Year in Review 2016-17

Year in Review 2016-17 Email HeaderLaura at Table

As we near the end of 2017, I’m pleased to share these highlights from the 2016-17 year and first term of 2017-18. It has been another exciting and productive year in the School of Social Work at Portland State University.

At the same time, the past year has been challenging as well.  The current political climate has changed the dialogue about targeted communities in new and sometimes troubling ways.  We all have witnessed extraordinary views of intolerance, hate and violence in our communities this past year.

Despite these challenges, there is time and space for hope. It is institutions like the School of Social Work at Portland State University that will be at the forefront of deeply activating and focusing individuals and communities on building a better world.

In wrapping up my fourth 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. Yet we have so much still left to do.  Sometimes the challenges we face may seem daunting.  They are not insurmountable.  It’s through the hard work, skill and perseverance of current and future generations of social workers and human service professionals that we will blaze a positive road ahead.  I can’t wait to see what we will achieve together. 


Laura Burney Nissen
Dean and Professor

School of Social Work #1 in Research Spending Nationally

#1The School of Social Work at Portland State University ranked #1 in research and development expenditures among schools of social work nationally based on 2016 project data. According to rankings compiled by the National Science Foundation, the School is tops in research funding among all Carnegie classified research institutions in 2016.

The School of Social Work has played an important role in increasing the research and development activities at Portland State. Currently the School’s projects represent 25% of all research and development expenditures at the university.

First Ever School Strategic Plan Moves into Implementation

SSW Strategic Plan Logo 4-16The School of Social Work’s strategic plan continues to evolve and support a 21st century focus on excellence, equity and well-being. Begun in 2014, the School’s strategic plan was created by an interdisciplinary planning group appointed by Dean Laura Nissen.  In collaboration with stakeholders across the School, this group helped construct the School’s first ever strategic plan — a long-term blueprint for the work ahead.

-> Read the strategic planning group’s final launch report

The strategic plan includes eight priority areas.  They include:

  • Diversity and Equity
  • Excellence in Research and Community Projects
  • Excellence in Teaching
  • Community and Policy Impact
  • Quality of Life
  • Shared Identity Across School
  • Organizational Excellence and Financial Sustainability
  • Responsible and Sustainable Growth Strategy

Implementation of the strategic plan began in 2016.  It has provided an architecture that directs the School’s focus, deepens its impact, and manages its resources. The School’s plan aligns with Portland State University’s overall strategic plan while still preserving a school-specific, social justice-minded focus.

The School’s administrative team now uses this plan as a backdrop to its work.  Leadership uses the plan as a bridge to effective shared governance with faculty. This spring, the School will produce a status report on the strategic plan’s collective impact to date.  Through change, challenge and volatility in our education and practice settings, the strategic plan remains a powerful tool for our success.

MSW Program Ranked #14 in U.S.

sr-education-group-top-masters-program-badgeThe School of Social Work’s MSW program was ranked #14 among master’s of social work programs in the US in spring 2017.

These rankings are based on over 57,000 student reviews and ratings of over 1,600 colleges. Last year Portland State University’s MSW ranked #17 on this list.

These rankings are published by SR Education Group, an education research publisher founded in 2004.

Social Work Alumni Elected to Oregon State Legislature

tawna-sanchez-and-diego-hernandezCongratulations to two School of Social Work alumni who were elected to the Oregon House of Representatives in the November 2016 elections.

Tawna Sanchez, MSW ’12, represents House District 43, which includes parts of North and Northeast Portland. She is the second Native American to represent Portland in the state Legislature. She is the director of family services at the Native American Youth and Family Center and has served on the Family Services Review Commission, a governor-appointed body that advises the Department of Human Services.

Diego Hernandez, MSW ’12, represents House District 47. Hernandez is a Reynolds School District board member and serves on the Oregon Commission on Hispanic Affairs.

We’re proud of our Portland State University social work alumni who use their education, skills and experiences to change society through legislative leadership and action!

Dean Laura Nissen Hosts Social Work Western Consortium at PSU

At the end of March 2017, Dean Laura Nissen hosted the first meeting of the Grand Challenges for Social Work Western Consortium on the Portland State University campus. The all-day meeting attracted social work deans from the University of Washington, the University of Southern California, and other schools in the west to strategize on how to use the Grand Challenges for Social Work in their teaching, scholarship, and research.

