Ryan D. Heath

L.C.S.W., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor

Ryan Heath is an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at Syracuse University. His research seeks to understand how organized activities during out-of-school time (OST; e.g., extracurricular, afterschool and summer programs) promote the healthy development of students from under-resourced backgrounds, students of color, and other historically marginalized youth. To improve the reach, quality, and impact of OST programs, his work aims to elucidate how these programs interface with other social-ecological contexts – such as schools, peers and families – and to identify the mechanisms through which OST programs influence youth’s social-emotional development, physical health, mental health, and educational attainment. Throughout his work, Heath maintains a critical stance in evaluating the roles these programs may play in perpetuating inequality or promoting equity in society. Heath has published in Urban Education, Child and Youth Care Forum, Youth & Society, Urban Review, and Pediatric Research. He is also co-author of the research report, Foundations of Young Adult Success: A Developmental Framework published by the Wallace Foundation and University of Chicago Consortium on School Research. In recognition of his work, Heath was given the Out-of-School Time Emerging Scholar Award in 2020 by the American Education Research Association. In addition to impacting research and practice, Heath’s scholarship also aims to directly inform policy that affects children, families and schools. In 2018, he was awarded a Policy Ambassadorship with the New York State Network for Youth Success, and currently serves on their Public Funding Policy Task Force. In the School of Social Work, Heath teaches classes in the BSSW and MSW programs on research methods, human development and clinical social work. He also co-facilitates a section on advanced statistics for doctoral students. Previously, Heath taught research methods and cognitive-behavioral therapy at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. As a clinical social worker, Heath implemented cognitive-behavioral interventions with adolescents and youth groups in both schools and community settings, and coordinated various OST programs. Heath earned a master’s degree in clinical social work and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. Heath also received a pre-doctoral fellowship and graduate certificate in interdisciplinary education sciences from the Institute of Education Sciences and the University of Chicago Committee on Education. He completed his bachelor’s degree with honors at Brown University.


Ph.D., School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago

Graduate Certificate, Committee on Education, University of Chicago

M.A., School of Social Service Administration University of Chicago


Adolescent development, out-of-school time, extracurricular activities, afterschool programs, organized activities, social-emotional learning, community schools, school social work, school-community partnerships.

Research Projects

Heath is currently working on five funded research projects:

  • Community Schools Optimal Health Initiative, funded by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Longitudinal Trends in Youth Organized Activity Participation
  • Assessing Mental Health in Out-of-School Programs and the Needs of Adult Staff
  • Assessing the Biopsychosocial Pathways between Organized Activities and Young Adult Outcomes
  • Estimating the Causal Effects of Organized Activity Participation

His group is actively seeking graduate and undergraduate research assistants. Please contact him at rdheath@syr.edu or 315-443-1989 if you are interested in a position.

Recent Publications

Learn more about Ryan Heath's current research and publications through the following: