Year in Review 2014-15

Laura Nissen


I’m pleased to share with you these highlights from an exciting and productive year in the School of Social Work at Portland State University.

As the oldest, largest and only public social work higher education program in Oregon, we pride ourselves on advancing a robust teaching, research, training, workforce development, and service agenda.

In wrapping up my first full year as dean of the School, I’m proud of the many contributions our School has made this year to scholarship, social justice, community health and the future of social work in Oregon and beyond. The best is yet to come.

Sarah Bradley, Ann Curry-Stevens, Lisa Hawash and Denise Grant, back row. Keva Miller, Roxanne Dinca and Laura Nissen, front row.

New Online MSW Program

A talented and passionate group of faculty and staff completed the design and launch of the School of Social Work’s online Master in Social Work program, the first entirely online MSW degree program in the state of Oregon.

The goal of the project — which began just two years ago — was to take an existing three-year Master of Social Work degree and put it entirely online, increasing accessibility for non-traditional students, including students of color, parents, low-income students, students with disabilities, tribal members, and students who live in rural areas. This comprehensive online course was designed with a thoughtful and deliberate application of online pedagogy.

The project was funded by a grant provided by the Portland State University Provost’s Challenge project which allocated $3 million in 2013 to fund and support twenty-four innovative faculty-staff activities. They focused on accelerating online learning, using innovative technology in educational delivery, and improving student success and graduation.

As of this spring the first cohort of 40 students in the program wrapped up its first year, with another 46 students starting this fall. After its first year, the program’s first cohort boasts an unprecedented 98% student retention rate.

Cimone Schwoeffermann, Celeste Moser, Ann Curry-Stevens, Miranda Cunningham, Tom Keller, Gita Mehrotra, Sarah Bradley, Laura Nissen, and Keva Miller, back row. Katie Cagle, Roxanne Dinca, Rosella Stanley, Elaine Szeto and Norm Wyers, front row. Sean Derrickson not pictured.

Strategic Planning Process

This year a dedicated group of leaders from every facet of the School of Social Work participated as representatives of a strategic planning committee. Through discussion at unit meetings, individual conversations, and through the use of online tools, the committee has been gathering an enormous amount of community thoughts and feedback on the question of what makes a great school of social work. As a result of these efforts, the committee has developed a set of strategic priorities to guide the next steps in the planning process.

High Impact Research and Sponsored Projects Funding Grows by 76%

The School’s two high impact research, training and evaluation units — the Regional Research Institute for Human Services and the Center for Improvement of Child and Family Services — increased their externally funded research and sponsored projects an impressive 76% over the last 10 years.

That significant growth does not even include the largest federal grant ever received by Portland State University — a recently awarded, multi-year, $23.7 million dollar grant headed by Dr. Thomas Keller, Campbell Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Sponsored Projects in the School of Social Work, and Dr. Carlos Crespo, Director of the PSU School of Community Health.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health, EXITO: Enhancing Cross-Disciplinary Infrastructure and Training at Oregon will transform institutional infrastructure, opportunity, and support for undergraduates from diverse backgrounds interested in pursuing careers in behavioral, clinical, and biomedical health research careers. The EXITO project is in the Center for Interdisciplinary Mentoring Research, which is directed by Dr. Keller.

Infographic data based on Portland State University School of Social Work data as of June 12, 2015. * Includes BSW and CFS students with Latin honors and MSW students with 3.95 GPA or higher.

362 Social Work Students Graduate in Spring

At the School of Social Work’s ceremonies and the university’s commencement exercises this past spring, 362 students from our Bachelor of Social Work (BSW), Child and Family Studies (CFS), Master of Social Work (MSW) and Doctoral (Ph.D.) programs were recognized and celebrated for their academic and community service achievements.

An impressive 35% of this year’s BSW, CFS and MSW students graduated with special academic honors. Our MSW program graduated 223 students, the highest number of Masters degree graduates at Portland State this spring.

