Highlights and Happenings – August 2016

Laura Nissen on Urban Terrace - 1

With summer in full swing here in Oregon, the School of Social Work is switching gears and preparing for the return of students in the fall. Some of our Master of Social Work degree students — those in our advanced standing program — have already arrived and are getting some of their classes completed this summer. Others on our research and community projects teams continue their work year round.

One of the most exciting parts of our preparations for fall is the welcoming of new faculty and staff to the School. We’re delighted to highlight here two esteemed new professionals joining our team — a new assistant dean of finance and administration and a new program director for our Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program. Read this month’s Highlights and Happenings to meet them and get to know them a bit better.

This month’s issue also reports on our Ph.D. program presentations at a conference in Korea, an update on our growing and prospering online MSW program, and a profile on a field instructor and student working with LGBT youth at the Sexual and Gender Minority Youth Resource Center. We hope you enjoy learning more about the many facets of our important work in the School.

As always, the best way to keep in regular touch with the School of Social Work is to “follow” our Facebook page.


Laura Burney Nissen
Dean and Professor

What’s Inside?


Meet New Faculty and Staff

David BrownDavid Brown, Assistant Dean of Finance and Administration

What brought you to Portland State and the School of Social Work? “I was at the University of Washington prior to this in an area called Technology Transfers working to commercialize faculty inventions and get them out to the public. I did that for a long time and wanted a change. I really liked the mission of the School of Social Work…and wanted to be more connected to the academic and research end.”

What have you enjoyed most so far during your time in Portland? I really like the transportation system. It’s so much easier to get around than in Seattle. Also, the ocean is so much closer and I am hoping to take advantage of the Columbia Gorge.

What are your hopes for your work here in the School of Social Work? “I want to create new processes to help program directors make more informed decisions on the budget side of things. My view is that I try to be as transparent as possible so people know what’s going on, feel more in control and more empowered, and are aware of where the numbers come from and how they impact what they do…. I want to provide better information so they can make good decisions with the proper data.”

Bryson photo bookshelves 2016Dr. Stephanie Bryson, Bachelors in Social Work (BSW) Program Director

What is your area of focus here at PSU? “My focus is maintaining the excellent reputation of the BSW program. I hope to do that by honoring the legacy of Charlotte Goodluck and by carrying on the great work that Michael Taylor and the BSW Team have been doing for the past two years. My vision is for us to provide the best possible education and training to our amazing, talented students—eventually statewide—and to really shine a light on our current BSW faculty, many of whom are known nationally and internationally for their scholarship in health care, domestic violence, mental health, child welfare, and social justice/anti-oppressive practice.”

What are your hopes for your work here in the School of Social Work? “My hope is to be a collaborative, fun, productive member of the larger School; to engage our community partners in health, mental health, and child welfare; to promote the work of our amazing faculty; and to give our students the best possible education, training, and mentoring that they can get. I think the key is to see our students in all their complexity and to guide them on their particular path so they can go on to provide direct services at the BSW level, or get their MSW, or go on to get their Ph.D. and teach. And spoiler alert: My not so secret hope is to get all our students excited about research. After doing qualitative and quantitative research for 15 years, I’ve seen its power. Done well, research can leverage policy change, guide practice, and tangibly improve the lives of the children and families we serve. It can also be super fun. I’m not even kidding!”

Dr. Curry-Stevens Participates in City Club Panel on Racial Justice
Dr. Ann Curry-Stevens
, associate professor in the School of Social Work at Portland State University, was a panelist at the July 29th City Club of Portland Friday Forum where she participated in a candid conversation entitled “White Roles in Advancing Racial Justice.”

In the midst of the racial and political turmoil that is continuing to bubble to the surface in the US, the common question from white allies and others in the struggle for racial justice is, “what can I do to affect a change in racial equality in my community?”  Ann and panel discussed personal and professional solutions on White people’s role(s) in advancing racial justice.

Other panelists included Serilda Summers-McGee, Director of Human Resources at the Oregon Department of Education, Rekah Strong, Chief of Operations and Equity at United Way of the Columbia Willamette, and Megan Irwin, Early Learning System Director at Oregon Department of Education.

-> Watch the full video of the talk on YouTube


Visiting Scholars from Seoul Conduct Social Work Research at PSU
The School of Social Work recently celebrated the contributions of three visiting scholars from the Seoul Metropolitan Government in Korea who are currently studying and conducting research here at Portland State University.

The School’s visiting scholars program provides opportunities for leaders in the Seoul Metropolitan Government to study and experience social work and human services programs in the United States. The program is led by Dr. Junghee Lee, director of the Ph.D. Program in Social Work and Social Research, and supported by Dr. Laura Nissen, dean, and Dr. Keva Miller, associate dean of academic affairs.

Pictured above are Doctors Lee, Miller, and Nissen with the three visiting scholars. They include Insik Hwang, Director General of Project 7017; Hongyeon Choi, Director General of Welfare Policy Bureau; and Jeongho Kim, Director of Lifelong Learning Division.

We congratulate welcome our three international scholars to the School of Social Work, to PSU, and to the Portland community. We wish you continued success in your research and studies here!

School Broadens Relationship to International Social Work Research in South Korea

This past June, Ph.D. Program Director Dr. Junghee Lee along with Doctoral Students Jesse Homan and Katie Winters visited Cheon-An City and Seoul, South Korea. While visiting South Korea, Jesse and Katie spoke at a Welfare Forum in Cheon-An City. While in Cheon-An they met with city officials and mental health providers to exchange research, practice, and program development strategies.

They then attended the Joint World Conference on Social Work, Education, and Social Development in Seoul where Jesse and Junghee participated in a panel presentation with a Korean colleague on preventing youth suicide and presented their paper entitled Teen suicide in the United States and South Korea: A cross national exploration of the role of media. This study was conducted alongside researchers from The Catholic University of Korea.

Katie then gave a presentation about the evidence-based home visiting evaluation projects being conducted at PSU’s Regional Research Institute for Human Services (RRI). The paper was entitled, “Should I stay or should I go?: Why new moms exit home visiting programs early.”

The Welfare Forum, a public event, was organized by the City Council and supported by the Beaverton City Mayor for its cultural sister-city. As Mayor Doyle stated in his letter of support, “On behalf of the Beaverton City Council and City of Beaverton, I support the work these outstanding doctoral [students] led by Dr. Junghee Lee, Ph.D. a Beaverton resident, are conducting in support of troubled youth in both our countries. Bringing greater awareness to this most disturbing trend of youth in both our countries can only help us find ways to support our young people and prevent completed suicides. The statistics are most disturbing and learning as much as we can to be more supportive of our youth would be most helpful.”

About 200 people were gathered in the forum including City government officials, local medical and academic professionals, community leaders, and parents to better prepare and provide preventive efforts at risk youth.

Program Spotlight

MSW Online Program Reaches New Heights in Virtual Social Work Education

The Master of Social Work Program (MSW) at Portland State University is excited to announce that the MSW Online Option — Oregon’s first and only online MSW program — has admitted its third cohort for this coming fall! The program is a three-year, part-time online Master of Social Work degree program that launched in the fall of 2014.  Our inaugural cohort will be graduating this coming spring.

Pie ChartThe original goal of the program focused on providing social work education access to students who resided in communities outside of the Portland metro area who did not want to relocate in order to obtain an MSW.  This specifically applied to those who were residing in small rural communities across Oregon. So far the program is exceeding that goal, with 50% of the students among the first three cohorts living in small communities across the state, 25% living out of state (Louisiana, California, Illinois, Alaska, Washington, and Idaho), and 25% residing in the Portland tri-county area.

The School recently received a campus reTHINK capacity grant which will support the development of additional online elective courses and will add a second online concentration option. In summer 2017, the program will add four new online electives, bringing the total number of online electives to 13.  Over the next few years the School will begin to develop the Health Across the Lifespan (HAL) advanced concentration courses which will be offered for the first time during the 2018-2019 academic year.

The School of Social Work is very excited about these expanded curriculum opportunities and grateful for the support from the University and the Office of Academic Innovation (OAI) to continue to expand curriculum options to our students.

-> Learn more about the MSW Online Option

Faculty Spotlight

R. Orellana High Res EditedSchool of Social Work Associate Professor Dr. Roberto Orellana has had a busy and engaging summer. After receiving news of his selection as our new interim Associate Dean for Research and Sponsored Projects, Dr. Orellana commenced his summer work with a mentoring research meeting in San Francisco during the 24th Annual Meeting of the Society for Prevention Research this past June.

A few days later, he went to New York City where he was one of the few academic researchers from around the globe to participate in the 2016 United Nations High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS. Dr. Orellana was the only participant from a school of social work.

Orellana Africa 7After a week in Alaska with his family, Dr. Orellana flew to South Africa where he participated in the 21st International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016) in Durban.

There, Dr. Orellana gave a keynote address to a packed room of researchers and activists who were attending the International Indigenous Pre-Conference on HIV and AIDS. His speech was entitled: Harnessing indigenous knowledge for HIV prevention: Decolonizing combination prevention. His talk was based on his long term work with indigenous peoples throughout the Americas.

He also presented two more scientific papers based on the HIV/drug use epidemiological work he has done in the Guatemala/Mexico border region.

Battling jet lag, Dr. Orellana has returned from a number of busy summer conferences, “ready for new adventures as Associate Dean.” His goal is to be an advocate for faculty and researchers, continue to engage in innovative research that is guided by social justice to promote healthy communities and human dignity.

