Category Archives: Social Work

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.

Demerath, Goh, Roholt are three of six UMN researchers named Generation Next/UROC Faculty Fellows

Six University researchers, including Peter Demerath, Michael Goh, and Ross VeLure Roholt, have been named Generation Next/UROC Faculty Fellows and charged with creating teams to answer the question: Why is there an achievement gap in the context of Minneapolis-St. Paul and what promising practices are helping close that gap? Coordinated by the University of Minnesota Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center (UROC) in partnership with Generation Next, the fellows will focus on disparities and structural roots of the achievement gap, working with other University and Generation Next-based efforts. Read more.







Peter Demerath and Michael Goh are associate professors in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development (OLPD).

Ross VeLure Roholt is an associate professor in the School of Social Work (SSW).

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 Department of Defense health award for ovarian cancer research project

LeeH-2013Hee Yun Lee, Ph.D., associate professor in the School of Social Work, and Dr. Melissa Geller, gynecologic oncologist at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, received the Ovarian Cancer Pilot Award from the U.S. Department of Defense Health Program. The overall goal of the award is to eliminate ovarian cancer by supporting innovative, high-impact research.
Lee and Geller were awarded $225,000 over two years for the project, which aims to develop and assess an intervention using mobile phone technology to promote genetic counseling among women with ovarian cancer and their families.

CEHD Alumni Society recognizes outstanding alums

SONY DSCL-R: Brenda Hartman, alumni society president (B.S. ’81, M.S.W. ’89), Marvin Davis (M.S.W. ’97), Halil Dundar (M.A. ’90, Ph.D. ’93), Peg Lonnquist (Ph.D. ’95), Jon Ruzek, director of alumni relations
On November 21, 2013, the CEHD Alumni Society honored three exceptional alumni as part of the college’s annual Distinguished Alumni Awards ceremony.
Halil Dundar received the CEHD Distinguished International Alumni Award. Since 1997, this award has recognized outstanding achievements of international CEHD alumni, from master’s and doctoral programs, who have contributed to outstanding educational progress in their countries. Dr. Dundar grew up in a small town in Turkey, graduating from Ankara University on national scholarship. He was then awarded a full scholarship by the Turkish Ministry of Education to study in the United States. He chose the University of Minnesota and completed his master’s and doctoral degrees from the college’s former Department of Educational Policy and Administration, focusing on the economics of higher education. Bringing both diligence and integrity to his work as lead education specialist for The World Bank, Halil has made outstanding contributions to educational progress in Turkey and developing countries in the former Soviet Union, Asian republics, Eastern Europe, and Africa.

Marvin Davis received the CEHD Alumni Society Award of Excellence. Throughout his social work career, Marvin has demonstrated exceptional leadership, holding several important positions at the Minnesota Department of Human Services. He currently coordinates the development and delivery of child welfare training systems designed for county and tribal supervisors, social workers, and resource families. A master of social work graduate from the college’s School of Social Work, Marvin has taken on challenging issues in the field of child welfare, such as engaging with fathers and addressing racial disparities in the system. He’s also worked with the college’s Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare to advocate for a common set of child welfare worker competencies to be adopted for use in educating entry-level practitioners.
Peg Lonnquist was the other recipient of the CEHD Alumni Society Award of Excellence.
Dr. Lonnquist has had, and continues to have, a distinguished career as a social justice educator. A doctoral graduate in educational policy and administration, she has held both faculty and administrative roles at Hamline University, Iowa State University, and currently the University of Minnesota. Peg is director of the University of Minnesota’s Women’s Center, which increases connections for women’s success, cultivates socially responsible leaders, and advocates for organizational culture change. Through her work in education she has diligently advanced the mission of equity for all, while bringing a spirit of collegiality, enthusiasm, and a commitment to growth. Peg has been a formal and informal mentor to countless staff, students, and emerging leaders.
The CEHD Alumni Society’s slate of awards were recently restructured to more broadly recognize the diverse career experiences and professional achievements of our vast alumni body. The Award of Excellence is presented annually to two CEHD alumni, who have at least 15 years of work experience, have demonstrated outstanding achievement and leadership in their profession, served as mentors to others in their field, and shown exceptional volunteer service. In carrying on the Alumni Society’s 45-year old tradition of honoring alumni both in and outside of education, one recipient of the Award of Excellence represents a career in pre-K through 20 educational institutions, and the other recipient represents a career outside of such institutions.
Founded in 1956, the volunteers of the the CEHD Alumni Society have a long record of service to the college and proudly represent over 70,000 living alumni. The Alumni Society has recognized outstanding alumni achievements since 1968.

Dr. Kristine Piescher of CASCW selected as Center for Juvenile Justice Reform’s Featured Fellow

Dr. Kristine Piescher, Director of Research and Evaluation at the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (CASCW), was recently selected as the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform’s (CJJR) Featured Fellow.
Dr. Piescher completed CJJR’s Information Sharing Certificate Program in October of 2012. As part of the certificate program, she has been working on a capstone project that will support CASCW’s Minn-LInK project. Minn-LInK is an integrated, cross-system data project that utilizes shared administrative data from state agencies to examine a variety of indicators of well-being for children involved in the child welfare system and children in other at-risk populations.
Learn more about Dr. Piescher’s work and how it ties into the Information Sharing Certificate program here.

