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Advocating for Immigrant Youth DACA & the BRIDGE Act


IMG 7901Sarah Gehlert, the E. Desmond Lee Professor of Racial and Ethnic Diversity at Washington University in St. Louis, has been named dean of the College of Social Work by Provost Joan Gabel. Previously, Gehlert was a professor and associate dean at the University of Chicago. She is a leader in examining how factors such as socioeconomic status influence health for women and minorities. Gehlert was recently elected president of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare.  She will begin her role as dean of the CoSW on July 1. Click here to learn more.


April's issue of NASW news highlighted both CoSW sudents while practicing their message with each other the day before meeting with their congressional representatives
in Washington, D.C. The students were in D.C. for the Social Work HEALS Student Policy Summit in March, as part of Social Work Month. Students represented, were Bobby Dee Gamble, Akua Adams, Jordan Thompson and Andrea Johnson.

CoSW Professor, Dr. Teri Browne was also featured in the same issue talking about the tackling disparities amongst minorities and economically disavantaged populations when it comes to receiving organ transplants.

To read more, click here.



CoSW faculty Dr. Christine Andrews will present at the 16th Annual Social Work Conference: Current Information & Techniques in SW on Friday, September 23, 2016. Held at the Daniel Island Club, the conference attracts social workers across the state interested in the latest education and techniques in social work practice. Dr. Andrews will present "An Overview of the Affordable Care Act and What It Means for Social Work." To register for the conference, click here.



Levkoff STwo College of Social Work faculty have been recognized recently for their research contributions. The annual Breakthrough Faculty Awards are presented by the Office of the Vice President for Research at USC. Winners are recognized in university publications and at an awards dinner in the spring. This year, Dr. Sue Levkoff was one of the recipients of the Breakthrough Leadership in Research award, and Dr. Christina Andrews was named a Breakthrough Star. These distinct honors are awarded to senior faculty and early-career faculty, respectively.

Levkoff is currently balancing a variety of research projects, but high on her agenda is a joint venture with researchers in the College of Pharmacy that aims “to develop a mobile health intervention to connect pharmacists with patients,” focusing on older African-Americans with HIV. The system would alert patients when they have missed a dose. Another current project with the College of Nursing sees Levkoff working to reduce re-hospitalizations of older African-Americans with heart failure.

As the SeniorSMART Center of Economic Excellence Endowed Chair, Levkoff works on the development of technologies, services, and environments that assist older adults in managing their health, enabling them to age in place, the preferred setting for most older adults. Levkoff’s research is concerned with reducing health disparities across diverse populations, and this allows her to work in interdisciplinary teams of researchers from various disciplines, including computer sciences and engineering, nursing, and pharmacy. The scale of her research means that she has many opportunities to model research praxis for many junior faculty and graduate students.

The Breakthrough award means a lot to Levkoff because “at this point in my career, it’s all about enabling the next generation,” something she feels very fortunate to do. "What I find is so unique here at USC is the enthusiasm of faculty from all across the university to collaborate together on research,” she says. "We all are enriched by working together and learn from each other — it’s just been a wonderful opportunity."

Andrews CAndrews said that receiving a Breakthrough award was “an absolute honor,” reflecting that “it felt good to see that the work I’m doing is valued by the university.” Andrews is currently researching the impact of the Affordable Care Act on the quality and accessibility of drug abuse treatment. Andrews explains this project as “trying to understand how things like the Medicaid expansion and the creation of the health insurance exchanges, as well as new incentives to better integrate substance abuse treatment with mainstream medical care, have affected how likely people are to get substance abuse treatment,” while also looking at the quality of that treatment.

Andrews is also a recipient of a Mentored Research Scientist Career Development Award, which has enabled her to study econometrics with a mentor in the Arnold School of Public Health. This research project focuses on the “Medicaid health home,” which Andrews describes as “a model of coordinated care for people with complex chronic conditions.” Andrews is studying the states that have decided to implement the health home program to see if it is cost-effective.

Andrews is grateful for the abundance of research activity within the CoSW: “I really like that I work alongside colleagues who are really actively engaged in research and have the opportunity to bounce ideas off of them.” She notes that faculty cheer each other on and support one another’s work; Levkoff even met her on a Saturday afternoon to review a grant application.

The generosity and camaraderie of the faculty ensures that Andrews and Levkoff won’t be the last Breakthrough scholars from the CoSW. This recognition of their hard work by the university community shows that the favorable research climate of the CoSW is encouraging scholars at every stage.


Associate Professor Dr. Teri Browne will lead the National Kidney Foundation Patient Centered Outcomes Research Stakeholders’ Conference. The conference will bring together 100 patients, caregivers, stakeholders and academics to identify patient-centered research priorities—and challenges—for kidney disease. Facilitated by both a patient and researcher, the conference will feature patient, caregiver and researcher panel discussions and break-out group sessions. Attendees will gain insight into the experiences of patients, caregivers and researchers; learn more about the importance of patient centered outcomes research (PCOR), and identify best practice strategies for actively engaging patients in kidney disease research.

As part of NKF’s commitment to the Stakeholders’ Conference the foundation will provide a minimum of $40,000 towards funding a 2018 Kidney Disease Patient Centered Research Grant that will focus on the top kidney disease priorities identified by patients at the Conference. Funded through a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Eugene Washington PCORI Engagement Award, the Stakeholders’ Conference will be held in conjunction with the National Kidney Foundation Spring Clinical Meetings in Orlando in April, 2017. If you have questions, or are interested in participating in the Conference, please visit www.kidney.org/pcori.


i3 sweetgrass squareThe inaugural i3 incubator kicked off this January, and the two selected teams are already making headway on their goals to improve their communities. Spearheaded by CoSW professor Robert Hock, i3, the “Innovative Intervention Incubator,” enables organizations in the social sector to develop new initiatives that solve an existing problem in the community. The incubator is a year-long program, taking on new applicants each fall. Eleven teams applied for this first incubator, but only two were selected: Autism Academy of South Carolina and the Richland County Public Defender’s Office.

So far, the two teams have worked through the idea refinement phase, during which “teams are presenting their ideas and approaching the problems and the people they’re serving in different and creative ways,” says Hock. Currently, the teams are in the prototyping phase, performing pilot-testing and eventually launching their ideas. The teams are already making an impact with the incubator’s assistance: the Richland County Public Defender’s Office recently collaborated with The Nickelodeon Theatre for a showing of the film Paper Tigers, and the Autism Academy has submitted two grant proposals.

i3 1 12 2017AWorking with these two teams allows Hock and the rest of the i3 team to learn “a lot about the characteristics of the teams and how they fit” with the aims of the incubator. As the first cohort, these teams are teaching the i3 crew more about how to serve various public and private entities and how to accommodate the different constraints and tight schedules of these busy professionals. The process has been incredibly rewarding so far: Hock has enjoyed “seeing them move from skepticism to application” as they adopt the skills honed in the incubator, as well as “seeing them getting excited about their ideas.”

Though these two teams are coming from different sectors, “through this process, we’re bringing people together who don’t run in the same circles, and that’s been really powerful,” says Hock. The incubator itself involves a variety of people from diverse backgrounds and skill sets. For example, CoSW students participate as paid staff or volunteers, writing literature reviews and providing research to the teams to ensure their projects are evidence-based. Faculty from across campus are also stepping in to consult with the teams—“with an hour of their time, they can really make a big impact,” notes Hock. Recently, teams met with faculty members who have research interests in common with the teams’ projects. These one-hour meetings over coffee were fun for everyone and an easy commitment for faculty looking to volunteer.

i3 story picIn addition to involving students and faculty as resources, i3 has enlisted community leaders from non-profits, government agencies, and local businesses as Innovation Advisors. One such advisor, Bob Amundson of Amundson Consulting Service, jumped at the chance to get involved. Amundson works as a consultant to non-profit organizations and currently serves on the Foster Care Review Board. Though his background is in child protection, he wanted to learn more about other ways to effect change in the community. Now, as an Innovation Advisor, Amundson consults with the two teams at every step of the process. Amundson explains that i3 is “working together to expand this idea of an incubator and reach critical mass to make change on a great scale.” When asked about his favorite part of the incubator, Amundson is quick to describe how he feels “this energy when walking out of meetings,” attributing it to the rush of working with “extremely intelligent folks dedicated to social change.”

The incubator offers a unique opportunity for many people to partner with the university, whether as Innovation Advisors or future applicants. Hock says the that i3 is always happy to involve people from the community who would like to provide advising or mentoring, and students and faculty from outside the CoSW are welcome to join the project as well. The i3 incubator is building up its infrastructure, too, seeking donors and sponsors to enable i3 to provide free consultations. “We have seen the value that even a single appointment or a couple of meetings can have,” Hock explains. “Sometimes when people have an idea, they just need a place to speak it and get some informed feedback and encouragement. I don’t think that can be underestimated.”

The i3 incubator is unlike anything else in the state, affording a special opportunity to bring together change-makers and make an immediate impact on our community. If you’re interested in becoming a sponsor of or volunteering for i3, please contact CoSW Development Officer Sarah Wells at 803.777.3902 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


natalie miltonFamily Footprint, a nonprofit founded by 2016 MSW graduate Natalie Milom, received a $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to provide middle to high skill advanced manufacturing training to parents and quality child care in the same location.  The grant also provides case management, soft skills training, paid work experience, and assistance with employment placement.

Family Footprint utilizes a two-generation approach to partner with families to provide pathways out of poverty with particular attention to early childhood development, health, social supports, employment pathways, and asset-building.  Collaborating with Help Me Grow SC, BabyNet, and SC Thrive, the organization ensures that the children receive all the supports needed to encourage healthy development and ensure that they are ready for Kindergarten and excel in school.  Family Footprint also serves as a Benefit Bank site to ensure parents can access the supports needed to stabilize as they work towards self-sufficiency.  They are also collaborating with various community agencies to help clients build assets and increase financial literacy skills.

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Photo 13.23.2017

BSW students Kaitlin McLaughlin, Lindamarie Olson and Allison Ryan were selected to “Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges”. This exclusive honor is conferred by more than 1,000 schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and is symbolized by the presentation of an award certificate. Selections to Who’s Who Among Students are made each fall by individual schools. The selection criteria includes GPA, participation and leadership within school organization and extracurricular activities, community involvement, and future leadership ability and/or potential.  Congratulations ladies!  Keep up the great work!

Republished from the Arnold School of Public Health

corey bradleyDual degree (MSW/MPH) alumnus Cory Bradley is making a name for himself in the areas of community mobilization and social change—most recently evidenced with an invitation to serve on a racism and health panel.

Cory Bradley’s journey to become an emerging expert in community mobilization and social change can be traced back to his childhood, but it can’t be defined by geography. The two-time USC graduate (Master of Social Work (MSW)/Master of Public Health (MPH) in Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior (HPEB) dual degree program) and current doctoral student at John Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health grew up in Dallas, but it was the many summers he spent with his grandparents in rural Arkansas that most influenced who he is today.

The daughter of sharecroppers, Bradley’s mother grew up as one of 14 children and only went to school when it rained because they couldn’t work in the fields. She has since earned her own college degree, but Bradley insists that his story began with hers and that of his grandparents. “When someone asks where I’m from, I don’t just think geographically,” he explains. “I also locate the cultural, historical and social oppression space from which I have emerged to arrive at this point in my life. It’s pretty powerful to consider all of these factors.”

After graduating from Morehouse College with a bachelor’s degree in 2001, Bradley spent 11 years as an associate pastor with an emphasis on community mobilization and outreach and community development. Thirsty for knowledge, training, and theory to support his experience in these areas, Carolina’s dual degree MSW/MPH program combined these interests.

“Danita Hall, a premier student recruiter for the College of Social Work, helped me see the potential and opportunity of these degrees,” says Bradley. “The dual program was the perfect blend for crafting my particular approach to my interest areas and my contribution to the world through the lenses of these disciplines.”

Engage Bmore 485During his programs, Bradley encountered supportive mentors through both his social work (e.g., Danita Hall, Frances Spann, Rushondra James, Maryah Fram, and Eunika Simmons) and public health (e.g., Debbie Billings, Ed Frongillo, Lucy Annang Ingram, Stacy Smallwood) programs who helped him further his ideas and encouraged him to pursue a Ph.D. after his 2014 graduation. In particular, he remembers the two interactions that shifted his path toward a doctoral degree. After asking students about their career plans, Fram was adamant that Bradley continue his education. Shortly thereafter, he found himself enraptured by a community health course taught by Billings. At the end of the course, she told Bradley that he should definitely pursue a doctoral degree. “These two interactions demonstrate how significant and imperative it is for professors to be invested in their students,” say Bradley. “And with their encouragement, I had confidence that was something I actually could achieve.”

In choosing his doctoral program in public health at Johns Hopkins, which is located in Baltimore, Bradley factored in how both the School and the city could complement his growth as a researcher and activist-scholar. Over time, he has cultivated expertise in how community mobilization and power can serve as critical mechanisms to achieve social change and create a space for dialogue that leads people to resist oppressions that disrupt health.

More specifically, Bradley engages these ideas in the study of the sexual health and well-being of black men and black gay men in particular. “My interests relate to exploring structural context and community mobilization in public health strategies,” says Bradley. “Currently, one of my projects looks at the relationship between self-reported sexual identity and the health profiles of black men in the National Health Interview Survey administered by the CDC. Another project examines the structure of social networks of black gay men and other black men who have sex with men in Baltimore City and metropolitan area.”

The overall objective of his research is to examine HIV transmission pathways in the structure of one’s social relationships and to consider the association between access to social capital within social and affiliation networks and outcomes of sexual health and well-being. “I aspire to contribute to the world as a co-constructor of social change using the art of conversation, spirituality, and intellectual inquiry to uncover hidden opportunities and resources that promote healing,” says Bradley.

One of his recent contributions to this effort involved participating in a panel on racism and health during John Hopkins’ 2016 Social Determinants of Health Symposium, which was themed “Race, Racism and Baltimore’s Future: A Focus on Structural and Institutional Racism." Established in 2012, the symposium was created by the Office of the Provost to examine the root causes of health inequities in Baltimore using evidence-based strategies.  

Sitting alongside other panelists who are recognized authorities in identifying causes and solutions to health disparities and health inequity was humbling for Bradley. “I was outranked and outflanked and very much a seedling in this line up, and it was a great honor to stand in the shadow of such prominent voices,” he says. “I think that the location of my experiences in the community as a pastor, my orientation and experiences crystallized by my social work and public health training at USC contributed to my credibility to offer something meaningful to the conversation.”

Still modestly uncertain as to why he was selected to join these experts, Bradley thinks it might have been his reaction to the homicide of Freddie Gray in April of 2015 that set him apart. Together with several other doctoral students, he challenged Bloomberg School leadership to join them in organizing an immediate response in the wake of Gray’s death. “We’ve also formed a student advocacy group to develop assurances that maximize the resources of our institution and profession to engage with the community to confront the structural violence, such as racism, in Baltimore which creates life-limiting opportunities and vulnerability among residents,” says Bradley, who is pictured second from left above along with Bloomberg School Dean Michael Klag (far left), Ph.D. student Kelly King (second from right), and Bradley’s advisor and chair, David Holtgrave (far right). “I’m quite proud of my involvement that was doubtlessly reinforced by personal experiences and the training in the social work and public health disciplines I received during the MSW/MPH dual degree program.”

Looking back, Bradley wouldn’t change his path and recommends the dual program to others with enthusiasm. “Just DO IT!” he says. “It’s a major commitment of both your time and your financial resources; however, I developed friendships with an amazing cohort of other MSW/MPH dual degree students, and we still encourage and celebrate one another to this day.”

He also sees the dual program as a great way for individuals who are interested in developing a capacity to understand and integrate theory in their work. “For those who, either as activist-scholars or practitioners, find the nexus of health and social justice compelling and essential, this program is a great way to explore that and begin putting their ideas together,” Bradley says. “I think the dual degree program provides a great way for students to merge attention to social context and macro kinds of concepts with micro realities. There is a harmony to be struck, and blending those training experiences equips the student to resound that chord in their work ultimately leading to the restoration of power for marginalized communities.”


by Doward Hunter, MSW '18


BeccaGeigerRebecca Geiger, an MSW ’17 graduate student, is a graduate of California University of Pennsylvania (Cal U) class of 2013. There she majored in sociology in the Applied Concertation, and minored in History and Women’s Studies. Because of her Applied Concentration, Ms. Geiger was required to complete an internship and engage in service learning, helping her to gain advance knowledge and experience while attending school.

After a two-year stint of working outside of  human services, Rebecca decided that she wanted further her education. Taking in the advice of her undergraduate mentor and many others, she decided to pursue a Master of Social Work. She ultimately chose the University of South Carolina because of the program’s hands-on approach and field work opportunities. Additionally, she was very interested in the certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies that the university offered. 

The young scholar enjoys reading, watching movies, and hanging out with family and friends. As an assignment for her Women and Gender Studies class, Rebecca recently wrote a book review for Girl Up by Laura Bates. For the assignment, students were required to select a book, read it, and write an academic book review. In her review, Rebecca discusses the application of Girl Up to primary prevention of sexual assault curricula, as well as curricula for Social Work and Women and Gender Studies courses. Advised by her professor to seek publication for their reviews, she decided to submit her review for publication. While Rebecca viewed publication as a long-shot, she felt strongly that she needed to protect her intellectual property, “intersectional tokenism,” a phrase she coined in the review. She submitted her review and was ultimately approved for publication. The literary analysis will soon be published in AFFILIA: Journal of Women and Social Work.

The overall message Rebecca hoped to convey through this review is three-fold. First, she wanted to review a Popular Feminist Nonfiction text, given the genre has exploded in recent years with academia failing to discuss and analyze its contribution to the theories and fields of feminism and social justice. Second, Rebecca discusses the importance of feminist nonfiction writings and how such texts can serve as essential resources when writing and implementing primary prevention of sexual assault curricula. Finally, she highlights the importance of inclusivity and intersectionality, both in sexual assault curricula and programs, as well as in the classroom for social work and women and gender studies course.

 Rebecca hopes to one day become a Director of Sexual Assault Prevention or Director of Women’s Center on a college campus. There, she would like to write and implement her own primary prevention curriculum for college populations. Through her work, Rebecca hopes to reduce the perpetrations of sexual assault and violence, as well as increase in bystander intervention to prevent sexual assault. The College of Social Work thanks Rebecca for her contributions thus far to the profession and her deep-rooted passions.

Dean harding06.29.2016

Dr. C. Tayloe Harding, Jr., Dean of the School of Music since 2005, will serve as interim dean of the CoSW for the 2016-17 academic year. A passionate advocate for advancing the impact of higher education music study and experience on American communities and national society, Dr. Harding is devoted to an array of national organizations whose missions are consistent with this advocacy and has served in leadership positions with many of these groups. He is a seasoned academic administrator who, while serving as Dean of the School of Music, has acted as Interim Dean for the Honors College and most recently as Associate Provost for Community Engagement. His interest in engagement and outreach to advance the public good make him a perfect temporary fit within the world of social work. To learn more about Dr. Tayloe Harding, please read his biography here.

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CoSW BSW students Jordan Thompson and Dee Gamble and MSW students Andrea Johnson and Akua Adams had the exciting opportunity to participate in the March 2017 Social Work Health Care Education and Leadership Scholars (HEALS) Student Policy Summit in Washington, DC, hosted by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and Council of Social Work Education (CSWE). As Social Work HEALS scholars, these four CoSW students joined social work students from across the country in DC to hear from Angelo McClain the CEO of NASW and Darla Spence Coffey, the President and CEO of CSWE as well as many other health policy speakers about how they can make a difference in health social work. These students also had the opportunity to meet with staff in Senator Lindsey Graham’s office and talk about mental health issues in SW. Lead by CoSW faculty Drs. Teri Browne and Melissa Reitmeier, ours is one of only ten schools of social work chosen to participate in this scholarship program. These students have field placements at Providence Hospital, Regency Hospice, Rice Estate Rehabilitation Center and Richland County Public Defenders Office. The Social Work HEALS program also provides support and resources for their field instructors, including a national meeting at the Society for Social Work Leadership in Health Care conference.

