All posts by Jackie Colby

About Jackie Colby

Communications Coordinator | SSW

M.S.W. Grad Partners with Community to Study Sex Trafficking Concerns

Since graduating with a Masters of Social Work degree from the University of Minnesota’s School of Social Work in 2015, Christina Melander has worked as a research fellow at Robert J. Jones Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center (UROC) to identify sex trafficking trends throughout Minnesota. She hopes to expand her work to lead independent research that furthers scholarship for social justice. Read more about Melander on the UROC website.

Audit by Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking has big impact on St. Paul police-community relations

When the St. Paul City Council voted to remove police officers from the city’s Police-Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission last December, School of Social Work Professor Mark Umbreit was a little stunned, but also proud.

photo of Mark Umbreit
Mark Umbreit

Umbreit, who is the director of the Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking in the School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota, was a part an audit team from the center that recommended 18 changes to commission operations, the most controversial being that police officers should no longer serve as voting members of the commission.

photo of Jennifer Blevins
Jennifer Blevins

Police officers have been voting members since the commission was established in 1994, and, although a 2009 “Report of the Best Practices Assessment of the St. Paul Police Department” had recommended removing them, that recommendation was never implemented. So when the auditors started their work in the summer of 2015, Umbreit said, they believed “it was simply not realistic to talk about removing the police officers.”

photo of Raj Sethuraju
Raj Sethuraju

Two associates of the center, social work doctoral student Jennifer Blevins and Dr. Raj Sethuraju, assistant professor of criminology at Metropolitan State University, worked with Umbreit on the audit, with Blevins taking the lead.

The audit included interviews with 23 key stakeholders in the commission’s process, including seven current members, five previous members, two current and two former administrators, the police union president, the current police chief, a police former chief, the senior commander of the police Internal Affairs unit, and three community stakeholders.

They also reviewed 40 commission memos from 2011 through 2014, which included a total of approximately 310 cases of complaints about police conduct, to determine what the commission did once a complaint and the investigation files were presented to them.
The auditors also looked at literature on civilian review of police conduct from throughout the United States. In their search, they could not find one civilian review board that had police officers on it, Blevins said, although she noted that one could exist that they were unable to find.

As the audit progressed, Umbreit said, they were hearing from people who felt very strongly that police officers should not be members of the commission.

“We decided we could not make a recommendation based on what we thought was politically realistic, but on what we believed to be the best course of action based on our analysis of the data we gathered,” Blevins said.

After the audit report was released in October 2015, city officials announced plans for gathering public input. They asked the center to organize three feedback sessions to allow city officials to hear from community members in order to decide how to move forward with the audit recommendations. The sessions were held in November and December of 2015.

“It was through the community conversations that people started to see the possibility of real change,” Umbreit said.

After the sessions, grass-roots groups began organizing to push for an all-civilian review board. By the end of 2016, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, “St. Paul residents and at least 18 community organizations have been calling on council members to make it an independent, all-civilian commission.”

On December 7, 2016, a diverse crowd of people filled the St. Paul City Council chambers and an overflow room as the council held a public hearing on the proposed changes. The Pioneer Press reported that more than 35 people addressed the council, with most of them speaking in favor of removing police officers from the panel. The council voted 5 to 2 in favor of the change; final adoption followed at the council’s December 14 meeting.

“Particularly with the current very troubling times our nation is facing, this provides a beacon of hope of people power, real and effective social change, and a true academic and community partnership,” Umbreit said.

“We put out the information and gave people what was needed to come to a conclusion and take action. It feels good that people paid attention and used it … I am proud of this work,” he said.

School of Social Work December 2016 Research E-Newsletter

New Faculty Member Waid Working to Prevent Need for Foster Care

Jeffrey Waid Jeffrey Waid, who joined the School of Social Work as an assistant professor this fall, began his journey into social work as a child welfare caseworker. Working with families in their communities, he sought to prevent the recurrence of child maltreatment and placement of children into foster care.

