Highlights and Happenings – April 2016

Laura Nissen Medium Mug Square 10-15With the turn towards warmer temperatures and sunnier skies here in the Pacific Northwest, change is in the air. In the School of Social Work at Portland State University, along with our primary focus on teaching, learning, research and training in human services for Oregonians, we’ve also been busy creating some new ways to keep in touch with you.

For two years now, we’ve been experimenting with our “Dean’s Blog” and have developed a loyal and enthusiastic following. Moving forward we’re both broadening our scope and tightening our focus with this new School of Social Work newsletter called Highlights and Happenings. This monthly blog-format newsletter will feature more types of content and will explore additional facets of life in our school that reflect the wide variety of academic, research and training programs of which we are so proud. I’ll be continuing to have a strong presence in the newsletter, and will be authoring more in-depth editorial-type posts from time to time.

Our communications vehicles continue to grow and evolve, and we’d love to hear your feedback on this new direction and appreciate any suggestions on content you’d like to see included here. -> Give feedback  Enjoy our new “look” and here’s to celebrating and conveying the important activities of the School of Social Work at Portland State!

Laura Burney Nissen
Dean and Professor

What’s Inside


Key_Fact__1_for_Wordpress_-_1_jpgSchool in Top 25% of Social Work Programs Nationally

US News and World Report recently released its rankings for social work programs across the US, and the School of Social Work at Portland State University has once again ranked among the top 25% of all social work programs nationally.

According to the new 2016 list, the School of Social Work is ranked #38 in the nation and is ranked #2 among programs in the Pacific Northwest. Only the University of Washington’s #3 program is ranked higher in the Pacific Northwest.

-> Learn More

Key Facts Web SliderKey Facts About School of Social Work

To celebrate the amazing work and impact of the School of Social Work at Portland State University, we unveiled a “key fact” about the School each week from January through the end of March via email, social media and around the School’s physical spaces in Portland. The twelve key facts included things like having the largest Masters degree program at PSU and serving over 1,000 students each year in our academic programs.

-> View All 12 Key Facts

President's Scholarship Reception 2016School Participates in President’s Scholarship Reception

Back in early March, donors to School of Social Work scholarship funds and the students who received their scholarships attended Portland State’s 2016 President’s Scholarship Reception in the Smith Ballroom on the PSU campus. The reception was hosted by the PSU Foundation. The School greatly appreciates those who have given so generously to our student scholarship funds and congratulates all of our student recipients!


logo_culture_conversationApril is Culture & Conversation month in the School of Social Work, a time when the School hosts a month-long series of events designed to spark campus and community dialogue around identity, equity, and community. This free series welcomes thinkers, activists, and community leaders in lively discussions around topics impacting communities in Oregon. This year’s programs included movie screenings, workshops on hip hop music’s influence on culture, and the state of higher education and its impact on students of color.

There’s one event still to come this month, a panel from BRAVE Leaders for Reproductive Justice whose who will share their experiences organizing for reproductive justice, developing values-driven policies, and engaging in cultural work to change hearts and minds.

Thursday, April 28, 5:30-7pm, PSU Women’s Resource Center, Portland

-> Get Free Tickets

Program Spotlight

PSU takes the lead to promote trauma-informed care across Oregon
by Diane Yatchmenoff, Director, Trauma Informed Oregon

Diane YatchmenoffAll over the country, across multiple systems serving vulnerable or underserved populations, there is increasing understanding about the long-term impact of adversity on health and well-being. Developments in neuroscience and developmental neurobiology, combined with findings from the seminal Adverse Childhood Experiences study have heightened awareness that painful, traumatic experiences in childhood and across the lifespan have a powerful impact on life trajectories. Moreover, while adversity is surprisingly common in the general population, this fact pales beside the prevalence among children, youth and families in community-based mental health services where estimates of complex and prolonged trauma are as high as 94-98%. This information has resulted in what many are calling a paradigm shift in how we think about mental and behavioral health.

Faculty from the School of Social Work’s Regional Research Institute for Human Services (RRI) have been working in the field of trauma for years and have are seen as experts among providers and partners locally and regionally. With heightened awareness of the issue and recognizing the role of the university, in 2014 the Oregon Health Authority asked RRI to take the lead on a state-wide effort to infuse trauma informed care across the health and behavioral health systems. Under a contract with OHA and in collaboration with the Oregon Health Sciences University and the Oregon Pediatric Society, Trauma Informed Oregon was founded.

