Our team

« Back

M. Alex Wagaman, Ph.D.

Assistant professor

Email: mawagaman@vcu.edu

Phone: (804) 828-2873


Ph.D., Arizona State University

M.S.W., Arizona State University

B.S.W., Winthrop University

Alex Wagaman, Ph.D. is an assistant professor in the VCU School of Social Work. Her research focuses on participatory research and service approaches that promote engagement and resilience among youth and young adults who belong to populations that face marginalization and discrimination. Current projects include a multi-site partnership to explore the strategies that LGBTQ+ social work students employ to increase inclusion in their programs, and a youth participatory action research team - Advocates for Richmond Youth - that works to end youth homelessness in the Greater Richmond community. Research conducted by Advocates for Richmond Youth has been used to develop a set of community-wide recommendations and has supported the efforts of multiple stakeholders in a Youth Housing Stability Coalition in partnership with the United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg. She also is partnering with Drs. McDonald and Wike on a study exploring the impact of pets on the wellbeing of LGBTQ+ youth.


Wagaman is involved with a research team that explores empathy and social empathy, including its measurement and application to social work practice and education. The team has recently published a book - Assessing Empathy - which encompasses much of their work.

Wagaman’s primary teaching interests are in macro social work practice and community organizing. She also facilitates community-engaged co-curricular opportunities for students to learn how to do justice and advocacy work. She currently works with the Black Lives Matter Student-Alumni-Faculty Collective which plans an annual orientation to racial (in)justice in Richmond called Richmond [Re]Visited.

Learn more about Advocates for Richmond Youth

Notable awards, honors and appointments

  • Council member, Council on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (CSOGIE), Council on Social Work Education - 2014-Present
  • Honorable Mention - Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity & Expression Scholarship Award, Council on Social Work Education, 2016
  • Awardee – Social Justice Award, School of Social Work, Virginia Commonwealth University, 2014

Selected publications

Wagaman, M. A., Shelton, J., Carter, R., Stewart, K., & Cavaliere, S.J. (in press) “I’m totally transariffic”: Exploring how transgender and gender-expansive youth and young adults make sense of their challenges and successes. Child & Youth Services.

Wagaman, M. A., Odera, S. G., & Fraser, D. V. (in press) A pedagogical model for teaching racial justice in social work education. Journal of Social Work Education.

Wagaman, M. A., Obejero, R. C., & Gregory, J. S. (2018). Countering the norm, (re)authoring our lives: The promise counterstorytelling holds as a research method with LGBTQ youth and beyond. International Journal of Qualitative Methods. DOI 10.1177/1609406918800646.

Wagaman, M. A., Compton, K. S., & Segal, E.A. (2018, online). Social empathy and attitudes about dependence of people living in poverty on government assistance programs. Journal of Poverty.

Wagaman, M.A., Shelton, J., & Carter, R. (2018). Queering the social work classroom: Strategies for increasing inclusion of LGBTQ people and experiences. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 38(2), 166-182. DOI 10.1080/08841233.2018.1430093.

Ayon, C., Wagaman, M. A., & Rubio-Hernandez, S. (2018). No te dejes pisotear por nadien: Examining Latino immigrants’ efforts to resist discrimination. Journal of Social Service Research, 44(1), 78-95. DOI 10.1080/01488376.2017.1395381

Shelton, J., Wagaman, M. A., Small, L., & Abramovich, A. (2017). I’m more driven now: Resilience and resistance among transgender and gender expansive youth and young adults experiencing homelessness. International Journal of Transgenderism. DOI:10.1080/15532739.2017.1374226

Segal, E. A., Gerdes, K. E., Lietz, C., Wagaman, M. A., & Geiger, J. M. (2017). Assessing Empathy. Columbia University Press.

Wagaman, M. A. (2017). Practice with the queer community. In M. P. Dentato (Ed.). Social work practice with the LGBTQ community: The intersection of history, health, mental health and policy factors (pp. 00-00). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Segal, E. A. & Wagaman, M. A. (2017). Social empathy as a framework for teaching social justice. Journal of Social Work Education, 53(2), 201-211. DOI 10.1080/10437797.2016.1266980

Wagaman, M. A. (2016). Self-definition as resistance: Understanding identities among LGBTQ emerging adults. Journal of LGBT Youth, 13(3), 207-230. DOI 10.1080/19361653.2016.1185760

Wagaman, M. A., Keller, M. F., Cavaliere, S. J. (2016). What does it mean to be a successful adult?: Exploring perceptions of the transition into adulthood among LGBTQ emerging adults in a community-based service context. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 28(2), 140-158.

Wagaman, M. A. (2016). Promoting empowerment among LGBTQ youth: A social justice youth development approach. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal. DOI 10.1007/s10560-016-0435-7.

Austin, A., Craig, S. L., Alessi, E. J., Wagaman, M. A., Paceley, M. S., Dziengel, L., & Balestrery, J. E. (2016). Guidelines for transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) affirmative education: Enhancing the climate for TGNC students, staff and faculty in social work education. Alexandria, VA: Council on Social Work Education.

Craig, S. L., Alessi, E. J., Fisher-Borne, M., Dentato, M. P., Austin, A., Paceley, M., Wagaman, M. A., Arguello, T., Lewis, T., Balestrery, J. E., & Van Der Horn, R. (2016). Guidelines for affirmative social work education: Enhancing the climate for LGBQQ students, staff, and faculty in social work education. Alexandria, VA: Council on Social Work Education. [PDF]

Wagaman, M. A. & Bohm-Sanchez, I. (2015) Looking through the magnifying glass: A duoethnographic approach to understanding the value and process of participatory action research with LGBTQ youth. Qualitative Social Work, doi: 1473325015595855.

Wagaman, M. A. (2015). Changing ourselves, changing the world: Assessing the value of participatory action research as an empowerment-based research and service approach with LGBTQ young people. Child & Youth Services, 36(2), 124-149.