Angie Hirsch. the University of Minnesota’s School of Social Work’s 2018 Alumni of the Year, is a product of the system and proud of it.
Hirsch, M.S.W. ‘04, has been the American Indian Mental Health Coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Human Services since 2011. The position is critical for the design and delivery of culturally competent mental and chemical health services for tribal and urban American Indians, SSW Director John Bricout said.
As a child Hirsch was in foster care and then adopted, so she came into contact with many social workers “who were a part the huge support system I have had around me since I was little.”
Now, she said, “I am proud to be a part of that system.”
In her job at the Department of Human Services, she works closely with the American Indian Mental Health Advisory Council to develop legislative and policy recommendations, implement evidence-based care that integrates culture and primary care services, and plan the annual Minnesota American Indian Mental Health conference.
She is also chair of the Minnesota Board of Social Work, and served on the Association for Social Work Boards from 2013-2016, helping to write questions for the clinical social work licensure exams used across North America.
Bricout described Hirsch as a rare individual who brings both a micro and a macro social work perspective to her work. That perspective enriches the field in both arenas, he said, and allows her to see the big picture. He noted that she is also a valued community faculty member of the school and has served as a field instructor for interning M.S.W. students.
She also holds bachelor of arts degrees in sociology and peace studies from the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minnesota.
Oliver Williams, the founder of the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community (IDVAAC), received the 2018 Alliance for HOPE International Lifetime Achievement Award in Fort Worth, Texas on April 25, 2018.
“Oliver Williams has changed the world for thousands of victims and offenders in the course of his amazing career. He is without a doubt one of the most transformational leaders we have ever worked with,” said Alliance President Casey Gwinn.
Williams is a professor of School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. He was the Executive Director of the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community (IDVAAC) from June 1994 to September 2016 and served as the project director of the African Immigrant and Domestic Violence Initiative from 2010 to 2016 and the Safe Return Initiative that addressed prisoner reentry and domestic violence from 2003-2016. Currently, he directs the African American Domestic Peace Project that works with community leaders in 12 cities across the United States.
Williams has worked in the field of domestic violence for more than thirty-five years. He is a clinical practitioner, working in mental health, family therapy, substance abuse, child welfare, delinquency, domestic violence and sexual assault programs. He has worked in battered women’s shelters, developed curricula for batterers’ intervention programs, and facilitated counseling groups. He has provided training across the United States and abroad on research and service-delivery surrounding partner abuse.
Currently he is a consultant with the Education for Critical Thinking and an advisor with Domestic Violence Shelters.org. He has been appointed to several national advisory committees and task forces from the Center for Disease Control, U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Office on Women’s Health, and the U.S. Department of Education. He has been a board member of various domestic violence and human service organization including the early days of the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1999-2000) and the Alliance for HOPE International Advisory Board from 2006 to 2016.
In 2000, he was appointed to the National Advisory Council on Domestic Violence by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services and U.S. Attorney General. In 2010, he hosted a roundtable on youth and violence for the U.S. Attorney General. He also participated in a roundtable with the U.S. Attorney General on issues related to fatherhood and participated in a White House Roundtable on Fatherhood and Domestic Violence. He has conducted training for military Family Advocacy programs in the United States and abroad. He has presented to numerous Family Violence, Research and Practice organizations in the United States, Kenya, Canada, the Virgin Islands, the United Kingdom and Germany. In 2015, he was invited to speak at the United Nations about domestic violence among Africans in the United States and in Africa. His research and publications in scholarly journals, books, reports and DVDs have centered on creating service delivery strategies to reduce violent behavior and support victims of abuse. He has consulted with the NFL, MLB, and the NBA on issues related to domestic violence.
Williams has received many awards, among them include an award from the American Psychological Association, an International “Telly Award” for his documentary work; the National
“Shelia Wellstone Institute Award” related to his national work on Domestic Violence and a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work.
Dr. Williams received a bachelor’s degree in social work from Michigan State University; a Masters in Social Work from Western Michigan University; a Master’s in Public Health and a PH.D in Social Work both from the University of Pittsburgh.
“Dr. Williams is a visionary, a change agent, and an advocate for the marginalized,” said Alliance CEO Gael Strack. “He continues to challenge us to keep growing, changing, and dreaming as we seek to improve Family Justice Centers, Rape Crisis Centers, Child Advocacy Centers, and other types of collaborative approaches to providing trauma-informed support for survivors and their children.”
Alliance for HOPE International is one of the leading systems and social change organizations in the country focused on creating innovative, collaborative, trauma-informed approaches to meeting the needs of survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and their children. Alliance for HOPE International and its allied Centers serve more than 150,000 survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and their children each year in the United States. The Alliance supports multi-agency Centers in more than ten countries and trains more than 10,000 multi-disciplinary professionals every year.
Alliance for HOPE International operates the Family Justice Center Alliance, the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention, Camp HOPE America, the Justice Legal Network, and the VOICES Survivor Network. The Alliance was launched by the founders of the San Diego Family Justice Center after the development of the President’s Family Justice Center Initiative in 2004. At the request of the U.S. Department of Justice, the team was asked to develop a program to support new and developing Family Justice Centers across the country. There are currently more than 130 operational Centers in the United States with international Centers in more than twenty countries. There are over 100 Centers currently developing in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and Central America.
Ravyn Gibbs, an M.S.W./M.P.H. student, was selected for the 2018 Udall Foundation Native American Congressional Internship Program. She will be interning with the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
Gibbs is Anishinaabe. She is an enrolled member of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa and a direct descendant of the Red Lake Nation. She holds a bachelor’s degree in criminology from the University of Minnesota Duluth and is enrolled the dual-degree master’s program in social work and public health at the University of Minnesota. She works at the American Indian Cancer Foundation as a graduate research assistant. After graduation, she intends to advocate for and develop policies that positively impact the health and well-being of American Indian communities. During the internship, Gibbs hopes to gain insight and better understanding of how federal policy is developed and its relationship with tribal sovereignty and tribal development.
The Udall interns will complete an intensive, 9-week internship in the summer of 2018 in Washington, D.C. Special enrichment activities will provide opportunities to meet with key decision makers. From 1996 through 2018, 267 Native American and Alaska Native students from 120 Tribes will have participated in the program. Seven Udall interns have been students at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
New Faculty Member Waid Working to Prevent Need for Foster Care
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>>
Lee 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
Being 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>>
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.
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.”
Amelia 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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
The 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.
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.
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.
Applications for admission to the social work master’s degree (M.S.W.) and doctoral degree programs in fall 2014 are now available online. Applications are due Friday, January 3, 2014. See the M.S.W. admissions page or the Ph.D. admissions page for more information.
School 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.
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.
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).”
In 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.
The 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.