Led by the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, the Grand Challenges for Social Work is a groundbreaking initiative to champion social progress powered by science. It’s a call to action for all of us to work together to tackle our nation’s toughest social problems.

Get More Information on the Grand Challenges for Social Work

School of Social Work Faculty Hosts SDHI Inauguration Day Commitment to Action Ceremony

Pictured above lower right: Dr. Christina Nicolaidis; MSW student and SDI coordinator Julia Chandler; and Marsha Jordon, African American Health Coalition.

One of our faculty members and Social Determinants of Health scholar, Dr. Christina Nicolaidis, and members of the Social Determinants of Health Initiative sponsored a special event on inauguration day 2017. Approximately 60 health and social services professionals, faculty, staff, students, and community members gathered at Portland State University to commit to action and pledge to stand up for social justice.

This SDHI Inauguration Day Commitment to Action Ceremony was organized by the Social Determinants of Health Initiative, a collaboration among Portland State University, Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), community organizations, governmental agencies, and local health systems.

Those who attended had the opportunity to articulate a commitment, write it on a ribbon, and tie the ribbon to a net as a symbol of our collective work for social justice. The ribbons surrounded a framed Social Justice Pledge. This expression of collective work is displayed in the School of Social Work space in Portland.

Thanks to all who participated and congratulations to the collaborative team that produced this powerful event!

-> Learn more about Social Determinants of Health Initiative

Visiting Scholar Program Wins Top Award


An innovative visiting scholar and professional development program of School of Social Work was recently recognized as the top program of its kind by the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) in Seoul, South Korea.

As part of this initiative, three visiting scholars from the SMG have been living in Portland the past two years while they study and research at Portland State. In addition, sixteen SMG officers came to the School last summer for a short term training program focused on exploring and observing social work and human service programs, service delivery systems, and policy making.

These collaborative projects of the School of Social Work and Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) are led by Dr. Junghee Lee, associate professor and program director of the School of Social Work’s Ph.D. Program in Social Work and Social Research, with support from PSU’s Office of International Affairs and the College of Urban and Public Affairs.

New Hybrid BSW Program Beginning Fall 2018

Beginning fall 2018 students can earn their BSW with classes online and in Eugene, Oregon, with a hybrid online and face-to-face Bachelor’s in Social Work degree (BSW) from the nationally ranked School of Social Work at Portland State University.

In this new hybrid program, that admits its first entering class in fall 2018, students will complete 80% of your courses online and 20% face-to-face in Eugene, Oregon. This makes our hybrid BSW perfect for community college transfer students, working adults, and for students who live outside the Portland area. Students will complete their first year of courses entirely online. In the second year, students attend some classes online and others face-to-face on the weekends in Eugene, Oregon. They’ll learn from the same faculty and instructors that teach in our on-campus program in Portland and gain rigorous training and practical experience to build social work skills and a solid foundation for social service careers.

-> Learn more

Teaching Excellence Symposium

teaching excellence symposium team

The School of Social Work conducted its first ever teaching excellence symposium in fall 2017. The symposium was designed to help faculty explore how various teaching methods intersect with various teaching philosophies, how to maintain a student centered focus as an inclusive pedagogy, and to leave the session with a personal commitment with a plan for teaching excellence.

School of Social Work Students Featured in Veterans Exhibition

School of Social Work Ph.D. student Maria Carolina González-Prats and Bachelor of Social Work student Deborah Lynn Peterson were featured in spring 2017 as part of the I Am Not Invisible exhibition honoring Oregon women military veterans.

I Am Not Invisible is a remarkable exhibition featuring 20 portraits of Oregon women military veterans.

There are more than 28,000 women veterans in Oregon — a number that has risen steadily over the past three decades — representing almost one-tenth of Oregon’s veteran population.

Student Emergency Fund Report Card

Student Emergency Fund Report Card 2016-17

The School of Social Work Student Emergency Fund wrapped up the 2016-17 academic year by raising $4,450 to help students with emergency essentials. Through the collection of gift cards from faculty, staff, students and interested community members at events throughout the year, the program served 30 students in 2016-17 with 70% of recipientsfirst generation college students. These gift cards are used by students in need to purchase groceries, gas and house supplies.

Dr. Elizabeth Letourneau Lectures at Portland State of Mind

Shireman Lecture 2016 - No Social LogoThe School of Social Work participated in Portland State of Mind,Portland State University’s festival of music, films and other events designed to fire imagination and deepen knowledge, in fall 2016.

