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

May Connect

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Happy May to all!

Transitions – Farewell to Dana and to Nick!

This past month, we bid farewell to long-time SSW Community Member, Dana Fuller.   Dana has held a variety of positions with the School – but most recently split her time between half time distance coordinator and half-time field program coordinator.  We are so proud that Dana will be joining the Portland Community College family, as a new leader in human services programming.  Here is a great group photo of the long-term field team including (left to right):  Sarah Bradley, Monica Parmely, Julie Kates, Jessica Slothower Hayes, Denise Grant, Ellen Masterson, and Dana Fuller.


Also, Nick Miller, our long-time SSW registrar, will be moving on to a half-time position in the PSU Geography position while he pursues his MBA at PSU’s School of Business. We thank both of our colleagues for the many many gifts they have given to the students and our school as a whole – and wish them both luck and success in their next professional chapters.

A Few General Links for Social Work Practice and Education

First a great (though troubling) new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation on the state of poverty and opportunity for children in America, called Race for Results.   Excellent recent article from the Washington Post about Justice Sotomayor, the recent Supreme Court case decision regarding affirmative action, and the ongoing struggle of effectively addressing race in the United States.  This piece is very relevant to many intersecting topics vital to effective social work practice.  A recent Bill Moyers article presents focus on the relationship of high inequality to premature death in the U.S.    Lastly, want to see what is coming up at the National Network for Social Work Management Conference coming up in June?  Although it is definitely challenging to make it to all of these meetings, I try very hard to scan the agendas at the very least – great to see what kind of work is being done.   If anyone in our community goes, it would be great to get a full report!

Report from the National Association of Deans and Directors of Social Work Meeting

As promised, the majority of May’s blog entry will consist of a report from my first NADD meeting which is held twice per year (once at the CSWE APM in the fall, and the second always held independently as a stand alone meeting).   The meeting this year was April 10-13 in Asheville, North Carolina.   Thought I’d take the opportunity to share what kinds of things are being discussed at this meeting, as well as some of my own adventures.

1) I had a chance to network with numerous schools from our region including Deans/Directors from Eastern Washington University, University of Washington (both Seattle and Tacoma programs) and Pacific University.

2) The NADD meeting regularly includes an opening session for new deans and directors which folks go to for the first few years.   During the meeting, I heard that there are 740 social work programs around the United States, currently about 75 openings in program leadership, and about 150 deans/directors who are new (within two years) of assuming their role.  Most reflected that this is unusually high rate of turnover – and that a true generational change is occurring across social work education.   Great strategies were shared/discussed about how new deans are making sense  of their new roles, building momentum, revising programs (through EPAS and beyond) and community with one another though mentorships and other networking opportunities.

3) The first keynote speaker wwas Linda Rosenberg, Executive Director the National Council for Behavioral Health.   This organization is a national advocacy organization – and a founder of the Mental Health First Aid curriculum (which is worth a look).  Mental health first aid is designed to teach non-mental health professionals several basic skills:  signs of addictions and mental illness, 5-step action plan to assess a situation and help, understand basic features of the impact of substance use disorders, and connect with local resources for additional help.  Her presentation focused on a Capitol Hill update on the health care ecosystem – with particular emphasis on the strong emerging role of social work in this system.  Her slides are excellent – the current ecosystem contains a wide variety of opportunities and threats to social work and vulnerable populations – all worth considering carefully as we continue to prepare students to be successful in this environment.   Use of technology and preparing social workers to both be ready to use new health management apps (as well as develop them) was highlighted.  The role of the pharmaceutical industry, health insurance lobby and other interests were underscored.

4) CSWE conducted a valuable session on the status of EPAS 2015.   Feedback is still being accepted as the Council moves closer to ratification of these new regulations.  There is a CSWE page devoted to the revision which includes background documents, timelines for revision, drafts of the new regulations, and feedback opportunities.  Online feedback is being accepted through May 16, 2014.

5) It was helpful to understand the history, scope and impact of NADD overall. You can take a look at the NADD Strategic Plan (2014-2017) which was approved at the meeting.    It is a relatively new organization (started only in 1986).   James Herbert Williams, Dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Denver (my alma mater) was just wrapping up his term as President of NADD, and Carmen Ortiz Hendricks, Dean of Yeshiva University’s School of Social Work is the incoming President.   I had a chance to speak with her at length – great to make a connection there.