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.

CASCW receives National Science Foundation grant for data intensive research on child well-being

The Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare at the University of Minnesota School of Social Work has received a competitive grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) that will provide $489,119 over three years to create the capacity for data intensive research through expansion of the Center’s Minn-LInK project.
MinnLinkLogo CROPPEDThe Minn-LInK project, or Minnesota Linking Information for Kids, is an integrated, cross-system data project housed at the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare. Minn-LInK utilizes administrative data from state agencies to examine a variety of indicators of well-being for children involved in the child welfare system and children in other at-risk populations, with an aim of highlighting policy and practice implications and improving services for children.
For example, a recent study examined educational outcomes of children involved in the child welfare system, with a specific focus on children in out-of-home placement, or foster care. This study helped local and state educators and service providers (including the Minnesota Educational Stability Taskforce) better understand the educational experiences of this at-risk population and informed decision-making. Minn-LInK uses data in accordance with data sharing agreements and strict security protocols are in place to ensure the privacy and confidentiality of data.
The NSF grant will allow the Center to expand the infrastructure of Minn-LInK by integrating additional statewide administrative data and developing ready-to-use datasets and tools. It will also fund the creation and piloting of the Minn-LInK Fellowship Program to prepare future researchers for cross-system research on child well-being. Through this grant the Center will be able to organize a community of researchers whose focus is on child well-being.
For more information, visit the Minn-LInK webpage.

Register now for “Deconstructing the Baby Veronica Case: Implications for Working with Fathers in Indian Child Welfare Practice”

The Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare, together with the First Nations Repatriation Institute and the Center for Regional and Tribal Child Welfare Studies at the University of Minnesota—Duluth, is co-sponsoring the forum Deconstructing the Baby Veronica Case: Implications for Working with Fathers in Indian Child Welfare Practice on Tuesday, October 29, 2013, at the University of Minnesota McNamara Alumni Center.
Federal and state laws, as well as agency policies and practice, play a significant role in how we work with fathers in Indian child welfare practice. In this forum, speakers and panelists with differing viewpoints will analyze the legal context of the “Baby Veronica” case for a closer look at father involvement. Practice strategies and policy recommendations will be a focal point.
Presenters and panelists include:

  • Judge William Thorne, Utah Court of Appeals
  • Chrissi Nimmo, Assistant Attorney General of the Cherokee Nation
  • Mark Fiddler, Attorney representing the Capobianco Family
  • Erma J. Vizenor, Chairwoman, White Earth Nation
  • Terry Cross, Executive Director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association
  • Esie Leoso, Social Services Director for Bad River Band of Ojibwe, Wisconsin
  • Mary Boo, Assistant Director of North American Council on Adoptable Children
  • Sarah Deer, Assistant Professor of Law at the William Mitchell College of Law

For more information and to register, visit the forum’s webpage.

CEHD Alumni Society welcomes new board members

The CEHD Alumni Society welcomes new board members Paul Amla (M.Ed. ’07 human resource development), Simone Gbolo (M.Ed. ’12 youth development leadership, P.B.C .’12 undergraduate multicultural teaching and learning), Mark Groves (A.A. ’83 General College, B.A. ’90 child psychology), Candice Nadler (M.Ed. ’82 early childhood education), and Jan Ormasa (M.A. ’74 educational psychology).
Since 1956, the CEHD Alumni Society has created lifelong connections with over 70,000 alumni and friends of the college, enhanced the student experience, and advocated for the college and University. To learn more, please visit

TRiO McNair Scholars present impressive summer research

McNair-Scholars-2013The 2013 U of M TRiO Ronald E. McNair Scholars presented their summer research this month at the annual Poster Symposium and U of M Research Symposium.
The poster session highlighted the research efforts of 20 McNair scholars, including six CEHD undergraduates, and their U of M faculty mentors. The McNair Scholars program is one of three U.S. Department of Education funded TRiO programs housed in CEHD. The program seeks to increase the doctoral program application, matriculation, and degree attainment by underrepresented and first-generation college students.
The 2013 cohort included students from the U of M Twin Cities and Crookston campuses, Carleton College, and University of St. Thomas. A complete list of the 2013 scholars research projects is here. Five CEHD faculty served as mentors: Shonda Craft (family social science), Ann Masten (child development), Priscilla Gibson (SSW), Bob Poch (postsecondary teaching and learning), and Catherine Solheim (family social science).
“This is a remarkable program which makes use of the very best practices in postsecondary education and research on engaged learning and mentoring,” says Bob Poch, senior fellow in the Department of Postsecondary Teaching and Learning,
The McNair program was funded for five years in 2012 and this is the first cohort under the new grant. This year eight scholars pursued research in STEM fields, a significant increase from previous years. There was also increased support for scholars through more robust onboarding, a faculty mentor orientation, and a new parent and family reception.
“Feedback from scholars, faculty mentors and program partners was overwhelmingly positive this year. We have many individuals and departments to thank for helping make the McNair Scholars program a success,” say’s Anthony Albecker, McNair Scholars director. “Many scholars already have fall and spring semester research opportunities lined up through UROP, or are continuing research with faculty mentors or new research teams. Other scholars are studying abroad this academic year.”
In mid-September scholars will participate in fall seminars to prepare for applying to graduate school and scholarships. Scholars will also be selected for the 2013 National McNair Conference held annually in November at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