Pathways RTC Grant

Pathways RTC, one of the signature projects of the School’s Regional Research Institute, received a 5-year, $4.3 million award from the National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research and the Center for Mental Health Services. This award allows Pathways RTC to develop and evaluate interventions that are focused on improving outcomes for youth and young adults with serious mental health conditions.

New Ph.D. Program

The School of Social Work’s announced its newly redesigned Ph.D. Program in Social Work and Social Research this summer.

The School’s Ph.D. Program admitted its first cohort in 1992, and since then our doctoral graduates have gone on to tenure-track academic positions in universities across the country, conducted research as principal investigators on major research projects, and held leadership roles in diverse communities and at social service organizations.

After a comprehensive review and revision, the School announced this past summer a newly designed and innovative curriculum that prepares graduates to become leading academics, researchers, and scholars. It continues its focus on the promotion of social and economic justice for the improvement of all communities.

What’s new?

  • All coursework is built through a focused social justice lens.
  • It’s interdisciplinary.
  • It includes community engaged research.
  • It includes dedicated coursework designed to make you a better teacher.

Applications for admission in fall 2016 are now being accepted online.

Integrated Care Project Grant

School of Social Work professor Pauline Jivanjee worked closely this year with director of field education Julie Kates and Salem distance option coordinator Michele Martinez-Thompson to bring a major Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant to the School called Integrated Care Project: Preparing Social Workers for Careers in Integrated Health and Behavioral Health Care in Oregon. This multi-year grant will provide $10,000 per year stipends for up to 96 MSW Students who focus their educational efforts on services in integrated behavioral health care serving rural Oregon, transition-aged youth, and Latino populations.

Terry Cross

Terry Cross Receives Honorary Ph.D.

Terry Cross — a distinguished alumnus and former faculty member of the School of Social Work — received an honorary Ph.D. from Portland State University at its commencement ceremonies this past June.

Terry L. Cross, MSW, ACSW, LCWS, is an enrolled member of the Seneca Nation. He received his masters degree in social work from Portland State in 1977 and served as adjunct faculty in the School of Social Work for 25 years. During his 40 year career, he has worked passionately and tirelessly to improve policies and services for American Indian children and communities.

After receiving his degree, Terry delivered the commencement speech to graduates and assembled guests. His address was a mixture of reflection on his own experiences working for social justice and advocating for Indian child and communities and advice to the new graduates.

Statewide School of Social Work Site Visits

Over the past year, Dean Laura Nissen and representatives of the School of Social Work visited our locations across the state to continue the celebration of the school’s 50th anniversary which began in Portland in the spring of 2014.

Unique among the schools at Portland State, the School of Social Work educates social workers across the state, with programs in Portland, Ashland, Bend, Eugene and Salem, and now online as well.

First on tap was a July visit to beautiful Bend, where site coordinator Gary Smith and Dean Laura Nissen gathered with current students and alumni. They are pictured above in front of the former location of the MSW Distance Offices, the Dennis Maloney Community Justice Center.

Next up were stops in Salem and Eugene in February to bring celebratory cakes and do some extended 50th anniversary celebrating with distance students, faculty and community partners. Pictured above are Laura and Rep. Joe Gallegos (MSW, ’73) celebrating in Salem!

In March, Dean Nissen, her assistant Katie Cagle, and Distance Option – Bend Site Coordinator Gary Smith visited Eastern Oregon University in La Grande. They met with Provost Sarah Witte and Regina Braker, Dean of Arts and Sciences at Eastern Oregon University, along with EOU faculty and students to discuss the significant need for social workers in Eastern Oregon. Gary and Katie are pictured above.

In May School leadership traveled to southern Oregon for a celebration, networking and training evening in Medford. Over 40 alumni, field coordinators and other social workers associated with PSU’s School of Social Work distance option program in Ashland celebrated the School’s 50th anniversary. Delicious cakes, pictured above, in celebration of the anniversary and the retirement of longtime distance coordinator Gretchen Thiel were enjoyed.