One of the School’s events was a lecture by nationally known child sexual abuse speaker Dr. Elizabeth Letourneau.  Dr. Letourneau is director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  She shared the latest research on child sexual abuse prevention and proposed novel new interventions that prevent abuse from occurring in the first place.

New Student Scholarship Fund Creates $500k Endowment

IMG_0610The School successfully met its fundraising goal and match in fall 2017 to create a $500,000 endowed Maybelle Clark Macdonald Scholarship Fund for students.

For each of the past five years, the School of Social Work and PSU Foundation have raised $50,000. With the fifth year complete in 2017, the $250,000 raised by the School will be matched by the Maybelle Clark Macdonald Foundation to establish an endowed Maybelle Clark Macdonald Scholarship Fund. This fund will begin awarding scholarships to Master of Social Work (MSW) students in 2019.

New Tenure Track Faculty

Stephanie Bryson, Ph.D., was named director of the Bachelor’s in Social Work program in fall 2016. Stephanie came to the School from the University of British Columbia where she served in her previous role as an assistant professor. Stephanie’s focus for the BSW program is to maintain the program’s excellent reputation by honoring the legacy of Charlotte Goodluck, the School’s last BSW director who passed away unexpectedly in December 2014. Her vision is for the school to provide the best possible education and training to its amazing, talented students—eventually statewide.  She also hopes to shine a light on 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.

Jill Hoffman, Ph.D., joined the School of Social Work as a tenure-track faculty member in fall 2016. Drawing from prior experience with the early intervention system in Philadelphia, her research interests focus on social-emotional development in vulnerable young children. Jill’s research specifically examines how professionals across a variety of service sectors support young children’s social-emotional development. Jill’s dissertation investigates the relationship between Head Start center characteristics, teachers’ classroom practices, and low-income children’s social-emotional development.

Hunte DJC photoRoberta Hunte, Ph.D., joined the School as assistant professor in Child, Youth, and Family Studies in fall 2017. Dr. Hunte is an educator, facilitator, and cultural worker. Her academic interests include reproductive justice, women of color feminism, cultural work for social change, and Black women in construction. She facilitates trainings on equity, diversity and inclusion. She is a collaborator on the play “My Walk Has Never Been Average” and a short film entitled “Sista in the Brotherhood,” both of which are informed by her research on Black tradeswomen. She also helped create a devised theater piece based on reproductive stories from people of color and transgender people. Roberta earned her Ph.D. in peace and conflict studies from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada in 2012.

Klawetter Head ShotSusanne Klawetter, LCSW, Ph.D.(c), joined the School of Social Work in fall 2017 as an assistant professor as part of the MSW faculty. Susanne completed her Ph.D. at the University of Denver, where her dissertation research examined the development of Warm Connections, an integrative behavioral health intervention, in partnership with the University of Colorado School of Medicine. In addition, she was a co-investigator on a multi-site research project that explores maternal mental health and maternal engagement in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Susanne’s scholarship is focused on promoting human health and wellness, particularly for women and children. Specific research interests include social determinants of maternal and child health, preterm birth, maternal and infant mental health, and early childhood intervention in an effort to advocate for health equity.
Jessica Rodriguez-JenKins
Jessica Rodriguez-JenKins, Ph.D.,
began as a new assistant professor for the BSW and MSW programs in fall 2017. She completed her Ph.D. at University of Washington’s School of Social Work. She engages in practice-informed qualitative and quantitative research centering on how best to support parenting among vulnerable families with young children. Jessica is interested in partnering with community providers to develop sustainable, culturally appropriate, interventions that support multi-level factors that affect parent-child relationships. Her dissertation research examines possible predictors of nurturing parenting among Mexican and Puerto Rican origin mothers with young children vulnerable to the child welfare system.

Mathew Uretsky, Ph.D. joined the School as an assistant professor in fall 2016. Dr. Uretsky is a social work practitioner and researcher with rich experience in and a deep passion for working with schools, families, and community organizations to improve outcomes in underserved communities. After completing his B.A. at the University of California, Santa Cruz in psychology, Mathew completed a dual Masters in Public Health and Social Work at San Diego State University. He then served as a Peace Corps volunteer in South Africa developing community-based programs for orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV and AIDS.

-> View a complete list of new faculty