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

September Connect

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A busy summer is winding down and it is starting to feel a little bit like fall in Portland.  We all feel a sense of anticipation and excitement about the start of the 2014-2015 school year, and preparing to welcome back academic faculty and students to the school!  This will be a short post this month – but an important one.  I’ll honor our tradition of sharing good news about some recent successes and then offer some thoughts and resources about Ferguson as a critical national issue for our profession and our collective future.

Here’s to a great year to come from the entire School of Social Work Admin.Team!

SSW Admin Team

SSW Admin. Team: Janet Putnam, Katie Cagle, Ben Anderson-Nathe, Julie Kates, Laura Nissen, Diane Coward, Jean Cavanaugh, Charlotte Goodluck, Tom Keller, Sarah Bradley, Keva Miller, and Katharine Cahn. Not Pictured: Brian Everall, Rick Jung

Good News and Accomplishments

New Publications

Hedlund, S.  (in press, 2015)  Introduction to Working with Families in Oncology.  In Oxford Handbook of Oncology Social Work.: Psychosocial Care of People with Cancer. Eds. G.Christ, C. Messner & L. Behar. New York, NY. Oxford University Press.

Hedlund, S.  (in press, 2015) Parents of Younger Adults with Cancer. In Oxford Handbook of Oncology Social Work: Psychosocial Care of  People with Cancer. Eds. G.Christ, C. Messner & L. Behar. New York, NY. Oxford University Press.

Hedlund, S.  (in press, 2015)  Oncology Social Work: Past, Present, and Future.  In Oxford Handbook of Oncology Social Work.: Psychosocial Care of People with Cancer. Eds. G.Christ, C. Messner & L. Behar. New York, NY. Oxford University Press.

Nissen, L., Pendell, K., Jivanjee, P. & Goodluck, C. (2014).  Lifelong learning in social work education:  A review of the literature and implications for the future.   Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 34(4), 384-400.


Morgaine, K. & Capous-Desyllas, M. (2015).  Anti-oppressive social work practice:  Putting theory into action.   Lost Angeles:  Sage Publications.   (Moshula and Karen are Ph.D. Grads. of SSW and the book includes contributions from Meg Panicelli and Joseph DeFilippis who are current Doctoral students.)

Pewewardy, N. & Almeida, R.V. (2014).  Articulating the scaffolding of white supremacy:  The act of naming in liberation.   Journal of Progressive Human Services, 25(3), 230-253.  (Former faculty member at the SSW.)

Other Notable Activities

Alumnus and NICWA Executive Director Terry Cross (MSW ’77) recently testified in Geneva, Switzerland, where he participated in an international convening addressing U.S. compliance with the elimination of all of forms of discrimination treaty specifically related to indigenous children.    You can view his briefing here,  as well as the background report also delivered to the U.N. on this issue here.

Alumna Lupita Mendez (MSW ’09) has just joined the team at Oregon Campus Compact to help build new pathways for student achievement in higher education (especially focusing on first generation or other marginalized student groups).

Numerous members of our Admin. Team, capably led by Associate Dean Keva Miller, developed a new page outlining our accreditation details so that this information is fully available online to anyone interested internally or externally.  Many thanks to Dr. Miller and team for this contribution.

In partnership with OHSU and OSU, the PSU SSW has received a grant from SAMSHA to officially make SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention and Treatment for addictions) training more widely available to social workers and throughout social work education (we applied for this grant over a year ago!).  Opportunities within the MSW and BSW classroom as well as field will be shared soon.  As part of the grant, we will be developing a special training module to more distinctly address social determinants of health precursors of substance use problems.  SBIRT is featured in Oregon’s new health care system as an incentivized component of screening – a role quite likely to be handled by growing numbers of social workers.  This compliments a new grant received by Reclaiming Futures from the Conrad Hilton Foundation, which will gear up to further utilize and continue to develop SBIRT for adolescents, particularly those in juvenile justice settings.  If you’d like to learn more about SBIRT from a social work perspective you can check this piece out, and to see what is happening in Oregon (which is nationally recognized as an SBIRT leader) you can check out this website.  On a somewhat related note, I was invited to do a brief article for the SAMHSA Addictions Technology Transfer Center online publication “The Messenger,” to introduce and discuss the value of a social justice lens for addictions practice.

Teaching and Action Notes About Ferguson and Beyond

Much has been written about the unfolding of recent events in Ferguson, but solutions are yet to be devised.  As I write this blog, Eric Holder from the U.S. Dept. of Justice has just launched a full civil rights investigation of the incidents there the last few weeks and beyond.  Of course, as all agree, this is part of on an ongoing struggle that Americans must reckon with (one that goes far beyond this one incident) and that social workers and mental health/human service providers, public health and community workers are in excellent positions to assist if they seize the opportunity.  To do so we must commit to learning (and unlearning where relevant) the very real history of criminalization of communities of color, increasing militarization of community police, and the other interrelated aspects of oppression now fully onstage.  The media itself becomes rightly implicated, and deserves a strong focus on how it covers stories of justice and the degree of responsibility it has to avoid additional harms, stereotypes and perpetuate un-interrogated narratives of the privileged and powerful.  I believe that our classrooms and field placement sites are places where open dialogue, courageous thinking and action, and community building can occur – let’s cherish and activate these spaces together.  We have important roles to play in solution building in partnership with affected communities everywhere.

It is noteworthy that Deans and Directors of schools of social work across the country have been in constant dialogue about this issue during the last month, especially with our colleagues in the region most directly impacted by these particular events, and with an eye towards these issues nationally.  A task force on Social Justice and Racial Violence comprised of deans and directors from approximately 40 schools of social work nationally – of which I am one – has just been initiated.   We will be convening to articulate and challenge ourselves and each other to re-energize and re-commit to the opportunity of social work education as a tool for community well-being in the face of such increasingly harsh and devastating episodes as Ferguson.  I will keep you posted and seek your input about this process as it evolves.

In the meantime, here is a very incomplete sampling of lists and resources I’ve been accumulating – many are lists within lists – and are in no particular order.   The latter two samples are from local Portland voices.    If folks are interested in having a community forum on this issue hosted by the School of Social Work (with a panel or community discussion) for students, faculty, the larger campus community and/or the rest of Portland, there is interest among several of the other deans in collaborating with us on such a project.   Please let me know if you would be interested in assisting with such an event.   Please use (and continue to share) these with each other, and with our students and community partners.

From social work circles

Expressions from Portland

Misc. Items of Interest for Social Work and Child/Family Studies Educators:  News You Can Use

(New format for these kinds of links – please feel free to share great resources with me for this section!)

Local Portland-related:

Beyond Portland

Technology and New Media

Author: sswdeanconnect

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

One thought on “September Connect

  1. Thank you for writing about Ferguson and provided this great list of articles. I would be very interested in helping to organize a community forum on the issues these events have brought forward. Please keep me updated.

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