Military Social Work: How UNE Alumna, Kelli Godfrey, Serves Our Veterans

Kelli in Scotland

Kelli Godfrey grew up around the world on military installations, with her mother serving her country as an active duty female soldier. She later married her husband, an active duty soldier, and continued to move around the country. Though Kelli herself is not a veteran, she was an Army child, Army spouse, employed as a Department of the Army civilian, and held many volunteer positions with the Army. Her passion to serve military and veteran-connected populations is largely what drew her to UNE’s MSW program.

Kelli is a 2012 graduate of UNE’s MSW Program.   Upon graduating with her MSW, she worked in health care and embedded in the 1st Medical Brigade as a civilian in Fort Hood, TX, where she worked as a victim advocate with soldiers who had experienced sexual assault in the Army (SHARP – Sexual Harassment Assault Response and Prevention Program).  Kelli combined the knowledge and passion she gained from UNE’s MSW Program with her military experience and dove into PhD studies at University of Alabama’s School of Social Work.

Kelli’s research focuses on military and veteran populations.   She has currently been co-author on 13 manuscripts, each of which focus on different military and veteran-connected issues. She’s published 4 book chapters, two of which she was “first author,” and wrote primarily on mental fitness in military veteran women and military social work.

Kelli presents on military terminology at conference in London

Kelli has collaborated with international research teams to create congruent military terminology across academic research and presented the work internationally in Canada and the UK.  She is beginning her dissertation research now, which will focus on the psychosocial needs of active duty military members and their spouses who are cancer patients or survivors. This work is very important to Kelli as she is a cancer survivor herself.  She was diagnosed with cancer while her husband was active duty. She understands that there are many unmet needs in this area and that social workers can help bridge this gap.  Kelli works closely with Professor Dr. David L. Albright and contributes to the Office for Military Families and Veterans at the University of Alabama.

Kelli has taken the valuable knowledge that she learned during her time at UNE and her experience with the military to attempt to make a difference for military members and their families.  “As the number of veterans increase, it is important that social workers understand how to work with this unique population,”  she says.  “Although the Department of Veterans Affairs is the largest single employer of social workers, veterans and their families are woven throughout all communities in the United States.”

With this understanding, Dr. Thomas Chalmers McLaughlin and Kelli created and co-taught a hybrid course at UNE on military families.  Kelli and Dr. McLaughlin presented their work on this course at the Council of Social Work Education national conference in October.

“As the number of veterans increase, it is important that social workers understand how to work with this unique population” 

Kelli encourages all social workers,  those attending UNE through the on-campus option and the online option, to learn how to interact with and identify the unique needs of this growing population. The hope is that a continued dialogue will occur to encourage social workers to identify how they can make an impact with military members and their families within the community in which they live and work. Kelli continues to maintain a strong connection with UNE as well through working with field students and co-facilitating the hybrid Military Families course.

For more info on Veteran Education Benefits at UNE: Veteran Benefits at UNE

Painting by Wendi Boggs, titled “Unconscionable,” depicts the problem of homelessness among veterans. Boggs, an art therapist, served in the U.S. Air Force from 1984 to 1990. (Veteran Artist Program).

Featured photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash