School of Social Work

Paula Gerstenblatt, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Office Location

G39B Masterton Hall

Faculty Office Hours Summer 2022

By appointment. Please contact by email.


(207) 780-4493

Academic Degrees

  • P.h.D.


Dr. Gerstenblatt is completing her ninth year of service at the University of Southern Maine. Dr. Gerstenblatt teaches in the areas of community practice, research, policy, diversity, and the electives Community Art Practice, Animal-Human Bond in Social Work Practice, and Storytelling in Social Work Practice. She utilizes critical service learning pedagogy and the Learning Record, a system for gathering, organizing, analyzing, evaluating, and reporting evidence of student progress and achievement, which focuses on growth and development vs. performance. Dr. Gerstenblatt incorporates innovative methods in her teaching including mapping, collage, annotated playlists, multimodal storytelling, and creative fiction and nonfiction. She has taken students abroad to Iceland and Greenland as part of study abroad courses and research projects. 


Dr. Gerstenblatt’s research is situated at the intersection of teaching and service, centered on the principles of participatory and applied research that centralizes the voices of those often overlooked. Her research areas are service learning and community-university partnerships, well-being of child care providers, arts-based methods, animal-human bond, and the experiences of residents and students working on community art projects. While her topics are broad, they are united by a common aim of representing diverse lived experiences in their complexity using qualitative and arts-based methods. Dr. Gerstenblatt’s recent work on collage portraiture as a representation of complex narratives and its utility in research, pedagogy and community practice earned her USM’s prestigious Trustee Professorship for 2021-22. She has 17 publications since coming to USM in 2013, ten prior to tenure in 2019 and seven since with one revise and resubmit and two under review. 


Dr. Gerstenblatt is currently working with an interdisciplinary team investigating the lived experiences of people in coastal communities and the environmental, cultural, social, and political changes in Greenland and Maine. Dr. Gerstenblatt is a mentor to her students, including them in research projects and publishing with them. She is a successful grant writer and obtained external and internal funding for research funding to support her collaborative and solo projects, most recently for travel to Greenland with a team of five faculty and five students. Dr. Gerstenblatt is also an established artist, integrating her art into scholarship, pedagogy and community work. In September of 2022 Dr. Gerstenblatt is exhibiting 17 collage portraits at the Jewish Museum of Portland Maine, which are part of her Trustee Professorship Award.


Research Interests

Service learning and experiential pedagogy, community-university partnerships, social entrepreneurship, African Diaspora studies, community art practice, and arts based research methods.

Recent Publications

Journal Articles 


Shanti, C., Gerstenblatt, P. & Fisk, S., (2021). Putting the pieces together: Critical service learning and social work education. Social Work Education. DOI: 10.1080/02615479.2021.1924663


Gerstenblatt, P. (2021). What COVID-19 has brought us to: Art, activism and changes in social work education. Qualitative Social Work 2021;20(1-2):595-603. doi:10.1177/1473325020973440


Addo, R.& Gerstenblatt, P. , (2021). Housing First: A Policy Analysis of the HEARTH Act. Journal of Policy Practice and Research. 2, 90–104.


Kohli, H. K., Shanti, C., & Gerstenblatt, P., (2021). Reflections on raising bicultural children: Asian Indian mothers’ experiences. Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work. 


Kohli, H. K., Shanti, C., & Gerstenblatt, P., (2020). “A drumbeat underneath the child”: Asian Indian mothers’ perceptions of their multiethnic children’s lived experiences. The Journal of Business Diversity, 20(2), 111-122.


Lee, A., Hae Jung, K., Faulkner, M., Gerstenblatt, P., & Travis, D. (2018). Work engagement among child care providers: Application of job demands and resources (JD-R) model. Child and Youth Care Forum.


Gerstenblatt, P., Rhodes, D., & Holst, L., (2017). Spaces in between: Text poems from community practice and research. Art/Research International: A Transdisciplinary Journal.


Gerstenblatt, P., (2015). Blogs as a Representation of Student Experiences in a Service Learning Course. Metropolitan Universities. Vol. 25.3 


Gerstenblatt, P. (2014). Community as Agency: Community Partner Experiences with Service Learning. Journal of Community Engagement.


Gerstenblatt, P., Faulkner, M., Lee, A., Thy Doan, L. & Travis, D. (2014). Not babysitting: work stress and personal well-being for family child care providers. Early Childhood Education Journal

Travis, D., Lee, A., Faulkner, M., Gerstenblatt, P. (2014). Cultivating a thriving childcare workforce: a theory-driven qualitative analysis. Community, Work & Family. DOI: 10.1080/13668803.2013.850402


Gerstenblatt, P., Gilbert, D.J. (2014). Framing service learning in social work: An interdisciplinary elective community development course embedded within a university-community partnership. Social Work Education: The International Journal.

Faulkner, M., Gerstenblatt, P., Lee, A., Viana, V., & Travis, D. (2014). Child care workers: Work stress and personal well-being. Journal of Early Childhood Research

Gerstenblatt, P. (2013). Collage portraits as a method of analysis in qualitative research. International Journal of Qualitative Methods


In Press

Gerstenblatt, P., Shanti, C., & Fisk, S., (2021). Community member experiences in an arts-based community-university partnership. Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship. 


Layton, D., Gerstenblatt, P., (2022). They're just, like, there:" A Constructivist Grounded Theory Study of Student Experiences with School Resource Officers., Journal of Community Psychology.


Tyron, R., Gerstenblatt, P., & Bove, A. 92022). “It’s Just Flourishing Hope Everywhere”: The Experiences of Incarcerated Men Sharing Their Stories. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology.