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

June 2014 Connect

Leave a comment

Welcome to graduation season – we can all feel the end of the school year in the air.   It is noteworthy that PSU is preparing for the largest graduating class not only in its own history (6,165 students completing!) but the largest ever from the Oregon University System.

In a general sense, the springtime (and the soon-to-be concluding academic year) brings a very busy, incredibly complicated, and still extremely productive year to a close.  Every single academic program and all of the research and sponsored projects across the SSW arena have gone above and beyond in every category to assure that our most important activities (instructional, administrative, research and more) relevant to our mission have all occurred.    Take a moment to thank each other and to honor the hard work we’ve accomplished – and to truly celebrate and say farewell to the academic year that was!  Thank each and every one of you so much!!!  For those that will not “end” their year on the 9 month academic calendar, thank you too as I know this has been an especially busy springtime of proposals and administrative “extras” from many directions.   Hopefully, even for us, the summer will mark a time of a little less intensity and we catch our collective breath (picnic lunch anyone??).

That said, among the biggest announcements in terms of SSW community transitions is that Dr. Vikki Vandiver, long-term faculty member in the SSW, has been named the new Dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Alabama.    We thank Vikki for so many years of service and wish her many good things in her next chapter across the United States!  We’ll give a full updating of all of our other important transitions, along with more news of our searches in progress and introductions of new people who will be joining us this fall!

SSW Turns 50 in Style!!!  Anniversary Round-Up!! unnamedMay 28 has come and gone and the Grand Celebration was a success.   There are so many many people who played a huge role in the success of this endeavor, but among the top deserving a standing ovation include Nancy Koroloff, Norm Wyers, Lisa Cordova, Katie Cagle, and Crystal Froembling.   We have a tentative count of about 250 guests, much food was shared,   music enjoyed, wonderful stories exchanged, and relationships both renewed and started.   We had alumni there from every single decade, which at the end of the day was extremely moving in and of itself.     There is a terrific album of images from our event here.     Of course our notable 50/50 photos taken by Julie Keefe were on display.   In case you did not see the article in the most recent edition of the PSU Magazine, you can check it out here:  FacesofCaringPSUSSW.  Great to see our community getting so well-deserved recognition for our work.   I will post my comments from the event here at a later date for the archive.  This plus our January 30 50/50 Julie Keefe Photography Opening event, and our  March 8 Day of Service (both previously reported in this blog) comprised a huge effort behind the scenes to make sure that our school celebrated its birthday in a way that honored the past, took note of the present and did some dreaming about the future!  As as been said many times this past week, here’s to 50 more!  All of it would not have been possible without the cast of thousands (!) that helped to make it all happen.  Our gratitude for your efforts and pride in your commitment knows no bounds.

Other Good News and Accomplishments

New Publications:

Orellana, E.R., El-Bassel, N., Gilbert, L., Miller, K.M., Catania, J., Epperson, M. & Wu, E. (2014). Sex trading and other HIV risks among drug-involved men: Differential associations with childhood sexual abuse. Social Work Research.doi:10.1093/swr/svu012

Slimming, P.T., Orellana, E.R., & Maynas, J.S. (2014)  Structural determinants of indigenous health:  A photovoice study in the Peruvian Amazon.   AlterNative:  An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, 10(2), 123.

Wahab, S., Trimble, J. Mejia, A., Mitchell, R., Thomas, M.J., Timmmons, V., Waters, A.S., Raymaker, D. & Nicolaidis, C. (2014).  Motivational interviewing at the intersections of depression and intimate partner violence among African American women.   Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work, 11(3), 291-303.

Wende Garrison, Terrel Rhodes and C. Edward Watson just co-edited a Special Issue of the International Journal of ePortfolio on “Defining Practice and a Research Agenda.”   Excellent assortment of articles and resources relevant to our work. 


The School of Social Work fared extremely well in this year’s 2014 PSU Student Achievement Awards (link here to see the complete list of award winners) – we have an honoree in every single category of nine including academic achievement, university service, and community engagement at all academic levels.  Congrats to all the award winners and special thanks to their faculty mentors.


Orellana, E.R., Fernandez-Casanueva, C., Morales-Miranda, S., Mercer, V.J., Brouwer, K. C. (6/2014). Impact of stigma and social support on drug use and HIV vulnerability among men who have sex with men (MSM) in the Mexico/Guatemala border region. 2014 NIDA International Forum at Annual College on Problems of Drug Dependence, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Dr. Alma Trinidad was featured as a keynote speaker in the PSU 10th Annual President’s Diversity Awards.  Alma gave a powerful address that both inspired and challenged all in attendance entitled “A Call to Paddle in a Canoe of Aloha and Social Change.”  There is a public photo album of the event with a link to all of the award winners here, and Alma has allowed me to post the digital footage of her talk here.   This photo is of Alma with PSU’s Chief Diversity Officer, Jilma Meneses.


Grant Awards

Dr. Roberto Orellana, Portland State University – Faculty Research Enhancement Grant, 7.1.2014-6.30.2016

Social and health services utilization by migratory homeless youth in Portland

The purpose of this study is to partner with homeless youth-serving agencies to examine service utilization experiences of migratory homeless youth in Portland. We will systematically explore the experiences of two groups of people: 1) migratory homeless youth (ages 16 to 24), and 2) social/health service providers.

Role: Principal Investigator

Though on currently on sabbatical, Dr. Ann Curry-Stevens received both a PSU Faculty Enhancement Grant, as well as a grant through the Pacific Power Foundation to continue her equity research and reporting both awarded this spring.  She will be back in the fall and has been missed!

Other Notables!

Doctoral Alum, Melanie Sage, Ph.D. (now on faculty at the University of North Dakota) recently co-edited a special edition of the Journal of Technology in Human Services focused on the “Use of Technologies in Human Service and Training.”  Very relevant information – and so pleased that Melanie stays very engaged as a generous alum in our community.

What is New on the Web in Social Work Practice and Education

In terms of interesting conferences in our world, there are a couple that are on my radar screen (always appreciate folks sharing others that may be of value to our community).   The International Federation of Social Work is having its upcoming General Meeting in Melbourne, Australia.   You can get a sense of what kinds of things they are working on by checking out their website.   Especially interesting proposals being considered involve a new definition of global social work (published in numerous languages which is also quite wonderful), and a motion from the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers regarding the establishment of an Indigenous Committee.   

A little closer to home the 9th Annual Liberation-Based Healing Conference is coming up in October, 2014.  You can see a little bit about the event here.   We have partnered with this conference for numerous years, thanks to connections established by former faculty member, Dr. Nocona Pewewardy.

Finally, don’t forget that you still have time to join in the learning and activism at the Portland Chapter of the Social Welfare Action Alliance “Voices on the Ground:  Resistance and Resilience” conference to be held June 6-7 at the SSW.

The American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare has (within the last couple of years) started a new project called the “Grand Challenges Initiative.”    I had a chance to meet one of the founders, Dean Richard Barth, from the University of Maryland, while at NADD this spring.   The focus of the effort identify what some of the big issues are for the future of social work thought, scholarship and practice and attempt (big job) to focus some of our attention and other resources in a more concerted way to accelerate progress, innovation and impact.  If you look around you’ll see that there are many notable scholars and leaders involved.  What is not included, is as interesting as what is included…and obviously this will be a continually evolving and developing base of work.      You can get a sense of their focus and purpose here in a couple of resources:  an article in the Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research on the project, and a recent white paper (there were several of these – all available on their website).   Ideas and those who wish to be engaged are in a continuous process of being invited to contribute ideas – though the next “round”  advancing is closing on June 30, 2014.   It is quite interesting to see what is moving forward.   I’m quite sure that some of our work at the SSW is meritorious in this area (and most proud of that fact) – and would love to see some of our scholars and scholarship engage if desired.   You can check out more information (and ways to get involved…though you’d have to act quickly) here.    For those that like a graphic version, you can get one here.  I plan to be engaging more with this group in the future personally, as well as holding some informal dialogue sessions with students across our programs about this (and encouraging them to engage as leaders with this process too) next year.  Let me know if you’d like to be involved.

Sadly, there is always a need for attention to plagiarism in our educational world – though we’re proud to say it is rare at the SSW.  Here are some new resources and reviews of a variety of online tools available for this purpose.

Another challenging subject is that of social worker safety in the workplace and in the field.  This new piece has some useful information. 

Have you heard about the active debate in the airwaves related to the concept of “trigger warnings” and the degree to which faculty in higher education should feel responsible and/or obligated to offer them?  It is a very lively conversation – check it out here and here and here to learn more and join in.

Higher Education

University of Oregon Faculty were in the news this spring for passing one of the nationally recognized most progressive “academic freedom” policies in the country.  You can check it out here for those that are interested about the evolution of the cutting edge of this topic.

The June 1 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education also has a really interesting special section on “Diversity in Academe 2014” which might be of interest.  PSU has a subscription – you’ll have to log in to get to this but there are multiple articles of interest to those passionate about this topic.


Did you happen to catch the crowd-sourced “One Day at PSU” – it was a film that was created this past month?  Was quite a buzz about it in social media – beautiful piece celebrating and documenting just a single spring day in our local world.  Bravo for creativity in pulling this off!

Dr. Vikki Vandiver, Dr. Tom Keller and I (representing the SSW), as well as Dr. Pam Miller, SSW faculty member, recent MSW Curriculum Chair and now incoming President of (and representing) AAUP, were all invited to attend  a day-long “Annual Leadership Planning Session” retreat with the larger PSU community on May 20th.   Large questions were considered and discussed among approximately 200 people from various parts of the university as well as the PSU Foundation and the new Board of PSU Trustees.    This meeting served as a foundation for a larger strategic plan as the previous working plan for the university is now concluding.

The PSU Research & Strategic Partnerships Quarterly Review Spring 2014 newsletter is out.   You can check it out here with a nice overview of VP of Strategic Partnerships, Erin Flynn.   Erin has committed to helping us to increase our visibility and impact of the extraordinary array of partnerships we have operating out of the SSW – among the most broad and diverse in the PSU family.   This newsletter is a terrific way of getting connected to the wealth of research activity occurring across campus (including an overview of the doctoral degrees conferred at PSU this year which is quite interesting and shows the degree to which interdisciplinary perspectives are picking up steam).

By way of updates, I’ve also been asked to serve as the chair of the search committee for the incoming School of Business Administration deanship.  As you may recall, Dean Scott Dawson is transitioning to the Orfalea College of Business at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo this summer.  As a long-standing dean at PSU, he will be much missed and his transition is a real loss to the university.    While not expecting to serve in this way quite so soon, doing so will be a strong opportunity to forge some new relationships with the SBA on campus and in the business community here in Oregon through this process.  Our first search committee meeting is next week.

Jobs and Digital Identity Workshops for Students

The spring provided opportunities to do a number of student workshops – some previously reported on in this blog.  Of particular note at this time of year, was the conclusion of my own Social Work and Human Service Career Workshops for students held a few weeks ago.   Extensive resources have been assembled that may be useful to job-seeking students about to hit the street looking for those first big jobs – please feel free to pass them along to students you work with.   Special thanks also to Wende Garrison for a very valuable training series for students on Digital Identity Development (closely related to job hunting but also a career reality for those launching careers in this era).  You can check out her slides here: Digital Identity Brand PPT-1.  Many thanks to Wende for jumping into to do this – it was most appreciated by everyone in attendance and because it is also been filmed (thanks to Thet Mar), we’ll be able to have access to it in a variety of ways for the future.

Miscellaneous Llamas!

It’s true – Rojo and Smokey the therapy llamas visited the SSW a couple of weeks ago spreading joy and end-of-term happiness in their combined wake.   Yes, it was unusual…and literally so out of the box as to be beyond the box!  But it also filled the halls (and all our hearts) with a little bit of laughter and fun.    It was hard to find someone that wasn’t completely gobsmacked by their sweet and funny faces.  Their general website is here (they have made appearances at many of our field agencies over the years) and you can see a glimse of the hilarity at the SSW in the photos that were snapped on their short visit to see us.  Here’s a great one of BSW Program Director, Dr. Charlotte Goodluck laughing at something funny that Rojo said, and one of Jace Zowader (MSW Program Director Dr. Keva Miller’s son) and Katie Cagle in an important conversation about carrots. 10325380_10152432725446675_4407936467105065008_n




Author: sswdeanconnect

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s