Erin Elizabeth Flynn, Ph.D., Gita Mehrotra, Ph.D., MSW, Ericka Kimball, Ph.D., LISW.

New Faculty

The School of Social Work welcomed three new faculty in the 2014-15 academic year.

Erin Elizabeth Flynn, Ph.D.

Erin Elizabeth Flynn, Ph.D. is an educational researcher who specializes in language and literacy development during the early childhood years. Dr. Flynn holds a Doctorate in Literacy, Language and Culture from the University of Michigan and a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Erikson Institute in Chicago.

Gita Mehrotra, Ph.D., MSW

Gita Mehrotra holds a Ph.D. in Social Welfare from the University of Washington and an MSW from the University of Minnesota. She has been involved in anti-violence work for over 15 years in a variety of capacities including: direct service, education/training, and program and organizational development, with a focus on Asian and South Asian women and LGBTQ communities of color.

Ericka Kimball, Ph.D., LISW

Ericka Kimball, Ph.D., LISW completed her Ph.D. in Social Work at the University of Minnesota. Her dissertation examined the relationship of fathers’ parenting support and parenting stress on risk for family violence. Ericka’s scholarship centers around two main areas: social support for children exposed to domestic violence and the use of technology in social work education, research, and practice.

Embedded Researcher Program

The School of Social Work has partnered with several local organizations to embed doctoral students in internships focusing on agency-based research. The School created five specialized graduate research assistant (GRA) positions and placed students with Parrott Creek Child and Family Services, Camp Fire Columbia, Life Works NW, Friends of the Children, and Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest. The School plans to grow this innovative model for collaboration, which provides top quality research assistance to area agencies while giving graduate students real-world work and research experience.

Cornel Pewewardy, director of Indigenous Nation Studies Program; Danica Brown, graduate student; Laura Nissen, dean; Sona Andrews, provost; Wim Wiewel, president; Alma Trinidad, faculty; Michael Taylor, faculty and BSW chair; Joe Talik, MSW ’15; Cimone Schwoeffermann, staff; Lee Ann Holder, faculty.

Late Faculty Member Wins Diversity Award Posthumously

A beloved and deeply missed member of the Portland State University School of Social Work family, the late Charlotte Goodluck, was awarded the President’s Global Diversity Award posthumously at an event in May announcing the President’s 2015 Diversity Awards.

Dean Laura Nissen and members of the School of Social Work and Indigenous Nations Studies Program were on hand to receive the award on Charlotte’s behalf.

In words shared by Interim Chief Diversity Officer Chas Lopez, who presented the award and made a special tribute, “[Charlotte’s] greatest legacy will remain the thousands of students that she taught in her lifetime and their continuing efforts to practice ethical, culturally responsible and impactful social work.”

A memorial scholarship has been set up in Charlotte’s name to provide important financial support to students working towards a Bachelor of Social Work Degree within the School of Social Work and/or to students working towards a minor degree in the Indigenous Nations Studies within the School of Gender, Race and Nations.

Trauma Informed Oregon

Trauma Informed Oregon (TIO), a partnership between the School of Social Work’s Regional Research Institute, the Oregon Health Authority, and Oregon Health & Sciences University, was launched in June 2014 to coordinate and disseminate information about trauma and adverse childhood events (ACEs), training opportunities, best practices and resources.

Trauma Informed Oregon serves as a centralized source of information and resources and coordinates and provides training for healthcare and related systems. Trauma Informed Oregon works with state agencies, state and local providers, communities, family and youth organizations, and diverse constituents to bring many voices and perspectives to the table to learn from one another. It advocates for informed policies and practices to promote healing and support wellbeing for all of Oregon’s children and families.

Learn more about the School of Social Work at Portland State University.

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