Aster S Tecle portrait
  • Assistant Professor, College Of Social Work

Research Statement

My research focus stems from my interests in global social work and my personal experience of forced displacement, a reality that has become a common pattern of life for the majority of people in the global south. As a community-based participatory researcher, stories and narratives emanating from contextualized experiences are key to my scholarship and academic evolution. As such, building relationships with respective communities, trust for open communication, and working together with mutual respect and reciprocity requires extensive time and efforts. I am an insider and an outsider within my communities, which also makes it even harder to build relationships when each community is politically bounded relative to cultural, economic and socio-political concerns in their homeland. I am also an insider-outsider amongst African refugees and immigrants based on differences of our experiences. We live triple lives: here in the U.S. questioning “belonging,” and there in Africa “longing,” as we simultaneously construct cultural spaces where we, intentionally or not, embrace identities, mesh cultures and/or recreate new ones in ways that make sense to each one of us. As I reflect on my work with refugees in the U.S., I see myself learning, evolving and becoming alongside communities as we make sense of each other’s experiences.

Research Keywords

  • "Power/Knowledge," Refugees and Immigrants * Forced Displacement and Global Justice * African Indigenous Knowledge and Research * PAR * CBPR


  • SWRR 2019. Exploring a Collaborative Response for Urban Asylum Seekers in Thailand: The Case of Somalis and Pakistanis in Bangkok. Paper co-submitted to the Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference, January 2019. Conference Paper, Refereed, Accepted, 04/29/2018.
  • TSW 2018. Global Partnership for Transformative Social Work. Eighteenth Annual Transforming Social Work Conference. April 12 – 16, 2018. Other, Accepted, 10/01/2017.
  • ICQI 2017. Identity complexities and the silenced voices: Horn of Africa Youth experience. 13th International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry May 17 – 20, 2017. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Poster, Presented, 05/15/2017.
  • CUGH 2017. Utah Annual Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH). January, 2017. Salt Lake City, UT. Aster Tecle, Jane Dyer and Adhal Awan. Poster, Presented, 03/12/2017.
  • CUGH 2017. Challenges and Successes of a Perinatal Community Health Worker Program for Pregnant Somali and Sudanese Refugee Women in Salt Lake County, Utah. Aster Tecle, Jane Dyer and Adhal Awan. 8th Annual Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH). Healthy People, Health Ecosystems. Washington, DC, April 6 – 9, 2017. Conference Paper, Refereed, Presented, 04/07/2017.
  • NASW-NM 2017. Refugee Youth Identities and “Identification” Complexities. 2017 NASW-NM Conference Presenter Application submitted. Albuquerque, March 29-31, 2017. Accepted. Conference Paper, Refereed, Presented, 11/2016.
  • NASW-NM 2017. Stereotyping and (re)construction of identities: Hosting societies’ representations and recent immigrants’ negotiations through educational and occupational capabilities. Aster Tecle & An Thi Ha. 2017 NASW-NM Conference. Albuquerque, March 29-31, 2017. Poster, Presented, 03/30/2017.
  • Shared Frustrations in Health Care Visits. The 6th Annual North Refugee Health Conference, Niagara Falls, NY. North American Society of Refugee Health Care Providers. Jane Dyer & Aster Tecle. June 2016. Presentation, Presented, 06/2016.
  • ICQI 2016. Translating Focus Group Information/Data into Socially Transformative Action: CMC Graduates’ Voices. 2016 Twelfth International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry. Urbana-Champaign, IL. Accepted proposal. May 18 to 22, 2016. Conference Paper, Refereed, Presented, 12/2015.