Trauma-Informed-Oregon-Header-2Trauma Informed Oregon (TIO) serves as a centralized resource for information about trauma, the impact of trauma and the principles and practices of trauma informed care. Resources are available for organizations, providers, and, for individuals and families seeking or utilizing services. TIO provides training and consultation on implementation and is partnering with the state to roll out a new policy that requires community mental health programs to demonstrate that they are working to become trauma informed. Regional forums provide an opportunity for partners and stakeholders all over the state to come together to share information and learn from one another.

Through the work of TIO and partners around the state, Oregon is receiving national recognition for our commitment and for our efforts to create a fully trauma-informed system of care in our communities.

-> Learn More

Faculty Spotlight

Christiana Bratiotis at DeskUnderstanding the problem of hoarding and learning effective assessments and intervention strategies to deal with its impact was the focus of a community workshop co-presented by School of Social Work assistant professor Christiana Bratiotis, Ph.D., LICSW. Called “Too Much Stuff,” this day-long interactive training in March attracted 600 professionals who help with hoarding throughout the metro Portland area.

Hoarding Social Media Graphic v2Co-author of The Hoarding Handbook, Dr. Bratiotis travels extensively across the country talking with professionals in social service agencies, public health, law enforcement and federal, state and local government about the mental illness associated with hoarding disorder. Locally she is a member of the Multnomah County Hoarding Task Force, which was a co-sponsor of the March workshop.

-> Learn More About Christiana
-> Watch KATV2 AM Northwest Video

Alumni Spotlight

Samantha BlanchardSamantha (Blanchard) Dutton (Ph.D. ’06) who was recently named a full-time faculty member in the social work program at Walden University, a fully online university.

Samatha, who completed her Ph.D. in Social Work and Social Research at Portland State in 2012 with her dissertation “Understanding the experience of Air Force single parents: A phenomenological study,” is creating the military concentration for the program. Samantha was a Colonel in the Air Force at the point of her retirement from the military. Walden University’s online MSW recently received accreditation by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

Student Spotlight

Ruben on pdx.eduTo kick off its upcoming 2017-18 admissions season, the School of Social Work recently highlighted the story of current Master of Social Work (MSW) student Ruben Reyes Santiago on Portland State University’s main web page at pdx.edu.

Ruben is part of the School of Social Work’s Integrated Care Project, a new, federally funded program that prepares Master of Social Work (MSW) students to practice effectively in behavioral health and health care settings. Ruben is doing his internship in the brand new wellness center at Benson Polytechnic High School in the Portland Public Schools.

-> Learn More About Ruben

Faculty News and Publications


reTHINK at National Press Club 3-31-16MSW program director Sarah Bradley, MSW recently presented at the National Press Club in Washington, DC in March at an event showcasing new, disruptive approaches to higher education that improve student success.

Sarah spoke about the School of Social Work’s new fully online MSW program that was launched in 2014. At the end of its second year this brand new program has an impressive 95% student retention rate.

The development of the online MSW program was funded by the Provost’s Challenge component of reTHINK PSU, a $3 million project designed to accelerate online learning and the use of innovative technology in educational delivery.

The event was sponsored by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU). Also presenting from Portland State were Sukhwant Jhaj, vice provost for academic innovation and student success, and Jeanne Enders, faculty in the School of Business Administration.

Eddie, Lisa and Sarah at SW Distance Ed Conference 4-16 SquareThe School’s online Master of Social Work program was later highlighted at a national conference of social work distance education programs in April in Indianapolis. Online MSW director Lisa Hawash, MSW presented about facilitating sustainable recruitment, retention, and community building. And MSW program director Sarah Bradley, MSW and MSW distance option coordinator Eddie May, MSW presented on curriculum development and implementation in the MSW field seminar. This year’s national Social Work Distance Education Conference was held April 13-15 in Indianapolis.

Laurie Powers Congressional Testimony 3-16Dr. Laurie Powers, professor in the School of Social Work at Portland State, recently presented in Washington, DC at a congressional briefing on how to support students with disabilities in their transition to college and career.

Sponsored by the Friends of the Institute of Education Sciences and joined by colleagues from Vanderbilt University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Laurie shared the latest research on how to help students with disabilities gain employment, succeed academically, and socially thrive after graduating from high school.

