On Oct. 25, The Honorable Helen Meyer, Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, was presented with the University of Minnesota’s Outstanding Achievement Award.
Meyer is a School of Social Work alumna, who carried out the school’s commitment to social justice through her work as a lawyer and judge.
While on the state Supreme Court, Justice Meyer led a workgroup that identified and implemented ways to improve legal assistance for families in child protection cases. Because of her efforts, children’s interests in Minnesota are better represented by having competent parental representation.
Justice Meyer also recognized that cases involving individuals struggling with addiction were not being handled effectively, and were not decreasing recidivism. She laid the groundwork for establishing addiction treatment courts in our state.
After stepping down from the Supreme Court, Justice Meyer continued her advocacy on behalf of families by helping to establish the Mitchell Hamline Child Protection Clinic at her law school alma mater.
In her remarks, Meyer recalled taking a class with Esther Wattenberg and how it made an impact on her decision to work on behalf of vulnerable populations.
The Outstanding Achievement Award is reserved for University of Minnesota alumni who have attained marked distinction in their profession or in public service; and who have demonstrated outstanding achievement and leadership on a community, state, national, or international level.
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.
As an All-Big Ten running back for the Golden Gophers football team in the late 1970s, Barber was a record-setting player. In 2017, at age 57, Barber’s determination off the field culminated May 11 when he received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota as part of the commencement ceremonies for the College of Education and Human Development. He graduated with a major in youth studies from the School of Social Work.
Barber finished his Gophers football career as the all-time record holder for rushing yards (3,094), rushing touchdowns (34), and 100-yard rushing games (12). Those records have since been broken, but he still ranks sixth all-time in program history for total rushing yards.
All of Barber’s sons have played football for the Gophers, including former Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowl running back Marion Barber III, former Houston Texans safety Dominique Barber, and current Gophers linebacker Thomas Barber.
In fall 2015, Marion Barber Jr. started back on his academic career at the U of M, knowing he would need two years of credits to complete his degree this spring.
“Once I saw the commitment required, I decided it would be worth it,” Barber said. “And, believe it or not, the time has gone by fast and been enjoyable. I have really appreciated all of my classmates, professors, and advisers who made me feel welcomed.”
Barber, a Maple Grove resident, is particularly proud of his perfect attendance in all of his classes, as well as his record of mostly A’s (and a few B’s). Outside the classroom, Barber worked as an educational intern at Armstrong High School. He now has a full-time position as a special education assistant at the school. He is also an assistant football coach there.
Barber said he has always been interested in youth development and children. After nearly 40 years since beginning his time at the U of M, he feels that he has something to offer young people — especially lessons about reaching high for goals and maintaining perseverance.
Brenda Hartman (M.S.W. ’89), a St. Paul therapist who provides counseling to adolescents, adults, and couples, was named a 2017 Bush Fellow this week.
She and 23 other people were selected from nearly 650 applications for the fellowships. Applicants described their leadership vision and how a Bush Fellowship would both help them achieve their goals and make their community better. Each Fellow will receive up to $100,000 to pursue the education and experiences they believe will help them become more effective leaders.
With her Bush Fellowship, Hartman will study end-of-life practices from different cultures, religions, and spiritual traditions, and grow her leadership skills through coursework and consultation.
She has lived nearly three decades longer than expected after receiving a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. Over those years, she has devoted herself to addressing the social, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the cancer experience. She sees a strong need to promote a cultural shift in society’s response to death. She wants to introduce a narrative that counters fear and denial with a view of death as a healing process. She seeks new ways to incorporate end-of-life planning into training for healthcare professionals.
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 work of Dr. Piper Meyer-Kalos, executive director of The Minnesota Center for Chemical and Mental Health (MNCAMH) in the School of Social Work, has been receiving attention in the news recently.
The CEHD 2020 Vision blog featured an article about her work on the first episodes of psychosis in people who go on to develop schizophrenia. She saw firsthand that those with schizophrenia are underserved, and that the access to mental health treatment is something that isn’t talked about enough. The Recovery After Initial Schizophrenia Episodes (RAISE) project was created in 2009 in response to research and other early intervention programs that had been developed in other countries. Meyer-Kalos was apart of the RAISE Early Treatment Program, which developed into NAVIGATE. The goal of NAVIGATE is to study a combination of psychosocial treatment and medication management over a period of time, with a focus on the improvement of the quality of life. The results of the study were that those that participated in NAVIGATE saw larger improvements in the quality of their life. They had greater participation in work and school, experienced fewer overall symptoms, and were able to stay in treatment longer.
Meyer-Kalos also commented in a Minnesota Public Radio story about the Minnesota chapter of the Hearing Voices Network. The story featured a member of MNCAMH’s advisory council, Albert Garcia, who founded the state chapter of the network in 2013.