While foster care placement is sometimes necessary to ensure the safety of children experiencing abuse and neglect, lengthy stays in care have a detrimental impact on a child’s development. “Foster care placement is a short term, child-focused solution to what are inherently family problems,” he says. Read more>>

Hee Yun LeeLee Receives CDC Grant for App on Vaccination Protocol Compliance

Professor Hee Yun Lee is principal investigator for a $450,000 Special Interest Project Research grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The grant will fund a mobile application intervention for low-income Hmong adolescents to facilitate completion of the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine series. Read more>>

Kivnick Book The Big Move Describes Making a Life in Assisted Living

Helen KivnickBeing required to live in an assisted living facility and learning how to really live there is the topic of Professor Helen Kivnick’s new book, The Big Move: Life Between the Turning Points.

The book was co-written with Anne M. Wyatt-Brown, emeritus associate professor, University of Florida, and Ruth Ray Karpen, professor emeritus, Wayne State University in Detroit.

In the book Kivnick and Karpen, distinguished gerontologists, reflect on Wyatt-Brown’s moving account of her transition from skeptical outsider to active member of a vibrant and sociable community. Read more>>

School of Social Work named top-ranked graduate program

medal for being top ranked programThe University of Minnesota School of Social Work was ranked seventh in the Fall 2015 Social Work Grad Rankings by graduateprograms.com. The rankings are based solely on ratings and reviews from current or recent graduate students.

The site assigns 15 ranking categories to each graduate program at each graduate school. The School of Social Work also made the “Dean’s List,” which consists of schools ranking in the top 25 in these categories: career support (11th); social life (12th); grad program value (6th), and financial aid (7th).

Program rankings were compiled using data gathered between September 1, 2012, and September 30, 2015. The site uses social media and scholarship drawings to attract reviewers, and no graduate program is ranked until a minimum threshold of graduate student surveys is completed for that program.

“Three Good Things” gratitude exercise is beneficial in substance abuse treatment, study finds

Professor Amy Krentzman, University of Minnesota School of Social WorkUniversity of Minnesota School of Social Work Assistant Professor Amy Krentzman recently published a study on gratitude and its positive impact on helping people recover from alcohol use disorders. The study was published in the Journal of Positive Psychology and was also featured on the website of the Harvard-affiliated Recovery Research Institute.

It is the first formal study of the use of gratitude in alcoholism treatment. Krentzman said she conducted the study after discovering that positive psychology interventions had not been tested among individuals with substance use disorders, even though they are commonly used in recovery programs.

“I thought a gratitude practice would be perfect as the first positive psychology intervention to test among individuals with addictions because gratitude is a naturally occurring theme in addiction recovery. For example, it is a regularly occurring theme in Alcoholics Anonymous literature,” Krentzman said.

The gratitude exercise, “Three Good Things,” asks participants to write about three positive things that happened in a day and why they happened. Krentzman said that her study will serve as a pilot program for further study about the impact of using “Three Good Things” in substance use disorder treatment programs and in post-treatment recovery organizations, such as sober living houses.

“I study addiction recovery and the factors that make the experience of recovery positive and reinforcing, which is a hedge against relapse,” Krentzman said. “Positive psychology is an excellent framework for my research.”

Read more on her research.

SSW alum named U.S. Ashoka Fellow

Amelia Frank MeyerAmelia Franck Meyer (M.S.W. ’01), CEO of Anu Family Services, was named an Ashoka Fellow, joining a network of over 3,000 of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs.

Ashoka Fellows are chosen for having innovative solutions to social problems and the potential to change patterns across society. They demonstrate unrivaled commitment to bold new ideas and prove that compassion, creativity, and collaboration are tremendous forces for change.

Franck Meyer has been CEO of Anu Family Services since 2001 and has built an award winning organization that is achieving nationally leading outcomes in finding permanence for children in out-of-home care.  Last year, she shared her message and expertise with system leaders, legislators, front line staff, educators, and students across Minnesota, Wisconsin and 15 other states. Being an Ashoka Fellow will give her an opportunity to build on this growing momentum and desire for much needed systems change across the country.

