Carol Cleaveland, PhD

Carol Cleaveland
Titles and Organizations

Associate Professor, Social Work

Contact Information

Phone: 703-993-2597
Building: Peterson Hall
Room 3605


Dr. Carol Cleaveland is an Associate Professor of Social Work at George Mason University. She has been researching Latino immigration since 2004, when she began working with Mexican day laborers in Freehold, N.J., to understand how they negotiated police harassment and anti-immigrant ordinances. Since 2013, her work has focused on Latinas from Central America and immigration-related trauma, including experiences in human smuggling. A recent study of a clinic-based sample (n=61) found that Latina immigrants had a rate of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder 10 times higher than would be found among an American sample in a typical year. Dr. Cleaveland also provides pro bono psychosocial assessments for Central American immigrants in the Baltimore/Washington, DC area for USCIS court hearings. She teaches SOCW 674 Psychopathology, SOCW 645 Community Clinical Practice and SOCW 653 Immigration Policy. Dr. Cleaveland also serves as a training coordinator for Mason’s VA SBIRT grant.

University Service

  • Chair, Department Committee for Promotion, Tenure and Review. Department of Social Work, May 2018 through 2018-2019 Academic Year.
  • Member, George Mason University Faculty Senate, August 2013 to Present. Serving on the following committees: Operations and Organization, Grievance and Academic Appeals.
  • Department of Social Work Representative, College of Public Health Curriculum Committee, 2008 to Present. Chair, 2010 to 2012.
  • Chair, MSW Curriculum Committee, 2010 to 2012.
  • Associate Director of the Mason Project on Immigration, September 2008 to September 2009


Research Interests

  • Advocacy and undocumented immigrants
  • Welfare  

Select Publications

Cleaveland, C. & Frankenfeld, C. (2019). “They kill people over nothing:” An exploratory study of Latina immigrant trauma. Journal of Social Service Research

Cleaveland, C. & V. Kirsch. (2019). "They took all my clothes and made me walk naked for two days so I couldn’t escape": Latina immigrant experiences of human smuggling in Mexico. In press, Qualitative Social Work

Cleaveland, C. & D.L. Shutika. (2018). “Wouldn’t You Walk Away?:” Foreclosures and Homeowner Understandings.” Families In Society. 

Cleaveland, C. (2017). How the immigration and deportation systems work: A social workers guide. Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, 44 (3), 55-78.

Matto, H. & Cleaveland, C. (2016). A social-spatial lens to examine poverty, violence and addiction. Manuscript accepted for publication in Social Work Practice In The Addictions, Special Issue on Violence.

Goodman, R. D., Vesely, C., Letiecq, B., & Cleaveland, C. (2016). Trauma and resilience among refugee and undocumented immigrant women. Manuscript accepted for publication in the Journal of Counseling & Development, Special Issue on Traumatology.

Cleaveland, C. (2013). 'I stepped over a dead body…': Latina immigrant narratives of immigration and poverty. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 23(1), p. 1-13.

Cleaveland, C. (2012). 'Mexico City North': Identity and anti-immigrant sentiment. Qualitative Social Work, 12(4), 270-288.

Cleaveland, C. & E. Ilhara. (2012). "They treat us like pests": Undocumented immigrant experiences obtaining health care in the wake of a "crackdown" ordinance, Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 22, 771-788.

Cleaveland, C. (2011). Borders, police and jobs: Viewing Latino immigration through a social spatial lens, Families in Society, 92(2), 139-145.

Cleaveland, C. (2011). 'In this country, you suffer a lot:' Undocumented Mexican experiences, Qualitative Social Work, August 9, 2011, 1-21.

Cleaveland, C. (2010). The Mexicans and 'Us Gringos': A case study of activist work with unauthorized migrants, Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 20(5), 637-657.

Cleaveland, C. (2010). “We are not criminals”: Social work advocacy and undocumented migrants, Social Work, 55(1), 74-81.

Cleaveland, C. & L. Pierson. (2009). Police, convenience stores and 'the bosses': Migrant tactics to find work. Ethnography, 10(4), 515-533.

Cleaveland C. & L. Kelly. (2009). Shared social space and strategies to find work: An exploratory study of Mexican day laborers in Freehold, N.J. Social Justice: A Journal of Crime, Conflict, and World Order, 35(4), 51-65.