Zan Gao, Ph.D., associate professor in the School of Kinesiology and director of the Physical Activity Epidemiology Lab, was recently awarded a research grant totaling $47,620 from the University of Minnesota’s Office of the Vice President for Research for his work on Smartphone Exercise Apps. He will be collaborating with Dr. Hee Yun Lee from the School of Social Work and Dr. Rui Zhang from the Department of Surgery and Institute for Health Informatics.
Gao’s work is titled, “Improving Breast Cancer Survivors’ Disease Management Outcomes through Smartphone Apps and Online Health Community,” and is designed to examine how utilizing a free, commercially available smartphone app (Polar Flow), capable of uploading physical activity and diet statistics to an online community app (Facebook), along with a Facebook health education community might promote sentiment and quality of life in breast cancer survivors over a 3-month period. Findings from this project will inform the development of innovative and cost-effective mobile device apps and online health communities for disease prevention and management in breast cancer survivors.
David Hollister, professor in the School of Social Work, is one of 12 people at the U of M to be awarded the 2016 President’s Award for Outstanding Service. The award recognizes exceptional service to the University, its schools, colleges, departments, and service units by any active or retired faculty or staff member. Recipients of this award have gone well beyond their regular duties and have demonstrated an unusual commitment to the University community.
Hollister’s research and teaching has focused on immigrant and refugee resettlement and on international social work and social development. He has received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Michigan School of Social Work and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Minnesota Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.
Hollister will retire in August 2016 after 50 years as a faculty member, 45 at the U of M. In 1971 he helped form a new social work school organized around the concept of social development at University of Minnesota Duluth. Along with colleagues from five universities, he helped establish the International Consortium for Social Development, now in its 42nd year. In 1980 he came to the Twin Cities as a full professor. He served as director of the School of Social Work from 1983 to 1991 and also as director of graduate studies and Ph.D. program chair.
School of Social Work doctoral student Tanya Bailey recently won the U of M Outstanding Community Service Award, the highest honor given to a student for service to the University and community. She received the award at a ceremony on March 31. Bailey established the PAWS (Pet Away Worry & Stress) program, which involves over 100 volunteers who bring registered therapy animals to campus to interact with students and staff, helping them reduce and manage stress.
See a video about the program and Bailey’s outstanding achievements.
After years of living in the United States illegally, Daniel Perez, a former FSoS undergraduate student and current graduate student, has a green card after qualifying for a federal program that offers deportation reprieve for immigrants who entered the country as children.
Perez, who crossed the Mexican border when he was 15, qualified for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), passed by the Obama administration in 2012.
According to an article in the Star Tribune, for those who qualify, DACA offers a temporary reprieve from deportation and a work permit. For some immigrants married to U.S. citizens, the program also allows government-approved travel abroad to nullify their initial illegal entry into the country and permit them to apply for a green card.
Perez’s wife, Kendra, a Canadian who is now a U.S. citizen, sponsored him.
Through DACA, Perez has been granted “advanced parole,” according to the Star Tribune. This means that a person with a pending immigration application has permission to re-enter the country, as long as they had an educational, professional, or humanitarian reason to leave the country. Perez, who now works as a social worker in Minneapolis, was granted advance prole for a professional conference in Canada.
Now Perez and his wife are planning his first trip to Mexico since he and his family left in 2002. They will visit his grandparents and other family.
Perez will be eligible to apply for citizenship in 2018.
Professor Amy Krentzman was recently quoted in the White Bear Press article “Mother’s letters gave addicted son a dose of reality“. Martha Wegner began writing letters to her son and posting them to a blog during a period when he was homeless due to drug addiction. The blog is now published in a book entitled, “Dear David: Dealing with My Son’s Addiction One Letter at a Time”. Now sober they look back as a family as to why the blog might have aided both mother and son. In the article Krentzman is referenced to explain a few reasons why the blog might have made such a positive influence: in addition to the expression of emotion that is a benefit of all therapeutic journaling, the blog might have garnered Martha social support for her situation, might have helped other families struggling with addiction, and might have aided David in seeing the impact of his addiction on his family. Krentzman also explains that the public disclosure of recovery status is a growing trend embodied by the Faces and Voices of Recovery Movement.
The play, titled Saplings, deals with the role of stress, health and education in the lives of African American youth. The first part of the play is based on Gibson’s research about African American grandmother caregivers and how they are affected when the grandchildren they are raising are suspended from school. The second part features the experiences of parents of African American children and is based on the research of Sonya S. Brady, associate professor in the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, into factors that affect the well-being and future success of African American youth.
University faculty, students and teaching artists used Gibson and Brady’s research findings to craft the “scripted facilitation” play which raises issues about race, school suspensions, and relationships between families and school staff. Organizers hope that Friday’s performance will be viewed by many social work and education students and professionals who will participate in a discussion afterward. The goal of the discussion is to generate respectful dialogue about school discipline policies and to create opportunities to bridge the gaps between institutions of learning and the communities that they serve.