Anu Family Services has offices in St, Paul Minnesota and Hudson, Madison and Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Learn more about  Anu on their website.

Ashoka is the largest network of social entrepreneurs worldwide, with nearly 3,000 Ashoka Fellows in 70 countries putting their system changing ideas into practice on a global scale. Founded by Bill Drayton in 1980, Ashoka has provided start-up financing, professional support services, and connections to a global network across the business and social sectors, and a platform for people dedicated to changing the world. For more information, see the Ashoka website.

In memoriam: Neil Bracht, former director of the School of Social Work

Neil Francis Bracht, professor emeritus and former director of the University of Minnesota School of Social Work, died January 2, 2015, at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He was 79 years old and had battled renal cancer for five years.

Bracht earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Chicago and another in public health from the University of Michigan. He was a professor at the University of Washington before coming to the University of Minnesota in 1978 to serve as director of the School of Social Work. After leaving the director’s post in 1983, he remained on the social work faculty until 1998.

His career combined his interests in social work and public health, his son Erik explained in his father’s obituary:

“He saw his purpose clearly: To advance the health agenda of a nation increasingly concerned about the effect of diet, smoking and stress on the well-being of individuals and communities.”

Bracht wrote several books on the topic, including Health Promotion at the Community Level and Social Work in Health Care: A Guide to Professional Practice. He was instrumental in creating a joint master’s degree in social work and public health at the University of Minnesota, and he worked in the Minnesota Heart Health Program in the University’s Department of Epidemiology.

Erik said his father promoted the importance of eating heart-healthy meals long before that was common health policy, and was sought out as a consultant to help communities advance the message of healthier living through diet, exercise and stress management.

Bracht is survived by his wife and three children.

School of Social Work receives $1.28 million grant to train social workers in mental health and substance abuse services for children to young adults

Children, adolescents, and young adults are faced with numerous barriers to receiving mental health and substance abuse services in the Twin Cities metro area. As a result, this region faces substantial health disparities, particularly among communities of color, that the Twin Cities workforce is currently unequipped to address. To meet this need, the University of Minnesota School of Social Work applied for and received a $1.28 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

1ReinardyJ-2011“This is great news for the school and the community,” said James Reinardy, director of the school. “The initiative addresses two of the most important and growing challenges faced by social work today: the need for social workers trained in behavioral health and in interdisciplinary practice.”

The three-year training program, called the Minnesota Social Work Initiative in Behavioral Health, aims to recruit and train 90 social work master’s degree students (M.S.W.) who are dedicated to providing mental health and substance abuse services to the target populations. Training will focus on teaching students research-supported treatment and assessment methods for working with families and individuals, as well as skills for interprofessional collaboration.

1MerighiJ-2013-prefThe grant was awarded to Associate Professor Joseph Merighi who will lead the implementation of the training program.

“We are very excited to have such an important opportunity to train graduate social work students who will expand and strengthen the behavioral health workforce in the Twin Cities.” Merighi said.

This training program will support graduate-level classes in clinical practice, trauma, substance abuse and mental health, and a 480-hour internship for each student in a community-based agency that targets mental health and substance abuse disorders in children, teens, and young adults.

Each student will receive a $10,000 educational stipend and professional supports, such as career counseling and networking opportunities, to help them find jobs in the field after graduation.

A diverse, interdisciplinary advisory board made up of professionals and academics with practice, training, and research expertise in behavioral health and direct service with the target population will monitor the training program’s activities. In addition, the board will ensure the training is rigorous and culturally sensitive and the program is sustainable.

The grant is sponsored by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that is the primary federal agency for improving access to health care by strengthening the health care workforce, building healthy communities, and achieving health equity.

SSW alumna receives award for innovation

School of Social Work alumna Ameila Franck-Meyer (MSW ’01) has recently been named a Eureka Award honoree by the Minneapolis/St.Paul Business Journal. The purpose of the Eureka Award is to recognize innovative companies across Minnesota. Franck-Meyer is the CEO of Anu Family Services, which helps find permanent homes for children as an alternative to foster care, group homes, and other temporary arrangements. See the Business Journal article.

