Social work student wins prize for undergraduate research

Story by Tricia Howley

The 2017 cash prize winners for CSU’s Celebrate Undergraduate Research and Creativity showcase have been announced, and for the second time, social work student Sarah Bibbey has placed in the competition.

The event, held April 17 in the Lory Student Center Ballroom, is one of Colorado State University’s premiere showcases of research, art, writing, and other works. Nearly 400 students participated this year.

Research in Ghana

Sarah Bibbey
Sarah Bibbey

Bibbey received second prize in the Social Justice and Diversity category for her presentation “Voices of Leaders in Ghana’s Disability Rights Movement.” Her interest in social work developed during a gap year spent in Kumasi, Ghana.

“Spending time with people there helped me realize I really wanted to work to make social change,” said Bibbey. She has returned to Ghana multiple times during the course of her undergraduate education.

The B.S.W. program prepares students for generalist practice, including courses in social justice and diversity. Bibbey designed her research opportunities through participation in CSU’s University Honors Program and President’s Leadership Program.

“My third visit [to Ghana] was the entire summer of 2015, and that’s when I met people involved in the disability rights movement,” said Bibbey. She identified an opportunity in her experience abroad for a topic to support her minor in leadership.

Disability rights and leadership

“When I returned for winter break 2016-17, I intended to interview the advocates I had met a year and a half before, as well as their colleagues,” she said. Bibbey was specifically interested in how people involved in Ghana’s disability rights movement speak about leadership.

She employed a qualitative methodology to address the holistic value inherent in speakers’ voices. Her research yielded results linked to interviewees’ perspectives, including themes of story, education, inclusion, self-reliance, and action.

“II chose not to cross code them, but instead examine each in their own right.” Bibbey said. The participants included a local business owner, a school administrator, two NGO founders, and a taxi driver.

Two of those interviewed are people with disabilities and three have children with disabilities. “One of the largest similarities between the interviews is an emphasis on motherhood as a position of leadership,” said Bibbey.

Bibbey will receive her B.S.W. from the School of Social Work’s undergraduate program in May. She plans to continue her education sometime in the future, with a focus on global practice.

The School of Social Work is part of Colorado State University’s College of Health and Human Sciences.