Helen E. Petracchi

  • Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

Helen Petracchi earned her PhD in Social Welfare at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, where she also earned her M.S.S.W. degree.  Dr. Petracchi’s primary scholarly interests lie in improving the professional delivery of social work services to vulnerable populations. To this end, she has focused on identifying the service needs of vulnerable populations, and instituting and evaluating innovations in educational delivery strategies to more effectively prepare social work students for practice. As part of her work with vulnerable populations, Dr. Petracchi co-authored a state of the region report (with Dr. R. Engel and K. Brown, 1999) and a book, The Hmong in America: Providing Ethnic-Sensitive Health, Education, and Human Services (with Dr. K. McInnis and M. Morgenbesser, 1990). Currently Dr. Petracchi, as Co-PI, is in the process of bringing a study on-going in Atlanta and Chicago to Pittsburgh. This study will use oral history methodology to examine the experiences of retired African American Educators who taught during the period leading up-to and including desegregation of public schools in the United States.  Dr. Petracchi’s work has been published in the Journal of Social Work Education, the Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, the Journal of Teaching in Social Work, The Journal of Community Practice, Research on Social Work Practice, The Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work, as well as Professional Development: The International Journal of Continuing Social Work Education, Journal of Continuing Social Work Education, and the Wisconsin Medical Journal.

Research Interests

  • Social Work Education: History and Contemporary Critical Issues
  • Accreditation and Reaffirmation
  • Distance Education and Distance Learning
  • Service Learning in Higher Education
  • Oral Histories of Retired African American Educators
  • Research on pedogogy e.g most effective pedogogical approaches in teaching social workers
  • Effective teaching of doctoral students as teachers

Selected Research

  • Co-Investigator, Helen Petracchi, PhD., Principal Investigator, P.A. Hutcheson, PhD, Chair, University Alabama, School of Education, Educational Leadership, Policy, and Technology Studies Department.  Collaborate in a study of retired African American educators to assess, through oral history, their experiences as educators during the period of school desegregation.
  • Technology Presence in Pennsylvania Child Welfare. The University of Pittsburgh Central Research Development fund supported this evaluation of Pennsylvania county resources for child welfare training utilizing distance learning technology.
  • University of Wisconsin, Institute on Race and Ethnicity supported an assessment of health care needs of Hmong refugees in Wisconsin.

Accepting Graduate Students: Yes

Graduate Student Advisees

  • Hyun-a Song (current)
  • Paris Baker, Assistant Professor, Social Work, Gannon University

B.Phil Student Advisees (the B.Phil., initiated in AY 2008, is an Honors Degree Jointly Awarded by the School of Social Work and the University of Pittsburgh Honors College)

  • Stephanie Pinsky, MSW (Columbia University)
  • Bridget Bailey, MSW (Ohio State); Currently a PhD candidate at The Ohio State University College of Social Work

Courses Taught

PhD Program

  • Seminar on Social Work Education
  • Seminar in Social Welfare Policy

MSW Program

  • Social Welfare: History & Contemporary Welfare Policy
  • Foundations of Generalist Practice
  • Foundations of Social Work Practice with Diverse Populations
  • Residential & Day Treatment Services for Children & Youth

BASW Program

  • Social Welfare Policy Analysis
  • Introduction to the Field of Social Work
  • Practicum Seminar & Lab I & II

Representative Publications

Petracchi, H.E., Weaver, A., Schelbe, L., & Song, H. (2016). Service-Learning in Baccalaureate Social Work Education: Results of a National Survey of Accredited ProgramsJournal of Social Work Education, DOI:10.1080/10437797.2016.1174628

Levinson, S.G., Engel, R.J., Petracchi, H.E., & Caldwell, K.J. (2016).  Integrating Video Documentary into the Social Work Classroom: A community Assessment. Journal of Teaching in Social Work. DOI: 10.1080/08841233.2016.1143075

Song, H. & Petracchi, H.E. (2015). Adaptation Needs of International Social Work Students: A Proposed Paired-Mentoring ApproachJournal of Social Work in the Global Community, Vol. 1(1), pp. 1-16.

Schelbe, L., Petracchi, H.E., & Weaver, A.  (October, 2014). Benefits and Challenges of Service-Learning in Baccalaureate Social Work Education.  Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work Education, Vol. 34(5), pp. 480-495.

Petracchi H. E. & Zastrow, C. (2010, October-December).  Suggestions for Utilizing 2008 EPAS in CSWE-Accredited Social Work Baccalaureate and Masters Curriculum: Reflections from the Field, Part 2 – Implicit Curriculum, and Assessment.  Journal of Teaching in Social Work, Vol. 30 (4), pp. 357-366.

Petracchi H. E. & Zastrow, C. (2010, April-June).  Suggestions for Utilizing 2008 EPAS in CSWE-Accredited Social Work Baccalaureate and Masters Curriculum: Reflections from the Field, Part 1 - Explicit Curriculum, Signature Pedagogy and Assessment.  Journal of Teaching in Social Work, Vol. 30 (2), pp. 125-146.

Petracchi, H.E., Weaver, A., Engel, R.J., Kolivoski, K.A., & Das, R.M. (2010). Service learning in university living-learning communities: Educational and community implications.  Journal of Community Practice, Vol. 18 (2-3), pp. 253-267.


Areas of Expertise