Education: Bachelor of Arts in Social Work, Talladega College (1994), Master of Social Work, University of Alabama (1997), Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work, University of Alabama (2010), Master in Public Health, Western Kentucky University (2016)
Research Interests: gerontology, custodial grandparents, aging family members and mental illness, ethnogerontology, health disparities, public health and caregiving
Dr. Peterson is a native of Alabama. Her life experiences and extended family involvement while growing up in the Deep South influenced her areas of interests. Her primary research focuses on gerontology with emphasis on intergenerational relations, rural custodial grandparenting, and the family experience of mental illness. Recently, she has conducted research which explored rural and urban school officials’ perceptions of students raised in grandparent-headed households. The findings of this research show rural and urban school officials share similar concerns about grandparents’ well-being and student discipline related issues.
She is passionate about issues affecting older adults. While working as a hospice social worker, she recognized the challenges rural older adults and their families face in accessing services. These issues became more illuminated when she co-facilitated a community-based support group for custodial grandparents. Subsequently, Dr. Peterson began volunteering with community organizations such as NAMI and the Community Action Agency of South Central Kentucky to discover how agencies are responding to the service needs of older adults. Her recent publications examine rural populations visiting mobile health units, health and mental health disparities among older African Americans, and issues affecting rural custodial grandparents.
As a first generation college student, Dr. Peterson recognizes the value of connecting with mentors early in life. She is an alumnus of the Southern Regional Educational Board’s Doctoral Scholar Program (SREB) and the Council on Social Work Education’s Minority Fellowship Program (MFP).
She has taught courses in human behavior in the social environment, social welfare policy, research methods, and gerontology. In her leisure time, she enjoys the outdoors, watching sports, and water activities.