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

December 2014/January 2015

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December Loss for the School of Social Work Community

CharlotteGoodluck300December came and went and was a very challenging month for us at the School of Social Work. We unexpectedly lost a dear leader, friend and colleague in our school family – Dr. Charlotte Tsoi Goodluck, long-term Director of our BSW program passed away on December 3. You can read about her life here.  Memorial scholarships will be set up (both at her request and with the love and support of so many who knew and admired her) at Portland State University.  For information about how to participate, please contact the SSW Development Director, Mr. Rick Jung at   Services have already transpired in Arizona, where Charlotte is from.   Celebration of Life services in Portland will be held this Saturday, January 10 at 10 a.m. at the First Unitarian Church in downtown Portland.

Welcome to new SSW faculty and administrators

Julie Kates

julieandkevaforblogCongratulations to Julie Kates, our new Director of Field Programs at the SSW! Julie has been serving in an interim capacity since the retirement of Ellen Masterson last year, and we could not be more fortunate to have her expertise, her commitment and her leadership at this important time for our school. Join us in wishing her a hearty congratulations and welcoming her to this new chapter of her career. Welcome to your new role Julie!

Mary Oschwald

OschwaldDr. Mary Oschwald began her new role as RRI Director on November 1. Mary is long-time PI at the RRI and an alumna of the SSW. Her interests include interpersonal violence, participatory action research, computer-assisted awareness and intervention programs, disability,  and personal assistance services. Her teaching focuses on macro human behavior in the social environment, and qualitative research methods.
Special thanks to the excellent RRI core team, who individually and collectively have displayed poise, professionalism, and perseverance in dealing with budget reductions, new and shifting responsibilities, and leadership transitions. Interim RRI Director Tom Keller will remain very much involved with the RRI in his continuing role of Associate Dean for Research and Sponsored Projects. While Mary provides leadership for effective infrastructure and operations at RRI, Tom’s efforts will focus on making SSW and PSU a conducive environment for research and sponsored projects.

Junghee Lee

JungheeLee150Congratulations and welcome to Dr. Junghee Lee, who has accepted a position as Director of our SSW Ph.D. program! We are so fortunate that Dr. Lee has agreed to bring her energy, commitment and ideas to a time of transformation and renewal of our doctoral program. She will primarily focus her attention on providing administrative/academic leadership to students currently enrolled in Ph.D. studies, but will also participate in the process of doctoral program redesign, and the work of the larger SSW Administrative Leadership Team.

Thank you to Dr. Tom Keller who has been serving as an interim doctoral program lead, in addition to his new post as Associate Dean for Research and Sponsored Projects. We wish him well as he continues on with his AD role, and the continuing work of the new EXITO project.

Miranda Cunningham

Miranda300Congratulations and welcome to Miranda Cunningham, who has joined the Child & Family Studies team as full-time faculty! Miranda has taught CFS for the past couple of years and comes to us with a background in early childhood education, an elementary school teaching license, and tremendous passion for undergraduate instruction. This year, Miranda will be teaching CFS 495, CFS 480, and CFS 312U.

You may know Miranda from her previous teaching with CFS, but please stop by to welcome Miranda to her new role in person (she’s in room ASRC 620S)!

National News

Much continues to be discussed and acted upon nationally regarding race-related violence, community safety and policing across the United States.  You can read more (by way of a round up of some resources on a previous blog post from me here…)  This new article discusses emerging policy options that are being considered and that will be moving forward in the U.S. Congress this year.   Understanding how both traditional community activism as well as policy practice work all intersect to produce change is an important step in cultivating and achieving progress.

What can we expect of the new congress with regard to higher education policy?  Here is a preview…  Another article shared by Jean Cavanaugh also explores this issue in terms of state by state analysis.


As members of the higher education community, we all feel the presence of technology changing, expanding, and challenging our work as educators.   This is a new survey of faculty attitudes on technology conducted by the folks at Inside Higher Education.  Gives an interesting window on the landscape of faculty thoughts on such diverse topics as online education quality, experiences in online learning, faculty and institutional dynamics, use of technology and other topics.   Check it out – very interesting read.

This is an interesting piece about emerging ethics issues around use of technology in social work practice…what SHOULD a social worker do if they receive a text from a client in the middle of the night?

How do you use technology, modeling software and data to help people understand what poverty looks like?  You hang out with this creative person, Nicklay Lamm, and you check out this thought-provoking piece.

Love this new piece about “how to curate your digital identity as an academic” in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article.  Short version:  Do it yourself or the web will do it for you in ways you may not like.

Local News

This was an important Oregonian guest column by Judge Amy Holmes Hehn regarding the recent Elias-domestic violence case in Portland.  It is a compelling and important reflection on our flawed system.

I’ve spent part of my first year as dean of the SSW getting involved with some activities of the new health care system in our state from a policy perspective.  Read about some of the principle statements recently adopted by CCO Oregon here – and please continue to get involved yourselves!   Lots of exciting and important work happening in this area to increase community well-being across our state.

In case you haven’t heard, Portland Police Dept. is in the final stages of drafting a new policy about how mental illness is addressed.  This is a news item about it – with a request for input by the end of January of this year.

Just to Think About – Inspiration

What does it mean to be creative in the lives/roles we inhabit as social workers, as educators, as change agents and beyond?  This is a great little piece to unsettle our sensibilities and invite some new ways to think about this topic!

Misc. Social Work Practice

This is a useful piece on early childhood trauma (and why folks don’t just ‘get over it’) offered by the folks at the Social Work Helper.

Another valuable piece suggests ways to build a racially just society – offering psychological insights from TruthOut.

Want some great resources about working with families whose children are coming out as queer?  The Family Acceptance Project continues to offer evolving and important tools.

Anyone ever heard of the Mental Elf?  This is a website that runs a stream of interesting evidenced-based tools, resources and other relevant literature of interest to those in helping professions.  You may be interested in accessing information or promoting your own work here.

Why you should go outside and look at the sky instead of reading this blog post – is there such a thing as “nature deficit disorder?”  Maybe…worth considering.

Teaching Misc.

This is a good TED talk about the architecture of great “speeches.”  Worth a moment.

New piece in the Atlantic about the state of the art in plagiarism identification technology.

Author: sswdeanconnect

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

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