Minn-LInK brief examines children’s academic performance and exposure to parental intimate partner violence, child maltreatment

Examining the Association of Children’s Academic Performance with Their Exposure to Parental Intimate Partner Violence and Child Maltreatment is the newest brief from Minn-LInK (Minnesota-Linking Information for Kids).
The purpose of the study was to “explore[] the association of children’s exposure to parental intimate partner violence (IPV) and child maltreatment (CM), as well as combined exposure (IPV-CM), to children’s academic achievement and school attendance over time.” The study was meant to fill a research gap on individual and combined associations of children’s exposure to IPV and/or CM with school success.
Results of the study are consistent with prior research that shows child exposure to both CM and IPV have a negative impact on school success.
View the brief here to learn more about the study and related research. You can also view the supplement to the brief here.

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.

Umbreit named founding president of new national restorative justice association

1UmbreitM-2008Mark Umbreit, professor and director of the School of Social Work’s Center for Restorative Justice & Peacemaking, was elected founding president of the new National Association for Community and Restorative Justice at the National Restorative Conference in Toledo, Ohio, on June 21. This new association includes practitioners and scholars from throughout the United States and will support the needs of members through annual conferences, technical assistance, training, and other resources.

New guidebook provides strategies for creating a permanence-driven child welfare organization

anuguideA new publication from the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (CASCW) and Anu Family Services provides guidance for creating a permanence-driven child welfare organization.
Creating a Permanence Driven Organization: A Guidebook for Change in Child Welfare outlines processes by which agencies can shift from helping youth to simply survive to helping youth thrive through a permanence-driven framework, using the experiences of Anu Family Services staff. Since 2006, Anu Family Services was able to increase permanence outcomes for youth exiting treatment foster care by 84 percent through implementation of evidence-informed practices, significant cultural and organizational change, and extensive changes in practice.
You can download this free resource here.
Annette Semanchin Jones, MSW, PhD and Traci LaLiberte, MSW, PhD of CASCW and Amelia Franck Meyer, MS, MSW, LISW, APSW of Anu Family Services authored the publication.

Stability, Permanency & Adoption Coordinator JaeRan Kim featured in CEHD Profiles

The College of Education + Human Development (CEHD) at the University of Minnesota regularly features Students, Faculty, and Alumni of CEHD. Recently CEHD featured a staff member from the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (CASCW).
JaeRan Kim, MSW is a PhD Candidate at the School of Social Work and the Stability, Permanency and Adoption Coordinator at CASCW. Her profile on CEHD’s Featured People highlights her personal story and how it has influenced her career and research path: “As a Korean adoptee and an active member of the adoptee community, she always knew she would focus her work and research on inter-country adoption.”
At CASCW, JaeRan manages the Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate (PACC), a certificate program for child welfare and mental health professionals. Her dissertation research focuses on the placement and stability of internationally adopted children with disabilities.
You can read more about JaeRan here.

“Building Power for Babies” explored importance of first 1,000 days of life

Governor Dayton’s Children’s Cabinet, the Science Museum of Minnesota, and the University of Minnesota joined together for Building Power for Babies, an event held at the Science Museum of Minnesota on June 3, 2013. This event explored the importance of the first 1,000 days of life and the critical relationships between experience, environment, families and communities and how those relationships affect the life-long health and optimal achievement of Minnesota’s youngest children. The event was part of Governor Mark Dayton’s Children’s Cabinet’s strategy for improving outcomes for Minnesota’s babies and toddlers.
The event kicked off the Cabinet’s second phase of strategic planning, which is focused on working with partners and parents to create safe, stable nurturing relationships and environments for infants and toddlers. This event was presented by the Science Museum of Minnesota with funding from the National Science Foundation, in association with Governor Dayton’s Children’s Cabinet and the University of Minnesota. The Science Museum’s Wonder Years focuses on important research about optimal brain development and shows the importance of using scientific insights about children to inform public policy decisions.
The Center for Early Education and Development’s (CEED) involvement includes Project for Babies‘ prenatal-to-three state planning group, headed by Jane Kretzmann, and a partnership between CEED and the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (CASCW). The CEED/CASCW partnership, coordinated by CEED’s Nikki Kovan and CASCW’s Tracy Crudo, works to translate development science for child welfare audiences and include their voices in the ongoing prenatal-to-three work happening in Minnesota.