  • CCPH 2016. Reflections on Approaches to Working with Refugee Women: Spafford Project on Pregnancy, Health Care and Cultural Gaps. Community-Campus Partnerships in Health (CCPH). New Orleans, LA. May 11 to 14, 2016. Round table discussion proposal. Other, Presented, 05/2016.
  • CCPH 2016. Social Work Education on the Margins: Creating a space of mutual learning and shared resources across borders. Community-Campus Partnerships in Health (CCPH). Rosemarie Hunter & Aster Tecle. New Orleans, LA. May 11 to 14, 2016. Conference Paper, Refereed, Presented, 05/2016.
  • CSWE-APM 2015. Supporting field instructors’ integration of macro practice and diversity/social justice into practicum. Round table discussion proposal. Gita M., Lindsay M. and Aster T. 2015 CSWE-APM, Denver, Colorado. Other, Presented, 10/2015.
  • Promoting Health through Research in Utah’s Somali Community: Unique Challenges and Rewards. 2015 Utah Public Health Association (UPHA) Annual Conference. April 13-15. Layton, Utah. Presentation, Presented, 04/2015.
  • CSWE-APM 2014. The Politics of Food and Food (In)Security: Social Work Then and Now. Proposal submitted to CSWE-APM. Tampa, FL. Conference Paper, Refereed, Presented, 05/01/2014.
  • Enhanced Community Engagement through Reciprocal Sharing and Knowledge. Paper presented at the Engaged Leadership: Higher Education for the Public Good. Utah Campus Compact Moab Faculty Retreat. Moab, Utah. Aster Tecle & Isabel Teresa Molina. January 31 – February 01, 2014. Presentation, Presented, 01/2014.
  • CSWE-APM 2013. The Search for an Origin and Horn Of Africa Youth Elusive Discourses. CSWE-APM Dallas, TX. October 31 - 2 November, 2013. Poster, Presented, 10/2013.
  • Life and Debt, Freedom Not Yet. College of Social Work. University of Utah. Salt Lake City, UT. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 04/2013.
  • Discourse Analysis: Framing Social Issues. College of Social Work. University of Utah. Salt Lake City, UT. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 04/2013.
  • Women, forced migration and globalization: Lived and Imagined. Poverty and Policy Analysis. School of Social Work. University of Washington. Seattle, WA. Spring, 2012. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 05/2012.
  • CSWE-APM, 2011. Where is “Home?” Interpreting Horn of Africa Youth Discourse of Belonging. CSWE-APM, 2011. Atlanta, GA. Poster, Presented, 10/2011.
  • IC-GED 2010. “Where is home?” Interpreting Horn of Africa youth discourse and the politics of ‘displaced” youth. Proposed paper for the 7th Annual International Conference of Globalization, Education and Diversity. February 24 to 26, 2010. Department of Education, Washington State University. Spokane, WA. Conference Paper, Refereed, Presented, 10/2009.
  • East African Immigrant Youth Voices in the Black Diaspora Discourse: Framing visibility. Presented at: Africa and the Black Diaspora Panel of the Association for African American Historical Research and Preservation Biennial Black History Conference. Seattle University. Seattle, WA. Spring 2009. Panel, Presented, 05/2009.
  • Participatory Action Research (PAR): Methodology and Intervention. Guest lecture, MSW Program, School of Social Work, University of Washington. Seattle, WA. Fall 2008. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 10/2008.
  • Globalization and Social Working: Policy Analysis. School of Social Work. University of Washington. Seattle, WA. Spring 2007. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 05/2007.
  • SWRR, 2019. Exploring a Collaborative Response to Urban Asylum Seekers in Thailand: The Case of Somalis and Pakistanis in Bangkok, Thailand. Poster, Accepted, 10/17/2018.
  • CCHP 2014. Community Capacity Building with Newly Arriving Populations: Creating Spaces of Reciprocity and Multicultural Practice. Paper co-presented at the 2014 Community-Campus Health Partnerships (CCHP) Conference. Chicago, IL. May 2014. Conference Paper, Refereed, Presented, 05/2014.

Research Groups

  • Bridging Borders, Other. Social Work. 01/01/2015 - present.

