Student Spotlight: Ebonie Kinney, University of Texas at Arlington
Ebonie Kinney graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington in August 2022 with a masters in social work. During her time at UTA, she worked as a graduate research assistant with faculty advisor Dr. Anne Nordberg on research to improve public transit and transportation access for people experiencing homelessness. Ebonie earned her BA in psychology from Baldwin Wallace University, and plans to become a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) working with vulnerable and disadvantaged populations.
Tell us about yourself?
My name is Ebonie Kinney and I recently graduated with my Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Texas at Arlington with a concentration in Direct Practice with Children and Families. I am particularly passionate about advocating for marginalized and underserved populations. During my time at UTA, I served as a graduate research assistant; coauthoring a research publication that highlighted the healthcare disparities for persons of color in long-term care facilities. I also served as a graduate student leader in which I acted as a liaison on behalf of students; helping them navigate through the Master of Social Work program.
What (or who) has influenced your career path in transportation?
It was truly an honor and a privilege to work as a social work intern under the supportive leadership of Dr. Anne Nordberg. During this time, I was inspired to work with the homeless population because initially, I was unaware of how critical transportation is for many individuals and families; especially as it pertains to their quest to exit homelessness. The knowledge that I ascertained during this research study, sparked my interest in discovering ways to not only improve the unique circumstances of homeless individuals who use public transit services, but also to discover ways to implement viable interventions that lead to more protective factors; and thus, mitigating the risks for chronic homelessness. As a future social worker, I would like to be instrumental in breaking down the significant barriers that exist and only further exacerbates the circumstances of homeless individuals.
You're working with Dr. Anne Nordberg on a project to support people experiencing homelessness on public transit. Tell us about that work?
The research project is called "Towards Data and Solution Focused Approaches for Homeless Populations on Public Transit." While there is much research focused on people experiencing homelessness, there are gaps in understanding how this population utilizes transit services and facilities. Further, there are gaps in knowledge about how to engage homeless populations and about how targeted interventions and approaches impact people experiencing homelessness and utilizing transit services and facilities. The UT Arlington research team aimed to fill these gaps with a mixed methods exploratory research design with a bottom-up approach that focused on people experiencing homelessness rather than an agency, organization, or expert-focused approach. I assisted with compiling a list of over 500 national homeless service providers in order to launch synthesis surveys nationally to major service providers for people experiencing homelessness. In addition, I also interviewed people with lived experiences of homelessness as well as national homeless service providers. The extensive data provided while collaborating on this project detailed the various complexities and barriers that exist for homeless people who use public transit.
After graduation, what future work do you envision doing in transportation?
I plan to become a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) and work with vulnerable and disadvantaged populations; including the homeless. As a future social work practitioner, I also plan to utilize my experience working with homeless individuals to inform social work practice when assisting clients from diverse backgrounds. More specifically, it is essential that this population is afforded the appropriate access to public transit services and facilities so that they have equal opportunities to lead functional and optimal lives. I will make it my mission to advocate for more equitable services for clients who are experiencing homelessness and embrace a trauma-informed approach when engaging with this population.
Photo by Christine_Kohler/iStock
This is an installment in a series of monthly Student Spotlights we're shining on students and alumni that are involved with National Institute for Transportation & Communities (NITC) universities. NITC is a university transportation consortium funded by the U.S. DOT, and is a Portland State-led partnership with the University of Oregon, Oregon Institute of Technology, University of Utah, University of Arizona, and University of Texas at Arlington.