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Department of Social Work and Sociology

Faculty and Staff


Portia L. Cole, Ph.D.        


Portia L. Cole, Ph.D. is a tenure-track Assistant Professor at Virginia Union University in the Department of Social Work and Sociology.

She received her master’s degree in social work from the Catholic University of America, and a doctorate in sociology from American University. In 2007, Cole received an H. Jack Geiger Congressional Health Policy Fellowship and served as a legislative assistant in the late Senator Edward Kennedy’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee office. In this role, she participated in national public policy decisions and discourse to improve the health status of racial/ethnic minority populations.

Cole’s current research focuses on work-life stressors among women of color and persons with disabilities, workplace policies and environments that enhance employee/family well-being, culturally competent program evaluation, interdisciplinary collaboration between law and social work, and social network analysis (SNA). She is the principal author of peer-reviewed publications that shed light on the experiences of disabled employees and their caregivers. Dr. Cole’s most recent paper analyzed the impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act on employees with brain injury, examining the link between perceived discrimination and poor health outcomes. 

Cole currently teaches undergraduate courses in the areas of Research, Human Behavior, and Principles of Sociology. She is also Faculty Advisor for Phi Alpha Social Work Honor Society, Tau Omicron Chapter.


Jeffrey Y. Harlow, Ph.D.

Jeffrey Y. Harlow, Ph.D. has been an evaluator of public and private, heath, education, and social service delivery systems for over 15 years. He was on the faculty at Old Dominion University for six years as the Director of The Social Science Research Center (The SSRC at ODU), which conducted performance measurement, and evaluative and survey research. Their work focused on the effectiveness of government agencies as well as non-governmental community-based agencies. 

Harlow was also health programs analyst for several years with the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services where he developed several innovative evaluative systems for the state’s early intervention system (Part C). He has consulted with the Tennessee State Department of Education assisting in their development of a new statewide, web-based data system for early intervention services (Part C). He has also consulted with the National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center to evaluate the scope and effectiveness of their services.

For several years Harlow was on staff with Habitat for Humanity International as a regional trainer and affiliate developer. During this time he designed several non-profit board development training methods and tools. 

He earned a Bachelors Degree in Environmental Resource Management from the Pennsylvania State University in University Park, PA (1979), a Masters Degree in Theology from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, MA (1985), and a Ph.D. in Social Policy and Social Work from the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research at Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, PA (1998).

Harlow's teaching specialties include social work research methods, social policy, and communication. He is also an ordained minister for the United Methodist Church and lives in Mechanicsville, VA with his wife, Linda, and their family.