Also welcoming him back was exciting news that he had received a grant to work on HIV-related prevention research with homeless youth in Portland.

Donor Spotlight

Marta Thrasher - Kenya Luvert - Ken ThrasherStudent scholarships make getting a degree possible for so many of our School of Social Work students. With 59% of our students exiting the School with more than $40,000 in student loans, every contribution to our scholarship fund helps.

Kenya Luvert, a Master of Social Work student in Portland and 2015-16 academic year scholarship recipient, recently met and visited with the contributors to her scholarship, Marta and Ken Thrasher. Marta and Ken are longtime donors to the School and strong supporters of non-profits and community projects throughout Oregon.

Pictured here are Marta, Kenya and Ken at the School of Social Work offices in Portland. Kenya, who did her field internships in the Lane County Family Mediation Program and Bethel School District, will graduate this spring.

Congratulations to all of our scholarship recipients and thank you to those donors who make higher education more accessible for so many of our students!

-> Learn more about giving to the School of Social Work

Field Spotlight

smyrc_spotlightAre you interested in preparing the next generation of social workers in your community? Hosting a social work student for a field internship is your opportunity!

For Katie Borofka and her MSW field instructor, Bethprana Novi, an invaluable learning opportunity came in Katie’s field internship with the Sexual and Gender Minority Youth Resource Center (SMYRC), a program of New Avenues for Youth.

“There are few places where lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans youth are safe to explore their sexuality and gender identities/roles. SMYRC is one of those safe places,” says Bethprana Novi. Beth provided weekly educational supervision for Katie, supporting the development of her social work practice.

“My weekly time with Beth has proved invaluable, as I am able to debrief about many challenging situations, as well as talk about concepts and theories and how they can actually work in practice,” says Katie.

For instance, she looked at the Identity vs Role Confusion stage of Erikson’s Theory of Social Development and applied that to her work with LGBT youth. Integrating this theory into her practice deepened her understanding of how LGBT youth often deal with rejection, discrimination and oppression from institutions, religions, politicians, family and peers and how that affects identity development.

-> Read More About Katie and Bethprana’s Field Experience at SMYRC
-> Host a Social Work Student

Faculty News and Publications

School of Social Work Professor Tom Keller Leads Summer Institute on Youth Mentoring
IMG_2549Dr. Thomas Keller, School of Social Work professor and Director of PSU’s Center for Interdisciplinary Mentoring Research, recently wrapped up this year’s Summer Institute on Youth Mentoring. This four-day seminar was provided to mentoring professionals as an opportunity to explore and discuss developing mentoring research and its practical implications for mentor program policies and practices. The goals of the institute include enhancing quality, innovation, and leadership in youth mentoring across institutions that do this work.

Research fellows this year included Antoinette Basualdo-Delmonico of Boston University, Michael Karcher of the University of Texas—San Antonio, Elizabeth Raposa of College of William and Mary, and Renee Spencer of Boston University, in addition to a handful of guest speakers.

This summer marks the institute’s 10th year.

-> Read more about this year’s Institute on Youth Mentoring


5 Resources for Social Work and Human Services Professionals

Not White, Not Rich and Seeking Therapy

Even for those with insurance, getting mental health care means fighting through phone tag, payment confusion, and even outright discrimination.

-> Read more in this article in The Atlantic

5 Questions an Anti-Racist Organization Should Be Able to Answer

“I looked really good in the pictures. In the images on my last company’s website, I was the token face of color, the only employee who was not white.”

-> Read more about queer immigrant writer Anis Gisele’s reflections on race in the workplace in this Everyday Feminism blog post

OSU creates housing for students recovering from addiction

Oregon State University is getting new, on-campus housing with a special goal: keeping students who are recovering from drug and alcohol addiction sober. OSU’s Recovery Living Community will open this fall.

-> Watch this KGW video to learn more

The Power of Addiction and The Addiction of Power: Gabor Maté at TEDxRio+20

Canadian physician Gabor Maté is a specialist in terminal illnesses, chemical dependents, and HIV positive patients. From the lack of love to the desire to escape oneself, from susceptibility of the being to interior power — nothing escapes. And he risks a generic and generous prescription: “Find your nature and be nice to yourself.”

-> Watch Dr. Maté in his 2012 TEDxRio+20 speech

Did You Know the Need for Social Workers Is on the Rise?

When you think about jobs that are in high demand, social work may not be the first one that comes to mind. But in this digital age, science and tech aren’t the only fields that are expanding. There’s always been a need for folks with a passion for working with real live people, and as populations grow, change, and age, the need is only increasing.

-> Read more in this Social Justice Solutions blog post


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