mentorship and guidance I received from my supervisor, Dr. Femida Handy and my dissertation committee, made up of Dr. Marybeth Gasman and Dr. Toorjo Ghose,” Shier said.

Shier’s winning dissertation was a mixed methods study that investigated the role of nonprofits in undertaking socially innovative efforts and initiatives.

“The dissertation adds to existing knowledge by highlighting the different types of socially innovative efforts undertaken by direct social service nonprofits, and also aids in conceptualizing, operationalizing, and measuring the key internal and external organizational dynamics that support nonprofits [in these efforts],” Shier said.

Shier is currently an assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work. He graduated from SP2 in 2014. As a student at the School, Shier received both the Chair Doctoral Student Fellowship and the Heyer Foundation Fellowship.

“My experience at SP2 was nothing but exceptional. My academic pursuits were nurtured and supported through my coursework and instructors and by Dr. Handy,” Shier said.

Shier has been working in research positions for more than a decade now. Some of his research has led to the development of tools that can be used for social impact assessment, along with assessing organizational processes and dynamics that have a positive impact on improved social outcomes for service user groups.

“Working with organizations and leaders to support greater collaboration for improved service user outcomes is an important aspect of my research, and will continue to be in the future,” Shier said. “Within the confines of our contemporary political economic conditions, it is becoming increasingly important for all sectors – government, nonprofits, and for-profit – to work together to achieve positive social outcomes. Central to this is developing and implementing practice and policy guidelines to support these partnerships and organizational efforts.”