Highlights and Happenings – June / July 2016

Laura at Table

As hard as it is to believe, we’ve wrapped up yet another busy, dynamic, and productive academic year.  On June 12 our graduating students, faculty, and staff were part of the nearly 5,800 students who graduated in the commencement ceremonies at Moda Center. On behalf of all School of Social Work faculty and staff, we warmly congratulate the class of 2016!  We’re confident that as our new graduates make their way into organizations throughout Oregon and beyond, their work will make a difference, bringing them into exciting places of service and education.

While you may think that summer means things have quieted down here in the School, the truth is much different.  Our research, sponsored projects, and training efforts continue year-round, and we educate students in our advanced standing and other programs in special offerings over the summer. 

I welcome you to explore our June/July issue of “Highlights and Happenings,” a guide to many facets of the important work we’re doing to change lives and communities throughout Oregon. 


Laura Burney Nissen
Dean and Professor

What’s Inside?


Over 300 Students Graduate from the School of Social Work

Commencement 2016

The many hours of classroom, field, and study time came to an exciting culminating point as 330 School of Social Work students graduated this spring!

At the university’s commencement exercises held on June 12, students from our Bachelor of Social Work (BSW), Child and Family Studies (CFS), Master of Social Work (MSW) and Ph.D. programs will be recognized and celebrated for their academic and community service achievements.

32% of this year’s BSW and CFS students graduated with Latin honors. Our MSW program graduated 210 students, making it the top Masters program at PSU in terms of number of graduates.

-> Watch Photos and Video of Commencement 2016

Congratulations to all of our School of Social Work graduates!

New Online Toolkit Reduces Barriers to Healthcare for Adults on the Autism Spectrum


The Academic Autism Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education (AASPIRE), a national partnership which includes Portland State University and Oregon Health and Science University, published a study on a promising new tool that may improve healthcare for adults on the autism spectrum. One month after using the toolkit, participants on the spectrum reported fewer barriers to care, greater confidence in managing their health and healthcare, and greater satisfaction with patient-provider communication.

The centerpiece is the Autism Healthcare Accommodations Tool (AHAT), a tool that creates a personalized accommodations report for the patient’s healthcare providers. The study’s principal investigator, Christina Nicolaidis, MD, MPH, Professor at Portland State University and Associate Professor at Oregon Health and Science University, explains, “Every person on the autism spectrum is different. It can be extremely hard as a busy primary care provider to know what a particular patient needs. We developed the AHAT as a practical way to provide critical patient-specific information.”

The toolkit also includes information, worksheets, checklists, and resources for patients and supporters.  Patient participants explained that the toolkit helped them clarify their needs, enabled them to self-advocate and prepare for visits more effectively, and positively influenced how their providers treated them. For example, one patient participant commented on the survey, “It takes away a lot of my uncertainty about the appointments. Whether I’ll bring up everything I want to bring up, whether I asked the right questions about follow-up care, and being prepared for talking to new doctors. It’s a game changer for me.”

 AASPIRE plans to conduct further research to more rigorously test the effect of the toolkit on healthcare outcomes.

The study was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine (JGIM). JGIM ranks #1 according to Google Scholar H5-index of Primary Health Care Journals. 

-> Learn More about AASPIRE and Read the Full-Text Article

Donate to Maybelle Clark Macdonald Scholarship Fund and Double Your Gift

MCM Infographic Vertical 6-16

Paying for college today keeps getting tougher and tougher. It means that student scholarships are an important way to support our future social workers, leaders, and advocates who will spend a lifetime making this world a better place for individuals and communities.

Through the generosity of the Maybelle Clark Macdonald Endowed Scholarship Fund, we have a unique opportunity to double gifts made to the School of Social Work to fund student scholarships that support the next generation of social workers.

If we can raise $50,000 this year, the Fund will match each donation, dollar for dollar. We’ve successfully raised $150,000 in the first three years of our five-year campaign.

Won’t you help us meet this year’s goal with a gift to our student scholarship fund?

-> Give Now


Saying Goodbye to Faculty and Staff

This June the school said “goodbye” to two very special members of our community.

Susie Snyder, MSW LCSW, associate professor of practice, is retiring from her full-time faculty position after 26 years of service to the School of Social Work and its students. Susie’s clinical skills were held in high regard by many of her students. For her retirement, 46 of these students wrote letters to her acknowledging her work and thanking her for the impact she has had on their alignment with social work practice and in their lives. Below are a few quotes from these letters:

“The thing I will miss the most… is observing how skilled you are at therapy. I really appreciate that rather than just talking conceptually about the ways to staff a case or theories or approaches [to social work practice], that you actually role play the interpersonal interaction… you are incredibly warm and empathetic in your approach to ‘clients…’ Your therapeutic talent and willingness to be vulnerable may be your greatest gift to students. I am so grateful you were able to me my mentor in learning over the past two years.”

“I want to thank you for being so supportive, helpful, understanding, and just simply amazing! I hope that as my work develops, I continue to have you in mind and the class exercises we practiced. I have saved all the tool kits you have given me to use as reference for the rest of my life.”

“I think that you have given me the strength and ability to question some of my own thoughts and opinions and [have taught me] to hold those thoughts and opinions with a critical lens that stays true to my identity.”

Katie Cagle, executive assistant to the dean, has been with the school since 2012. Fellow staff and faculty admire Katie’s enthusiastic personality, tremendous organizational skills, and excellent bread baking expertise.

Katie’s warm sensibilities played a critical role in producing faculty and staff events. At the school’s end of the year “Talent-ish Show,” colleagues wrote and performed a parody of “The Way You Do the Things You Do” in honor of Katie’s departure.

The School of Social Work is delighted to have had the opportunity to work with faculty and staff like Katie and Susie who exude the kindness and hospitality of which our school can be very proud. We wish you well on your journeys ahead and hope you’ll visit us whenever you’re in the neighborhood!

Field Team Thanks Its Community Agencies and InstructorsFI Appreciation Lunch 6-16

The field education placements that our School of Social Work students engage with each year are a critical component of their preparation as professionals. Each student contributes 500 hours each year in the over 350 agencies the School works with throughout Oregon. This practical application of the knowledge and expertise students have built in the classroom is a cornerstone of their social work and human services education.

Recently the School of Social Work thanked and celebrated the work of the field instructors who advise and mentor our students in their field education placements. At our annual field instructor appreciation luncheon, nearly 70 agency professionals were recognized for their service to our students.

The entire School of Social Work community gives thanks to our over 400 field instructors. The opportunities for learning and growth that you provide to our students are significant and appreciated!

-> Learn More About Field Education
-> Host a Social Work Student

Program Spotlight

Child and Family Studies Program Serves Diverse Set of Undergrads

Dynacfs_logomic students learning how to work alongside the variety of community organizations and institutions that support the lives of children, youth, and families.  That’s the focus of the Child and Family Studies (CFS) program, one of the School of Social Work’s 4 academic programs.

Program Director Dr. Ben Anderson-Nathe says the students, for him, are the most important part of this program. “Our students are stunning,” he says. “They’re the reason why I am here.  They are why I get up in the morning and enjoy this program every day.”

Established in 1993 to serve undergraduate students interested in careers in education, youth services, and advocacy, today’s CFS graduates go on to do work in careers like early childhood education, elementary education, social and human service settings, residential care, child welfare, and public policy. This variety of career outcomes is associated with the program’s deliberate blend of interdisciplinary studies and professional preparation, giving students the potential to be effective change agents across domains that directly affect children, youth, and families in their communities.  

CFS students come from a wide set of life and educational experiences. Many are students of color and students with significant financial need. Others are first generation, older, and returning students or military veterans. Remarkably, most of them are employed full-time while completing the program and its adjoining practicum requirements.   Most transfer to the CFS program from nearby community colleges.  “The overwhelming majority of our students come from the community college system,” says Dr. Anderson-Nathe.  “Over 80% of our students are transfer students.”

The CFS program began with no full-time faculty and was housed in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The program now employs 8 faculty and staff, 200 active majors, and many others who have declared their intent to minor in the program since the minor became available in the fall of 2015. CFS also partners with the University Studies Department while overseeing more than 1,000 students who elect to take one of many junior cluster courses administered by CFS.