Grants, Contracts & Research Gifts

  • Identity & Isolation: Exploring Integration Needs for Refugee Youth in the U.S. Using an Ethnographic Approach. University of Utah. 2016. PI: Nathan P. Devir, Aster Tecle, & Caren J. Frost. Incentive Seed Grant Program, University of Utah., 12/2017 - 12/2018. Total project budget to date: $20,000.00


  • Amharic, fluent.
  • Tigrinya, fluent.

Geographical Regions of Interest

  • Africa
  • Eastern Africa
    Horn of Africa.
  • South-Eastern Asia
    Myanmar, Thailand.


  • Mehrota, G. & Tecle, A. S., Ha, A., Gneim, S. and Gringeri, C. (2018). Challenges to bridging classroom and field instruction: Exploring field instructors perspectives on macro practice. Journal of Social Work Education. Vol. 54(1), 135-147. Published, 02/06/2018.
  • Tecle, A. S., Ha, An Thi & Hunter, R. (2016). Creating a Continuing Education Pathway for Newly Arrived Immigrants and Refugee Communities. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, DOI: 10.1080/08841233.2016.1211463. Published, 09/2016.
  • Tecle, A. S & John, A. (2016). Conclusion and Global Considerations. In C. Frost & K. Digre (Eds.), The 7 Domains of Health: Multidisciplinary Considerations of Women’s Health in the 21st Century, [pp. 186-196]. . Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall Hunt Publishers.. Published, 09/15/2016.
  • Tecle, A. S. & Andrasik, M. (2015). Breaking the Silence: Interpreting African-Born Women's Knowledge about HIV and Concurrency. Health and Social Work, 40(2):32 - 41.. Published, 06/2015.
  • Johnston-GoodStar, K., Trinidad, A. & Tecle, A. S. (2010). Critical pedagogy through the reinvention of place: Three cases of youth resistance. In B. Porfilio & P. Carr (Eds.), Youth Culture, education and resistance: Subverting the commercial ordering of life. Netherlands & Boston, MA: Sense Publishers. Published, 10/2010.
  • "But Can She Eat Papers:" Girls Education in Dankalia Province, Eritrea. Case Study. International Institute of Educational Planning/UNESCO Working Document. Published, 05/1997.
  • Tecle, A. S. and Awan, A. (submitted). Perinatal Community Health Worker Program for Pregnant Refugee Women: Exploring Experiences. Health & Social Work. Accepted, 01/13/2020.
  • Tecle, A. S. (submitted). Anchoring in Origin: Horn of Africa Youth Elusive Discourse about "Home." Journal Cogent Arts and Humanities. Accepted, 01/13/2020.
  • Gamarra, E. & Tecle, A. S. (2019). Ontological Security in the context of Refugee Portrayal: A Discursive Analysis. The Addaiyan Journal of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Accepted, 12/29/2019.
  • Tecle, A. S., Mehrota, G. & Gringeri, C. (2019). Managing diversity: Analyzing individualism, awareness and difference in field instructors' discourse. Journal of Social Work Education. 1 - 13. Published, 10/16/2019.
  • Frost, C. J., Tecle, A. S., Kanyange, S., Jorgensen, K. & Devir, N. P. (2019). Exploring integration issues for African youth of refugee backgrounds in Utah. Journal of Comparative Studies, 12(41): 66-93. Published, 10/2019.
  • Topuzova, L. N. & Tecle, A. S., Ha, A. T. & Hunter, R. (2019). Global Learning Communities: Bridging Borders and Building Capacity of Communities on the Margins. In Civil Society and Social Responsibility in Higher Education: International Perspectives on Policies, Practices & Pedagogies. . Emerald Group Publishing. Accepted, 08/12/2019.
  • Tecle, A. S. & Byrne, K., Furguson, Ha, A. T., M.B., Schmidt, K. & Mohamed, N. (2018). In Search of Refuge: An Exploration of Unaccompanied Minors and Families from Somalia and Pakistan Seeking Basic Services in Bangkok, Thailand. Advances in Social Work, Special Issues Refugees and Immigrants. Vol. 18(3), 17. Published, 05/2018.