The Center for Improvement of Child and Family Services recently completed a 4-year randomized study of the Relationship Based Visitation Program. This program was designed to provide intensive parent coaching during supervised visits with children placed in foster care. Outcomes showed significant improvements in a variety of parenting domains, although there was no documented reduction in the length of time children spent in foster care.

-> Read Final Report

Dr. Alma Trinidad, assistant professor in the School of Social Work, spoke on KPSU, Portland’s College Radio, about sustainability and equity as guest on Shades of Green, a talk show featuring conversations about sustainability initiatives on PSU and throughout the city of Portland.

-> Listen to the Interview

Reach Higher LogoDr. Thomas KellerAssociate Dean for Research & Sponsored Projects and the
Duncan & Cindy Campbell Professor for Children, Youth and Families, participated in a White House summit entitled “Beating the Odds: Successful Strategies from Schools and Youth Agencies that Build Ladders of Opportunity.” The Summit was organized as part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative, which aims to inspire all students to pursue education and training beyond high school graduation.

Dr. Ann Curry-Stevens, associate professor in the School of Social Work,  was an invited speaker at the Oregon Program Evaluator Network’s annual conference focusing on culturally responsive evaluation. Her presentation was called “Lessons learned: Research and evaluation partnerships with Portland’s communities of color.”

The Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) partnered with the Child Welfare Partnership at Portland State University’s School of Social Work on the recently completed Family Connections Oregon Demonstration project. The goals of the project were to test the effectiveness of a combined model of family finding and family group conferencing in a child welfare population; install system supports for statewide sustainability, and to provide ongoing dissemination to key stakeholders.

-> Read Executive Summary

As part of the Title IV-E Waiver Demonstration project, the PSU Evaluation Team recently addressed hundreds of child welfare staff and community partners at four Kick-Off events (Multnomah, Clackamas, Jackson, and Josephine Counties). Topics included research supporting the new Waiver intervention, Leveraging Intensive Family Engagement (LIFE), and an overview of the evaluation design.


Barrios, S., & Furrer, C. J. (October 2015). Using the Strengths, Needs, and Culture Discovery with families: A strengths-based practice. Presented at the Kempe International Conference on Innovations in Family Engagement, Minneapolis, MN.

Marchand, G., & Furrer, C. J. (April 2016). Social context as a motivational resource in school: Implications for academic adjustment. Symposium paper presented at the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, Washington, DC.

Dr. Beth Green, in partnership with NPC Research, recently completed a five-year, federally funded randomized study of the Healthy Families Oregon home visitation program. -> Read Results

Pauline Jivanjee, Laura Nissen and Charlotte Goodluck, Social Work faculty; and Kimberly Pendell, Library faculty, authored “Lifelong Learning in Social Work: A Qualitative Exploration with Social Work Practitioners, Students, and Field Instructors” published in Advances in Social Work, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp. 260-275.

Lambarth, C. H., & Cox, C. (2015, October). Yoncalla Early Works: A prenatal-through-3rd grade initiative. Session presented at the annual conference of the National Rural Education Association, St. Louis, MO.

5 Resources for Social Work and Human Services Professionals

  • “A master of social work, or M.S.W., degree is quickly becoming the 21st century’s law degree, especially for young people interested in making the world a better place.” Inside Higher Ed blog author John L. Jackson Jr., dean of the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania claims that “[s]ocial work education is the future of all academic teaching.” -> Read Blog
  • Childhood trauma isn’t something you just get over as you grow up.  Watch this TED Talk by pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris who explains that the repeated stress of abuse, neglect and parents struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues has real, tangible effects on the development of the brain.  -> Watch Video
  • 9 Tools for Your Professional Social Worker Toolkit — You have your social work degree(s), and you have a job. What else do you need to sustain a long and healthy career in social work? Here are some of the tools you should have in your “Professional Social Worker Toolkit.” -> Get Toolkit
  • Both in our child welfare coursework, and in general policy courses, our instructors must teach the roots and historical evolution of poor laws and specifically child abuse / child welfare laws. Absent historical context the shape of our child welfare system and laws doesn’t make much sense.  Now here’s an article written by the excellent New Yorker writer Jill Lepore that tells that history in a vivid way. This should be of value to those teaching policy courses, and to the child welfare courses and students. -> Read Article
  • 9 Mobile Apps for Social Workers  Find nine useful smartphone apps that can enhance your practice, empower your clients and scale everyone’s efforts in this Social Work Helper article. -> Read Article

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