Annie Francis is a fourth-year doctoral student in the School of Social Work. Her research focuses on understanding the factors that contribute to disproportionality among American Indian children and families involved in the child welfare system. She is also a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Research Scholar.
What made you choose UNC-Chapel Hill when deciding on a program/place to study?
As a triple Tar Heel, personal experience has taught me that education at Carolina can be transformative. After earning my bachelor’s in sociology, master’s in social work and master’s in public administration, I entered my doctoral program with some idea of where I wanted to go but also kept in mind that my journey throughout the program might take me somewhere else I hadn’t even considered.
Tell us about your research.
My research focuses on identifying factors that lead to disproportionality that can be addressed through policy or practice change. Ultimately, I want to improve outcomes and experiences for families involved in the child welfare system by holding the system accountable for removing system-level barriers to a family’s success, which are often outside of their control.
What does it mean to you to be a first-generation graduate student in your family?
Validation not just for me but also for my family and my tribal community. The capacity or innate ability to be successful in higher education has always been there but opportunity has not. Just being a graduate student in my family instills hope for those who are to come, kind of like a symbol that access to opportunity is possible, even to those from my home community. It also means that I am responsible for bringing those skills back to serve my tribal community, the Haliwa-Saponi people of North Carolina.
What are you hoping to accomplish with your Carolina degree?
I hope to foster greater awareness of system-level drivers that must be addressed to reduce disproportionality among members of minoritized groups navigating the child welfare system. I also hope to inspire other first-generation college students to shoot for the stars even when the vision of how to get there isn’t so clear.