Rachel Speer

Assistant Professor of Social Work and Social Research
Rachel Speer headshot


Phone 610-520-2621
Location Social Work 217


  • Ph.D., University of Denver
  • MSW, University of Denver

Areas of Focus

Mental health and Trauma, Parenting and Intergenerational Transmission of Risk, LGBTQ, Communities of Color, Intersectionality


S. Rachel Speer is an assistant professor at the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research. Rachel’s research is organized around two areas of inquiry: (1) how experiences of oppression and trauma affect the mental health, physical health, and well-being of marginalized communities and their intersectional identities; and (2) how experiences of oppression and trauma connect to parenting behaviors and the intergenerational transmission of risk among these communities. These interests are rooted in her early career, which includes over a decade of clinical practice as a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) working with underserved and marginalized communities. In this role, she observed how these groups experience numerous layers of discrimination and structural violence, including severe health disparities; with those holding multiple marginalized identities experiencing substantial additional challenges. These observations of inequality and inequity drove Rachel to pursue a Ph.D. in social work to strengthen policy and practice standards used for, about, and with these communities.

Rachel has begun to develop a robust scholarly agenda, publishing her research in both social work and interdisciplinary peer-reviewed journals. Her published articles include empirical research addressing experiences of marginalization and oppression among diverse and intersecting communities using qualitative and quantitative methods. These articles have been published in journals such as Social Work in Health Care, Journal of Social Work in Disability & Rehabilitation, Journal of Gay and Lesbian Studies, Social Work Research, and Children and Youth Services Review. This research illuminates the implications of oppression and has been presented at national conferences held by the Society for Social Work and Research, American Public Health Association, and the Council for Social Work Education.

Rachel has extensive teaching experience at the master’s level that includes a range of courses, both on ground and online. Her pedagogical approach is grounded in critical pedagogy and transformational learning theory that aims to develop competence and confidence in students. Drawing on the work of Freire and Mezirow, Rachel uses transformational and student-centered learning practices to encourage lifelong learning through self-reflective activities, classroom discussions, interactive lectures, guest speakers, and the use of various technologies. Her practice experience in various clinical mental health settings, including outpatient, school-based services, integrated care, and intensive in-home services, allows her to bring in case examples, real-world scenarios, and professional experiences to the class, making the subject matter tangible and relevant for the students. She draws on her professional and personal experience to craft case studies that help bridge the gap between theory and practice. As an educator, Rachel works to create a learning environment where students are willing to reflect on and share their own identities and perspectives, challenge one another to think critically and engage in uncomfortable conversations about diversity, power, and privilege.