with Laura Nissen, Dean and Professor, School of Social Work at Portland State University

April 2014 Connect

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It has been a busy season due to bargaining at PSU – and all involved are so grateful to have a successful resolution.  In case you didn’t see the official statement from President Wiewel here is a link, as well as the official statement from AAUP on the ratification (which is in the process of being voted on by the faculty).   I can only add that we are on track to have this success ground what I hope is a very positive new chapter in the life of the SSW as well – and I look forward to engaging in focused conversation about exactly how to do that in upcoming previously planned faculty dialogue sessions throughout the next few weeks.    As we engage in the “post-bargaining season” within the school and across the university, it is my hope that we find new reservoirs of respect and opportunity with one another, and use this time to be a launchpad for all that is to come.

We got only a few suggestions from our question about social media use in our school last month – and are not quite sure if that is an indication that we’re not using it much, or that other things took priority.  At any rate, more to come on social media word cloudthis, because social media is certainly here to stay and social work (and other human service professions) are taking notice, integrating, debating, and exploring ethical, technical and practical elements to making better use of these resources. As a starting point, I put together a brief list of articles, links and resources to give a preliminary sense of the complexity and diversity of voices that are out there on the subject.  You can find it here:  Social Media and Social Work List April 21 2014.  One of the Deans of Social Work most at the forefront of this technology/medium is Dean Nancy Smyth at the University of Buffalo (you will see several links and a YouTube discussion with her), who likens use of these resources to a new form of cultural competency.  When, she asks, is it OK to be “incompetent?”  The truth, as she and others suggest, is that more and more of the way the world works is happening online for our students, our clients, our fellow community members both inside and outside of of the academy.  She challenges us to think through how best to respond when students will inevitably be asked to engage with clients in social media, will be asked to use an app to manage their practice, or will need to access information from social networks of social workers and other professionals and/or community members in ways that can save both time and money (for example – check out this link).  This is not to mention the role that social media is starting to have across the social scientific community and the ways in which scholarship is both produced, vetted and communicated.  Upon preliminary analysis, we seem to be of many minds across SSW about how, when and where (and maybe if) we should use these tools.  Let’s start a longer term discussion – but in the mean time – when you have a moment, jump into this list a bit and explore what is out there.   Please feel free to share additional resources as well, in the comments, by email or via our Facebook page:

For next month’s question, I’m going to link to a report to my first ever NADD (National Association of Dean and Directors of Social Work programs) meeting which was held in Asheville, North Carolina this past week (and from which I’m literally writing this blog post on the plane from my return).  Twice per year they get together to explore issues relevant to the intersection of the academic and practice worlds of social work.   Feel free to check out their website.   May’s question will be: What is the most important issue/question you think NADD should be considering/attending to in the coming year?    I’ll look forward to reading your ideas, and I’m excited to prepare a full overview of the wealth of information and new connections that I bring back to PSU.

Good News and Accomplishments

Want to see an up to date list of the impressive list of publications by the SSW community during 2013 – you can check it out here!

Other publications include:

Gowen, L. K., Catania, J. A., Dolcini, M. M., & Harper, G. W. (2014). The meaning of respect in romantic relationships among low-income African American adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Research. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/0743558414528978

Corcoran, Kevin. Best Practices in Mental Health, Co-editor with Vikki L. Vandiver. (vol 9.1 and 9.2)

Corcoran, Kevin. Food for Thought: A two-year cooking guide for social work students. Chicago, Lyceum.

Corcoran, Kevin. Measures for Clinical Practice and Research vol 1, Couples, Families and Children. 5Th edition. NY: Oxford.

Corcoran, Kevin.  Measures for Clinical Practice and Research vol 2, Adults. 5th edition.

(Please remember to keep the Dean’s office posted about good news and accomplishments that we need to acknowledge and celebrate!)


PSU Day of Service a big success!   Thanks to so many people – but especially Lisa Cordova, Katie Cagle and Nancy Koroloff for planning a terrific day of activities around Portland.  In honor of the SSW’s 50th Anniversary, community members and SSW supporters volunteered and socialized on Saturday, March 8, 2014.   Volunteers worked at Impact NW, the Oregon Food Bank, NAYA and the Harrison Park School, among other locations, and gathered for Happy House after their shifts at Vendetta Tavern and Restaurant.   All agreed that we should do this again (perhaps a couple of times per year).   Many suggested that the opportunity to both network with new and old acquaintances, have fun and do service together was the perfect way to celebrate the school and SW month!   You can check out some photos of our adventures here!

1922369_10152756532978135_134618369_nAlso, I was asked to be a guest (by SSW Alum Jenell Neufeld, LCSW, ’93) to speak at a celebration of SW Month at Providence.   Providence has a strong and active social work workforce throughout this region – many of whom attended school at PSU.  It was great to visit the NE Portland location, and get acquainted/reacquainted with so many. (Click to enlarge photo!)

 Higher Education 

Some great pieces in the higher education media includes this new piece about race in higher education.  Interesting piece in a recent Oregonian article about the proposed “tuition-free” college finance plan that is circulating in our state.  Another important article in the nation, explores the issue of hunger in college students nationally.

For fun, here is a piece about a new website that accepts not just ratings of professors nationally…but student drawings of them as well.  Check it out!

Policy Issues

Important update, details and resources related to the issuing of the final mental health parity law – in a briefing from SAMHSA.      There is a new bill (HB 3717) moving through Congress right now called the “Helping Families in Crisis Act” that is worth a moment to familiarize yourself with – important implications for our nation’s mental health system.  Here is the short bill summary.   This is a piece that reflects consumer view of this bill and its mechanics. 

NASW produces a monthly national newsletter called “Social Workers Speak” – this is the March edition.  You can subscribe through a variety of social media outlets.  Some good information here.

Social Work Education

Interesting piece about “internship reform” from the Social Work Helper website – reporting on a recent conversation  convened in person and through social media regarding some of the most important issues facing the future of social work education. You can read about it here.

Social Justice/Social Work – Local 

Another interesting item relating to the disproportionately high wait list for Social Security in Portland.  We actually helped behind the scenes to make a few connections for information with this article.     Another recent piece with current information related to the proportion of children who live in poverty in Oregon – not good news but important information for our advocacy toolkits.

Social Justice/Social Work – National

Important new piece relating to the essential (and under-discussed) “real” issue in education reform – the issue of poverty in American schools.    Interesting new piece related to the number of mentally ill people now currently behind bars in the U.S. 

Author: sswdeanconnect

Laura Nissen is Professor and Dean of the School of Social Work at Portland State University.

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