-> Learn More about Our Child and Family Studies Program

Student Spotlight

Miranda Cunningham Receives Doctorate in Social Work and Social Research

Congratulations to Miranda Cunningham Dissertation Defense 6-9-16 - 1Dr. Miranda Cunningham, who successfully defended her dissertation in the School of Social Work’s Ph.D. Program in Social Work and Social Research last week.

Her dissertation “Bridging the worlds of home and school: A study of the relational experiences of first-generation students in a school of social work.”

Pictured above is Dr. Cunningham with her dissertation committee, including Ben Anderson-Nathe, chair; Stephanie Wahab; Katharine Cahn; and Anita Bright, Office of Graduate Studies (OGS) representative.

Social Work Students Honored in Achievement Ceremony

Award RecipientsThe School of Social Work is proud to share this year’s winners of the campus-wide Student Achievement Awards which were announced earlier this week at a ceremony on campus.

The Dean’s Awards winners included recipients for academic achievement, university service, and community engagement.

Academic Achievement: Erica Alonzo-Leon, undergraduate; Kelly Skellenger, master’s; Casadi “Khaki” Marino, doctoral

University Service: Alec Martinez, student assistant lead in the School of Social Work; Rosella Stanley, undergraduate; Crystal Munoz, master’s

Community Engagement: Lucas Andrew Hillier, undergraduate; Anne Sinkey, master’s; Molly Oberweiser Kennedy, doctoral

The President’s Awards: Anne Sinkey, for community engagement

Congratulations to all of our student achievement award winners!

Faculty Spotlight

Article Honors the Late Dr. Charlotte Goodluck

Charlotte GoodluckCongratulations to our School of Social Work colleagues Dr. Alma M. O. Trinidad and Danica Love Brown who collaborated on a recent article in the journal “Reflections” about the life and legacy of Dr. Charlotte Goodluck, faculty emerita of the School who passed away in December 2014.

Dr. Goodluck’s impact at the School clearly lives on, and with this publication will continue to ripple outward.

-> Read the Article about Dr. Goodluck

Donor Spotlight

Vernier Gift Helps Incoming BSW, CFS Students Pay for College


Thanks to a significant gift from Christine and Dave Vernier, the School of Social Work will be awarding over $118,000 in scholarships this fall to 18 Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) and Child and Family Studies (CFS) students. The Verniers’ gift more than triples the scholarship support the School will be offering to its students in 2016-17 over 2015-16.

The Verniers have supported PSU for more than 20 years, and their generous gift to scholarships at the School of Social Work will help college students pay for the increasing costs of higher education.

Faculty News and Publications

Dr. Curry-Stevens Explores School Absenteeism in New ReportAnn Curry-Stevens - Square - 1

Adopt culturally responsive practices. Address systemic barriers. This is how to combat
chronic absenteeism among Oregon’s schoolchildren according to a report issued last week by the Chief Education Office of the State of Oregon.

The report’s lead author is Dr. Ann Curry Stevens, associate professor in the School of Social Work and founding director of the Center to Advance Racial Equity at PSU.

Created in collaboration with Portland State University and the Coalition of Communities of Color, the report was authored based on data gathered through 44 focus groups in seven communities across the state.

“This study offers a powerful snapshot of the experiences of students and families in our schools that have contributed to high absenteeism rates,” said Chief Education Officer Lindsey Capps. “The voices in this report, taken in concert with existing research, call us to come together to develop cross-sector solutions to engage students in school, and holistically support families.”

->Read the Report’s Executive Summary

->Read the Full Report 

Dr. Wahab Publishes Research Finding on Sex Work

The decriminalization of sex work in New Zealand has changed dramatically the way in which social workers work with that population. In particular, children can no longer be removed from their mother’s care because she is working as a sex worker.

These are the findings of our own School of Social Work professor Dr. Stephanie Wahab in an article she co-published with Gillian Abel of the University of Otago in Christchurch. The article appears in Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work, a journal on whose editorial board Stephanie serves.

->Learn More about Stephanie’s Findings in This Red Umbrella Babies Blog Post

Dr. Gil-Kashiwabara Named Distinguished Alumna

Dr. Eleanor Gil-Kashiwabara, research associate professor, was recently awarded the LEND Distinguished Alumna Award for 2016.

The LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities) Program at OHSU provides interdisciplinary training at the pre and post-doctoral level. The purpose of the program is to improve the health of infants, children, and adolescents with disabilities by preparing trainees from various disciplines to be leaders in their respective fields and by ensuring high levels of interdisciplinary clinical competence.

Dr. Gil-Kashiwabara was a LEND Trainee (Psychology discipline) in 1999-2000 and is being recognized this year as a Distinguished Alumna. There are 43 LEND Programs across 37 states.


Marina Barcelo, MSW, MA, student support & inclusion specialist, is a newly elected member of the ACLU of Oregon Board of Directors. Marina also helped plan and facilitate a workshop with MSW students Stephanie Roberson and Felicia Martinez and other PSU students and staff at PSU’s annual Cultural Competence Symposium on May 10th, hosted by the Office of Global Diversity and Inclusion and the Diversity Action Council. The workshop was entitled “Creating an Inclusive Environment for Students of Color.”

Sam Gioia, MSW, assistant professor of practice, recently published a book review on “Minds online: teaching effectively with technology,” by Michelle D. Miller.

Former interim dean, School of Social Work faculty emerita, and current Pathways Project S/PAC Principal Investigator, Dr. Nancy Koroloff,  was awarded PSU’s Outstanding Retired Faculty Award in April 2016.

Katie Winters, MA, research associate, adjunct instructor, and student in the Ph.D. Program in Social Work and Social Research, presented at the Northwest Council on Family Relations conference “Beyond Rivalry: The Causes and Consequences of Sibling Violence,” April 21, 2016.


Mehrotra, G. R., Kimball, E, & Wahab, S. (2016). The braid that binds us: The impact of neoliberalism, criminalization, and professionalization on domestic violence work. Editorial. Affilia: Women and social work, 31(2), 153-163. doi:10.1177/0886109916643871

Nicolaidis, C., Raymaker, DM, McDonald, K..E., Kapp, S., Weiner, M., Ashkenazy, E., Gerrity, M., Kripke, C., Platt, L., Baggs, A. The Development and Evaluation of an Online Healthcare Toolkit for Autistic Adults and their Providers. Journal of General Internal Medicine. Online first June 6, 2016. (doi:10.1007/s11606-016-3763-6)

Wahab, S. & Abel, G. (2016). The Prostitution Reform Act (2003) and social work in Aotearoa/New Zealand” for review in Affilia: Women in Social Work. Affilia: Women and Social Work. doi:10.1177/0886109916647764

Wahab, S., Mehrotra, G.R., Kimball, E. (2016). Addressing structural issues that impact gender based violence research and practice. Council Social Work Education, Grand Challenges, Policy Briefs on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

5 Resources for Social Work and Human Services Professionals

Are Immigrants Prone to Crime and Terrorism?

Research shows immigrants less likely to commit crimes, terrorist acts. Despite negative depictions to the contrary, immigrants, and their US-born children are shown by multiple studies to commit crimes at lower rates than the local-born US population.

->Read More in This Article in The Atlantic.

Nonbinary is Now a Legal Gender in Oregon

It’s a brand new day for nonbinary, genderqueer, transgender, and gender nonconforming people all over the nation. In a historic move sure to challenge federal policy, an Oregon circuit court ruled on Friday that a resident could legally change their gender to nonbinary.

-> Read More from the Daily Dot

Oregon Asks Why So Many Students Miss So Much School

Twenty percent of Oregon students are considered “chronically absent,” because they miss at least one day of school every two weeks. In a new study authored by School of Social Work associate professor Dr. Ann Curry-Stevens, researchers explored why it’s a bigger problem for certain student groups — such as Native American children, other students of color and kids with disabilities.

->Learn More about the Study’s Findings in This OPB Story

Seattle Social Workers Capture City’s Attention with Baby Jayden Dolls

Dolls nicknamed Baby Jayden recently showed up on the streets of Seattle, capturing attention on social media and in the news. Social workers placed the dolls around town to represent the children waiting for care because of high caseloads for workers.

->Read More in This Public News Service Article 

Why Preschool Suspensions Still Happen (and How to Stop Them)

“According to new data from the Education Department, black students — from kindergarten through high school — are 3.8 times more likely to be suspended than white students.”

“This trend begins in preschool, where black children are already 3.6 times more likely to be suspended than white students.”

->Learn More by Listening to This NPR News Report



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