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Joan Pennell

Unpaid Emeritus

School of Social Work

James B Hunt Jr Centennial Cam 5148


Dr. Joan Pennell is Professor Emerita of Social Work at North Carolina State University. She was the Director of the Social Work Program and then Department Head of Social Work from 1999 to 2008. She oversaw Social Work moving from a program to a department and the establishment of the Master of Social Work program. In 2008, she became the Director of the Center for Family and Community Engagement and served in this capacity until her retirement in 2018. She taught previously at the University of Manitoba, School of Social Work, and Memorial University of Newfoundland, School of Social Work, where she also served as Interim Director and chaired its PhD Committee.

Her research and public service have focused on family engagement and restorative approaches. She conducted in North Carolina a demonstration of family group conferencing in child welfare and directed training, technical assistance, and evaluation of family-centered meetings and family engagement in child welfare and schools. She served as researcher of the NC Community Child Protection Teams Advisory Board. Community Child Protection Teams are citizen review panels for improving public child welfare in North Carolina. With a local shelter for abused women and their children, she developed a model of safety conferencing to address domestic violence. She has evaluated a fathering program for men who have committed domestic violence. With the Center for Court Innovation, she studied alternative approaches to intimate partner violence.

Before her return to the United States, she was a principal investigator (with Dr. Gale Burford) for a Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada, demonstration of family group decision making in situations of child maltreatment and domestic violence. Three diverse sites—Inuit, rural, and urban—hosted the demonstration project. She was appointed to the National Crime Prevention Council (Canada), chaired its Youth Justice Committee, and promoted social development strategies for crime prevention. She helped to found the first shelter for abused women and their children in Newfoundland and co-facilitated support groups for abused women of European and Aboriginal descent.

She was as an external evaluator of Family Team Meetings for the District of Columbia Child & Family Services Agency. She served on the Advisory Committee for the Quality Improvement Center on Child Welfare Involved Children and Families Experiencing Domestic Violence; Stakeholder Group Member, Preventing and Addressing Intimate Violence when Engaging Dads (PAIVED); and the Advisory Group for the Campus PRISM (Promoting Restorative Initiatives for Sexual Misconduct on College Campuses).

She co-authored Community Research as Empowerment: Feminist Links, Postmodern Interruptions (Oxford University Press),Widening the Circle: The Practice and Evaluation of Family Group Conferencing with Children, Youths, and Their Families (NASW Press), Family Group Conferencing: Evaluation Guidelines (American Humane Association), and Safety, Fairness, Stability: Repositioning Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare to Engage Families and Communities (Georgetown University Center for Juvenile Justice Reform). She has over 200 publications.

She has presented on restorative practices across Canada and the United States as well as in Australia, Guatemala, Israel, Netherlands, New Zealand, Taiwan, and United Kingdom. Her editorial work includes the review board of Child Welfare, the International Advisory Board of the International Journal of Restorative Justice, and the editorial board of Contemporary Justice Review.

At NC State University, she was inducted into the Academy of Outstanding Faculty Engaged in Extension and received the Alumni Association Outstanding Researcher Award. Her center and partners received the Opal Mann Green Engagement and Scholarship Award. She received the Gary Ander Making a Difference Award for Family-Driven Care. She was inducted into the Academy of Community Engagement Scholarship, a national organization to recognize and advance community-university collaborations to promote the public good.


B.A. Human Relations Earlham College

MSW Social Work Dalhousie University

Ph.D. Social Work Bryn Mawr College

Area(s) of Expertise

Family group conferencing, family-centered meetings, child maltreatment, domestic violence, restorative justice; citizen review, cultural safety, community and organizational practice, empowerment research, community-engaged scholarship