6) Several sessions touched on the issue of technology, social work and social work education – and how much work we have going on and there is yet to do to use technology effectively and participate in this revolution.  I had a chance to get to know Dean Nancy Smyth, from the School of Social Work at the University of Buffalo.  She’s been a particularly great spark plug in encouraging more attention, dialogue and progress in this area.   I’m looking forward to being part of a new group (formed at the meeting initially called “Social Work Deans/Directors Who Tweet…) to be more intentional and engaged in using more technology to connect with each other, faculty within our own schools, students, and social work practitioners as well as other colleagues in a range of interdisciplinary practices/settings.   If you are active on Facebook, another group (also hosted by Nancy) is forming by way of list of Social Work Education programs that you can subscribe to.  This is essentially a quick way to look a the feeds of many schools of social work simultaneously – only about 30 schools involved now, but hopefully more coming online all the time.

7) There was an amazing session about the role of schools of social work in public policy and advocacy.   A panel of speakers representing schools from around the United States shared stories of experiencing and navigating increasing scrutiny and conservatism towards their activities.   A clear message of the need for schools to be politically active but also planful, ethical, creative and careful to have the intended impact while protecting programs as a whole.

8) Another great session covered topics surrounding the role of “big science” and the increasing opportunities of interdisciplinary research and practice opportunities for social work scholars, educators and practitioners.   All involved were urged to take advantage of a new age of complex community problem solving and to work even more actively to work through institutional barriers to interdisciplinary activities.   There was lots of discussion about the momentum from funders at all levels that interdisciplinary research is the wave of the future, and that social work “belongs” in the mix in a central way.

9) Thanks to Crystal Froembling, I went to Asheville, NC all set with what every dean needs when they travel – a pre-completed list of PSU SSW Alumni who live in the area.  I had three names/phone numbers – left messages for all three, and had one person call back – Laura Zeisler (’93).  She is a terrific contact, had not had any engagement with the school after leaving, but has fond memories of her time at PSU and in the program.   After getting her MSW, Laura studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and also got a degree in Art Therapy.  She runs a very successful practice combining these two things in Asheville where she moved to be closer to family.    It was a great start to what I hope will be a busy and productive set of adventures discovering and re-engaging alumni in our school in Portland, wherever they may be! LauraZeisler 10) Finally, there was a session regarding a new proposal for the larger social work community – to save money and create synergy, there is a proposal floating around to conduct the SSWR, BPD and CSWE all in the same city during the same week (with slight, strategic overlaps).   The idea is that in times of shrinking budgets, this would allow more people to attend more of these gatherings.  My understanding is that this would occur in a couple of years (beginning in 2020), but seems to have a lot of momentum.    In addition to how many new connections and re-connections with old friends and colleagues I enjoyed, I wanted to take a moment to share how many people came up to me and mentioned Kristi Nelson, how well-loved she was by NADD colleagues, how much she’d done for NADD and social work education in general.  It was really heartwarming.

Other Notable Events in the SSW 

The week following NADD, I was privileged to be able to serve as a CSWE site reviewer and participate in my first accreditation site visit.   I joined Dr. Santos Hernandez (a very well-known social work dean and scholar) to visit Colorado State University.   It was a most interesting experience – site reviewers are all social work educator volunteers.  Santos (in addition to writing the most influential textbook of my MSW) has over 30 years experience in social work education and more than 15 site visits under his belt.  He plans to retire in the near future, and said this would be his final visit – I felt extremely lucky to get to do my first visit with him and have benefit of his extraordinary breadth and depth of knowledge.   This is a quick shot of Santos, his lovely wife Carolyn, and me at the Denver airport on the way home. 1979545_10152797451743135_7822257237461292933_n On the same day as my return to Portland, we were celebrating the annual Charles Shireman Lecture.  This year’s guest was James Bell, Director of the Haywood Burns Institute.   As always, James did a wonderful job of activating an attentive audience and inspiring us all with his energy, vision and determination.   His message, in a nutshell, was to challenge the dominant discourse surrounding “high risk youth” with one that focused more explicitly on youth well-being as the ultimate indicator of public safety.   We did send copies of the text of James’ speech – if you didn’t get one and would like to have a copy, please contact Dr. Katharine Cahn to receive one.  Special thanks to Katharine, as well as Katie Cagle for all their assistance in making the lecture such a success.   As always, it was especially meaningful to have Dr. Joan Shireman and her son, David Shireman in attendance to celebrate Charles in a way that he would have surely loved – the chance to learn new things that will carry positive change into the world.   Here is a photo of us just before the lecture. 10152680_10152798366303135_235704003152958167_nIt was a busy month but an inspiring and energizing one!   Glad to be back home! 10004044_10152785916893135_1617679937653347144_n

Author: sswdeanconnect

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

One thought on “May Connect

  1. Laura-thanks for sending this. It’s good to hear about what you’re up to and about what’s going on out there in the wild, wild world of SW!

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