Cleaveland, C. (2008). Without wages of benefits: Disconnected TANF recipients' struggles to achieve agency. Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work, 22(4), 321-333.

Cleaveland, C. (2008) 'A black benefit': A qualitative examination of racial prejudice among white welfare recipients in a low-income neighborhood. Journal of Progressive Human Services, 19(2), 71-91.

Youdin, R. & Cleaveland, C. (2006). Religious affiliation/non affiliation: A predictor of social work students' attitudes toward old poor people. Social Work Forum 39(3), 5-19.

Cleaveland, C. (2005), Menial labor: Its meaning and implications for welfare recipients. Arete, 28(2), 54-67.

Cleaveland, C. (2005). A desperate means to dignity: Work refusal amongst Philadelphia welfare recipients. Ethnography, 6(1), 35-60.

Books and Book Chapters

Cleaveland, C. (2017). Journeys Across The Border And Through The Legal System. In T. Maschi & G. Liebowitz (Eds.), Psychosocial and Legal Issues Across Diverse Settings (2nd ed.). NY: Springer Publishing Company.

Cleaveland, C. (2012). Family-Based Immigration: Counterpoint. In J. Gans & D. Tichenor (Eds.), Sage Debates on Immigration. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage.

Cleaveland, C. (2009). Calling Some ‘Illegal:’ Practice Considerations in Work with Undocumented Immigrants. In T. Maschi, M.L. Killian, C. Bradley, & K. Ward (Eds.), Collaborative Forensic Social Work Practice. NY: Springer Publishing Company.


"Training for Health Care Professionals in Nursing, Psychology, Counseling, Medicine and Social Work in Use of SBIRT Protocols and Motivational Interviewing to Reduce Substance Abuse", Virginia State Screening Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment Project. 2019-2020. Role: Training Coordinator. $42,828.46. 

"Training to Engage, Assess, and Motivate for Substance Use Prevention (TEAMS-UP)," U.S. Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration. 2016-2018. Role: Training Instructor. $31,818.

"Advanced Nursing Education Grants," U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/Health Resources and Service Administration. Sutter, C. (Principal Investigator/Director), September 2014-May 2015. Role: Investigator. $339,067.

"Competitive Seed Grant Program," George Mason Office of the Provost. $1,310.

"Virginia's Changing Communities," Mason Project on Immigration and funding from George Mason University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and College of Health and Human Services. 2009. $18,500.

"Grant-in-Aid of Creativity," Monmouth University Travel, Grants and Sabbaticals Committee. $2000.

Honors and Awards


  • Senior Faculty Master Teacher, 2016, College of Health and Human Services, George Mason University
  • Senior Fellow, 2013, Urban Ethnography Project, Yale University Department of Sociology
  • Hathaway Award for Academic Excellence, 1997, Bryn Mawr College
  • Pennsylvania Bar Association 1991 Awards Competition, award for investigative reporting, Pennsylvania Bar Association
  • Award for Investigative Reporting, 1990, Philadelphia Society of Professional Journalists
  • American Bar Association 1989 National Awards Competition, award for investigative reporting, American Bar Association
  • New York State Associated Press Awards Competition 1984, award for excellence in features, New York State Associated Press Awards
  • American News Service, 1980 Award, American News Service
  • Kappa Tau Alpha Honors Society, 1980, Kappa Tau Alpha


Consulting Experience

  • Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Martinelli Immigration Law LLC | 2015

    Conducted diagnostic assessments for Latina women seeking asylum in U.S. Immigration Court. Used Spanish language versions of PCL-C and PHQ-9 to assess PTSD and depression. Assessment included in court case to document effects of traumatic exposure for asylum seekers. Retained by Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Washington, DC and Martinelli Immigration Law LLC, Boston.

  • Public Health Management Corporation | 2006

    Provided training in qualitative methodology including coding, memo writing, interpretation, and grounded theory methods to Research and Evaluation Department of Public Health Management Corporation, Philadelphia. Organized and facilitated staff’s analysis of interviews from NIDA-funded project examining high risk sex practices.


  • PhD, Bryn Mawr College
  • MSS, Bryn Mawr College
  • BA, Political Science and Print Journalism, American University