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

October Connect

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Happy autumn to everyone! As always, fall is a high-eneregy time around the School of Social Work – and this year was no exception. It has been great to welcome new students and see all the returning students in the CFS, BSW, MSW and Ph.D. programs.  See our School of Social Work Facebook page for a whole host of great welcome back photos.  We also had a very successful SSW strategic planning retreat bringing all parts of our school community together to consider our most important priorities and activities.   I will do a full report on our retreat in next month’s blog post as we describe next steps in our school-wide strategic planning process.  Additionally, we are starting to get some news about a variety of important grant-funded projects that are coming our way – we will also cover a complete overview of our successful awards in next month’s post as well.

By way of general news – Portland State University launches into the new year with an impressive 48 new faculty hires – 30 of which are tenure related.  Here comes a great year ahead.

Good News!

This month, I wanted to feature our  five faculty members who received either promotion, tenure or both this past spring.   Each brings unique talents and gifts to our school community and occupy different positions of influence and impact.  The process of applying for these promotions represents the sum total of many years of challenge and accomplishment.   We appreciate their leadership and contributions.   I asked each to share a little bit about their process and their plans for the future.  Congrats to you all!

Roberto Orellana, Ph.D.


I’ve been part of the PSU SSW community for about six years. All I can say is that we are a dynamic community. During that time I’ve had four different Deans. Several Full Professors have retired or moved away. And, we’ve hired several new Assistant Professors.   Despite all the changes and transitions, the school, as an entity, has always been strong and I have found support for all my research and teaching needs. My research and teaching focus on prevention and intervention science, in the areas of substance abuse, HIV and trauma. For the past six years, I have worked with vulnerable populations in the Amazon jungle, and city slums of Peru; in the highlands of Guatemala and the Mexico/Guatemala border region. Domestically, I’ve been engaged in the analysis of large data sets and have investigated the social determinants of health of children involved in the child welfare system, and have continue to collaborate with colleagues in NYC studying trauma among injection drug users. Locally, I’m conducting a study on health disparities among homeless youth. And, for the next five years I will collaborate with the region’s health authorities on the implementation of a structural suicide prevention intervention for Oregonian youth. All of this work has been possible because I didn’t do it alone. The PSU SSW community has played a critical role in all of my professional endeavors. I hope the next six years are just as busy and exciting. Finally,  I do have free time! One of my most precious activities is coaching my kid’s soccer team for the past 4 years. It’s my non-academic time . . .although I’m always thinking about using PowerPoint to explain the offside in soccer.   Roberto received a promotion to Associate Professor and Tenure Spring of 2014.

Jana Meingold, Ph.D.

unnamed-2Being a part of the PSU SSW community means a great deal to me, both professionally and personally.  I have enjoyed the cross-disciplinary exposure to social work and all that is CSWE.  Given my training in Human Development and Family Studies, the world of social work was  whole new adventure for me.  Most of all I have greatly enjoyed the strength and perseverance of our SSW community as we have navigated a couple of challenging years together.  We rock!  As an Associate Professor I will continue supporting the growth and development of students as professionals, and challenge their thinking so they are better equipped to promote social justice in our communities.  I embrace investing much needed energy into solidifying a bridge between research and policy in the areas of early childhood development and education, at the local and state levels.   Finally I will continue my work with the Community Partnership for Health and Equity and promoting social sustainability.  Jana received a promotion to Associate Professor and Tenure Spring of 2014. 

Keva Miller, Ph.D.

10436697_10152374854496198_2733680792571194741_nWhen I joined the School of Social Work at Portland State University in 2008, I was not exactly certain where I would be six years later. I hoped to be a part of a school that supports faculty to shape future research, produce scholarship, influence practices and policies, and teach the next generation of social workers. Being a part of the School of Social Work has afforded me these opportunities and so much more. I maintain a productive scholarly and research agenda—one that adds to the scientific knowledge base on children of criminal justice involved parents, raises awareness and consciousness about race and ethnicity, and influences child welfare practices and policies. Equally important, is the opportunity to share my expertise in the classroom and in turn learn from such bright, knowledgeable social work students. It is rewarding to witness these talented students graduate, join the profession, and learn about all of the significant contributions they make to our social work community.   As the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, I will actively participate in the life of the School and intend to help lead efforts that strive for excellence. My goal is to work with my colleagues, our students, and our broader community to move us forward in this next chapter of the School’s history—what that is has yet to be written but I see great things in our future.  In addition to her recent appointment as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Keva received a promotion to Associate Professor with tenure in Spring of 2014.  

Eleanor Gil-Kashiwabara, Ph.D.

unnamed-1It has been an honor both professionally and personally to be a part of the PSU SSW community for the past 10 years. My colleagues have personally inspired me each and every day. I am impressed with all of the ways in which my co-workers promote social justice through their work in the community. It is amazing to be surrounded by wonderful and gifted professionals-they make me a better person!   My research areas have largely focused on American Indian/Alaska Native and Latino/a communities. As a Latina researcher, I am both personally and professionally invested in finding ways to promote equity in several areas including access to higher education and access to quality health services, including mental health services. I intend to use my skills to continue to conduct research that will impact service delivery so that services are conducted in a culturally appropriate manner for AI/AN and other culturally specific communities. I feel that I can also be a support to students who have expressed an interest in doing similar work.  Eleanor received a promotion to Associate Research Professor in Spring 0f 2014.

 Katharine Cahn, Ph.D. 

unnamed-3I was pleased to be hired in 2004 to serve as a bridge between our School of Social Work and the field of Child Welfare and Child and Family Services, and this work will continue.  Research by this School of Social Work led to the landmark national child welfare policy of 1980 driving a child welfare focus on family preservation and reunification.  So in joining this School and state, I knew that I “stood on the shoulders of giants” (though Art is not actually that tall, so I do speak metaphorically). It has meant a great deal to me to be at an place that truly values community engagement and service.    My intention is to continue working to advance equity and effectiveness in services to children and families in Oregon and nationally/internationally.  From funding social work students committed to careers in child welfare, to providing state of the art training for child welfare workers and leaders in state, tribal, and private child serving settings, to the research we do to advance practice models, I hope to continue the School’s legacy of impact on policy and practice. In addition to my administrative role, I enjoy teaching future leaders, and I enjoy advising doctoral students who will push the boundaries of knowledge in our fields.   Katharine received a promotion to Associate Research Professor in Spring of 2014.  

More Good News!

Portland State University

Did you know that several of our key leaders have terrific online communications platforms?  Check these out (you may want to bookmark them for future use).

  • PSU President Wim Wiewel’s web page (check this for ongoing updates/information about the PSU University-wide strategic planning process.
  • Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Sona Andrews, has a blog as well – and posts regularly about a variety of topics important to our academic community.
  • Portland State University Faculty Senate also has a web page where you can keep up to date on issues of interest throughout the year.

Oregon News Relevant to the School of Social Work Community

  • Great overview of Oregon’s new focus on social determinants of health and health care reform in the Journal Sentinal.
  • Oregonian story about new Multnomah County funding streams for programs serving communities of color (Note:  SSW Associate Professor Ann Curry-Stevens testified in favor of this development).
  • PSU SSW Alum and Sen. Chip Shields discusses new Racial Impact Statements in Oregon.
  • OPB Story about the 15% increase in Oregon’s poverty rate in the last census.

National News in Social Work and Social Justice

Higher Education

Author: sswdeanconnect

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

One thought on “October Connect

  1. Great to hear directly from these promoted colleagues. THey are all up to great things and I am so glad they are with us.

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