The play and discussion are scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Nolte Experimental Theatre in Rarig. Parking vouchers will be offered and food and refreshments will be provided after the performance. Audience members who participate in the discussions after the performance will receive a $25 gift card. Please RSVP here.
Other organizations involved in the project are the African American Resource Center in collaboration with the University’s Institute for Advanced Study and the Imagine Fund.
The Refugee Health Program is piloting a mental health screening protocol after data was collected that showed the need to move forward with the implementation of a statewide screening component. The training program is to prepare for the pilot program.
Patricia Shannon, associate professor, is conducting the state training sessions and recently completed sessions at Ramsey and Hennepin county screening sites. She will continue to train others in Olmsted County in their public health clinic and referral sites on February 17.
Congratulations to School of Social Work Associate Professor Colleen Fisher and Professor Elizabeth Lightfoot for being named Fellows of the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR), class of 2016.
Fellowships recognize SSWR members for their accomplishments, leadership, and contributions to SSWR as a scientific society. Fellows are members who have served with distinction to advance the mission of the society: to advance, disseminate, and translate research that addresses issues of social work practice and policy, and promotes a diverse, equitable, and just society.
They were honored at the SSWR 2016 Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., on January 16, 2016.
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.
Youth studies undergraduate student Soua Thao (pictured in the middle) was awarded theSharon Doherty Student Leadership Award from the University Women’s Center. Thao serves on the youth advisory council for the National Youth Leadership Council, a service-learning organization. At the U of M, Thao is a TRIO student and is pursuing a minor in Leadership and is a part of Students Today Leaders Forever. With the award funding, Thao will attend a national leadership conference.
The Sharon Doherty Award recognizes a woman-identified student who has demonstrated outstanding volunteer service concerning women’s issues on campus or in the broader community.
When she made a last-minute decision to abandon a scholarship from a sociology Ph.D. program and enroll instead in the University of Minnesota’s master’s of social work (M.S.W.) program, Katy Armendariz had no idea that would be her first step toward fulfilling a lifelong dream of serving children and families.
Katy is an international adoptee and former foster child who knows the child welfare system from personal experience. She received her M.S.W. from the University of Minnesota in 2009. In 2013, she started MN CarePartner, a mental health agency to bring psychotherapy services into the homes of people who could not make it to a clinic due to physical, mental, financial or transportation barriers.
The agency started out small, with just two part-time therapists. By August of 2015, it had six therapists and a certificate from the Minnesota Department of Human Services to provide Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS). CTSS is an in-home rehabilitative service that teaches children and families the necessary skills to manage the symptoms of a child’s mental health condition and bring the child back to a normal developmental trajectory.
Then, last spring, Katy and Laura Skoglund, owner of Families in Transition Services (FiTS), had a conversation over coffee. Laura has a degree in social work and paralegal studies, with a strong advocacy background in domestic violence and sexual assault. When she took over Families in Transition in January of 2012, she found a niche serving families through supervised visitation and parenting skills.
Laura, who grew up in a home where domestic violence and chemical dependency were prevalent, saw FiTS as an opportunity to help families in similar situations. FiTS provides supervised visitation for child protection families requiring oversight throughout the process of permanency and reunification, as well as family law cases. Laura saw that children’s acting-out behaviors often increased before and/or after visits with their parents, and she saw a need for in-home skills and therapy to smooth the transitions. Katy wanted the services her agency provided to help disadvantaged families who have a hard time parenting due to psychosocial barriers, such as the homelessness and mental illness that prevented her own birth mother from being able to parent.
It was a perfect match and happened to coincide with the release of 93 recommendations by the Governor’s Task Force on the Protection of Children, which had examined the Minnesota child welfare system. It concluded that the system could not improve without additional resources, training and workforce. Katy and Laura quickly realized that their partnership could help child welfare providers meet several of the task force recommendations about providing more seamless services to children and families.
Together, FiTS and MN CarePartner offers supervised visitation in the home, CTSS services and in-home psychotherapy. In order to reduce the number of providers coming into a family’s home, the two agencies work together to hire people who can provide more than one kind of service. The person supervising the visit is often the same person who teaches CTSS and parenting skills between visits. The CTSS skills worker is supervised by the in-home therapist, ensuring complementary treatment plans and a quality coordinated-care team for each family.
FiTS and MN CarePartner reached out to several child protection units in several counties, and had 16 partnerships set up in 10 counties by the end of August. The response to the partnership has been extremely positive, and child protection workers have reported that they feel at ease knowing that a committed team is in the home working for the empowerment and self-determination of children and families. Additionally, MN CarePartner and FiTS actively recruit staff of color, as well as bilingual staff, to address the cultural disparities that have made it difficult for far too many families to connect with their service providers and have a fair shot at reunification.
In November, Katy will receive an Outstanding Service Award from the Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health for showing extraordinary leadership in the field.
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.”