Two from School of Social Work named CEHD Rising Alumni

Lindsay Walz
Lindsay Walz
Sophia Thompson
Sophia Thompson

Sophia Thompson and Lindsay Walz, graduates of two School of Social Work master’s degree programs, were named Rising Alumni by the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) this spring.  The college Alumni Society recognized 23 graduates for achieving early distinction in their careers, demonstrating emerging leadership, or showing exceptional volunteer service in their communities.  Thompson (MSW ‘ ) is a senior child protection worker at Ramsey County Human Services who is respected for her quality service and commitment to families during the most difficult times in their lives. Walz (MEd ’13), a survivor of the Interstate Highway 35W bridge collapse in 2007, founded the organization, courageous heARTS, to give youth a safe space to heal and be empowered through expressive arts, community building and leadership development. Read full article about Thompson. Read full article about Walz.

SSW’s Lee receives best poster award at international congress on aging

Hee Yun LeeSchool of Social Work Associate Professor Hee Yun Lee received a Best Poster Award at the 2013 20th International Association of Geriatric and Gerontology (IAGG) World Congress. The award is given to the posters that demonstrate exemplary scientific merit and are of high interest and relevant to the conference’s theme, Aging and Technology. The poster’s title was “Do Different Types of Participation in Activities Matter in Improving Health and Mental Health Outcomes among Older Cancer Survivors?.” The congress was held in Seoul, South Korea, in June and was attended by nearly 5,000 scholars, business professionals and policy-makers from more than 90 countries.

12 from School of Social Work attend international consortium

Uganda-delegation Nine faculty members and three Ph.D. students from the School of Social Work (SSW) traveled to Kampala, Uganda, July 15-19 to participate in the 18th biennial conference of the International Consortium of Social Development. Scott DiLisi, the U.S. ambassador to Uganda and an alumnus of the University, held a special luncheon for the University of Minnesota delegates attending the conference.
Pictured above, left to right, are Hoa Nguyen, Juliana Carlson, Colleen Fisher, Ross VeLure Roholt, Barbara W. Shank, Elizabeth Lightfoot, Ambassador DiLisi, Priscilla Gibson, Hee Yun Lee, Peter Dimock, David Hollister, James Reinardy, Alex Fink, and Michael Baizerman.
In the capital city near Lake Victoria, the University group shared their work on emerging issues in social development and visited agencies and organizations in a nation that faces major challenges–extensive poverty, HIV-AIDS, malaria, accelerating population growth with inadequate infrastructure, and vast unemployment.
The University of Minnesota was a founding member of the consortium, an interdisciplinary organization in which social work has played a particularly strong leadership role.
All nine SSW faculty members and three doctoral students presented papers. Their topics included global youth development, strategies for health accessibility, refugee housing, community-based participation in social development, study abroad and transformational learning, and theories of social development.
A highlight of the conference was the opening address by Livingstone Sewanyana, executive director of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative based in Kampala, reported SSW professor and director James Reinardy.
“He gave a clear presentation on the challenges faced by Uganda,” said Reinardy. “His remarks, particularly on human rights, helped set the tone for the conference and for the conversations many of us had with social welfare and social service organizations there.”
Ambassador DeLisi’s lunch provided an opportunity to share ideas and research on social development.
Reinardy provided partial support to the SSW participants to jumpstart creation of an international cohort in the school and showcase their work internationally. Many combined the conference with site visits for their research.

SSW Associate Professor Lee selected to attend workshop and participate on panel

Hee Yun Lee Associate Professor Hee Yun Lee was competitively selected to attend “Excellence in Cancer Education and Leadership,” which is a 2-day workshop that will be held at the 37th Annual Conference of the Association of Pediatric Oncology Social Work. The workshop is aimed to improve the delivery of psychosocial care for oncology patients through intensive education of oncology social workers and to meet and exceed the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) 2008 Report – “Cancer Care for the Whole Patient: Meeting Psychosocial Health Needs.” Associate Professor Lee is a faculty member of the U of MN Masonic Cancer Center and plans to improve the delivery of psychosocial care at the center in collaboration with the Association of Oncology Social Work.
Lee was also invited to participate on a Special Emphasis Panel (SEP) to review grant applications submitted to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention & Health Promotion of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). SEP Panel will evaluate the scientific and technical merit of research proposals submitted to CDC in response to Request for Application (RFA) DP09-0010501SUPP13: Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research Centers: Special Interest Project Competitive Supplements (SIPS). The panel will specifically review applications for SIPS on the topic of “Understanding the Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening among Asian Subgroups (SIP13-067)” and “Feasibility Study of the New Clinical Measure of Colorectal Cancer Screening for Federally Qualified Health Centers (SIP13-069).”

Mark Umbreit produces film and book about forgiveness

Mark UmbreitIn conjunction with Emergence Pictures in Minnesota and the Fetzer Institute in Michigan, Dr. Mark Umbreit, director of the Center for Restorative Justice & Peacemaking in the School of Social Work, has produced a broadcast-quality 27 minute film on “Being With the Energy of Forgiveness.”
The film is based on Umbreit’s research and practice with homicide survivors, offenders and communities, including Native Americans and Somalis in Minneapolis, and clergy sex abuse in Milwaukee. The film features four main case stories that identify lessons learned from restorative justice dialogue with former enemies.
Later this year, Wipf and Stock Publishers in Oregon will publish Umbreit’s book on the same topic. It was co-written with Jennifer Blevins, Ph.D. student and research associate with the center.

Larry Shulman featured at social work continuing education event

Lawrence ShulmanThe School of Social Work is offering a special continuing education event on April 4, 2013, with nationally known expert and gifted teacher Dr. Lawrence Shulman. The workshop, titled, “Core Skills in Supervision: Having the Hard Conversations,” will be held at the St. Paul Student Center from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The cost is $75 ($60 for current University of Minnesota SSW field instructors), and lunch is included. Attendees can hear six social work continuing education credits (applicable to supervision). Register here.

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SSW’s Lee, Jin articles accepted to be published

LeeH2010Jin-Seok-Won School of Social Work Associate Professor Hee Yun Lee and current Ph.D. candidate Seok Won Jin published an article regarding depression among cancer survivors. Associate Professor Lee’s article on prostate cancer screening behavior in Korean American immigrant men was also accepted to be published.

  1. Lee, H.Y., & Jin, S.W. (In press). Older Korean cancer survivors’ depression and coping: Directions toward culturally competent intervention. Journal of Psychosocial Oncology.
  2. Lee, H.Y. & Jung, Y. (In press). The contribution of cultural variables to prostate cancer screening adherence in Korean American immigrants. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health.

SSW Extension Professor Dale Blyth wins MnSACA Award of Excellence

Screen shot 2013-02-25 at 6.11.52 PM The School of Social Work’s Dale Blyth was named the 2013 recipient of the Minnesota School-Age Care Alliance Award of Excellence. Dr. Blyth aims to improve youth development research by focusing on learning outside of the classroom.
He helped create the Youth Work Institute at the U of M, which reaches more than 4,000 youth workers annually, and oversaw the Minnesota 4-H program reaching 130,000 youth annually. Dr. Blyth’s dedication to the field is extensive, as he serves on numerous committees, such as the Twin Cities Strive’s Goal and Measures Design Team, the Youthprise Board, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak’s Youth Violence Prevention Executive Committee, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman’s Sprockets Leadership Team, and Greater Twin Cities United Way’s Education Committee.

Two Social Work PhD candidates get faculty positions

Jones-Valandra2012Two School of Social Work doctoral candidates have accepted faculty positions at universities in New York and Arkansas.

Doctoral candidate Annette Semanchin Jones accepted a tenure-track assistant professor position in the School of Social Work at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo. Doctoral candidate Valandra accepted a tenure-track assistant professor position at the University of Arkansas in a joint appointment with the School of Social Work and African and American Studies.