Two of our students describe their experience.

“As HEALS Scholars, we attended a Policy Summit in Washington D.C. Tuesday and Wednesday of last week.  On Tuesday, we attended the main portion of the policy summit where we heard from social workers involved in policy.  It was very encouraging to hear about the impact that social workers can make on Capitol Hill.  Hearing from these social workers definitely made me more interested in policy and encouraged me to keep an open mind when choosing what area of the field I want to go into.  Wednesday was the day that we met with legislators on Capitol Hill.  My colleagues and I had a meeting planned with Lindsey Graham’s staff.  His staff was gracious and informative and answered all of our questions about healthcare reform.  We focused primarily on the importance of mental health parity laws that were put in place through the Affordable Care Act.  At the time of the meeting, the staffers were unsure if this would stay in the new healthcare legislation.  Unfortunately, I have learned that it will not.  It was an amazing experience to be on Capitol Hill in the middle of it all.  This trip made me realize that social workers can make a difference and impact legislation.  It was an incredible experience and we had a great time.  We all want to continue advocating for healthcare accessibility and social justice in our community.” - Andrea Johnson, MSW Student

“It was a very informative exploration.  This opportunity unveiled a different perspective of social work; merging macro and micro into the same agenda.  In a special way, Washington D.C. is a virtual monument to the minds and hearts of the critical thinking skills the curriculum encourage.  As we marched up the Hill, we thought of the impact we wanted to deliver.  We carried concerns from our home states.  Visiting museums, monuments, and the national cemetery ignited a reason to continue to stand on our beliefs and charge us to proclaim "a change."  The songwriter, Sam Cooke, sung A Change Gonna Come.  We must identify with the change we want to see and be the power to drive it into place.  We are social workers.” - Bobby D. Gamble, BSW Student

by Deborah Duvall

Several faculty and staff from the CoSW attended the Rally to Stop the Violence on Saturday, June 18, 2016, on the south lawn of the Statehouse. Afterwards, Dr. Maryah Fram and Lynda Tilley joined Dr. Miriam Johnson and me. We gathered briefly after the rally to talk about the impact of the various speakers and the demonstration. We thought Carla Damron, Executive Director for the National Association of Social Workers, South Carolina Chapter, and Steve Benjamin, Columbia’s mayor, were particularly effective. Other scheduled speakers included SC Democratic Women’s Chair Susan Smith, Columbia Urban League President J.T. McLawhorn, President of the Brady Campaign’s Charleston Chapter Merrill Chapman, and Tameika Hunter Ross, whose nephew Rodney Sumter was seriously injured Orlando. We also discussed our concerns for friends and family members who are feeling unsafe as a result of the Orlando shootings.

stop violence before name calledThose attending the rally gathered to promote:

  • Universal background checks, by closing the “Charleston loophole” and gun show loopholes
  • Banning assault weapons in South Carolina
  • Passing a hate crime law in South Carolina

The demonstration at the end was a powerful visual reminder of the 49 people killed in Orlando and our own nine fellow South Carolinians killed in Charleston at Mother Emmanuel Church last year. The “before” photo shows the 49 representatives mirroring the colors of the rainbow flag with a space separating them from the nine Charleston representatives. As their names were read, the representative stood up and then lay down on the steps—as shown in the “after” photo, forcefully illustrating the loss of 58 precious lives to gun violence. John Lennon’s “Imagine” was sung, accompanied by an acoustic guitar, and the crowd was invited to join in. As I sang the words softly I found myself wondering what it will take for our state and national law makers to finally take a stand to stop the violence.

stop violence after name calledAs a social worker, I’m going to focus on encouraging people to get registered and to vote in every election, communicate with legislators, and to take advantage of all opportunities to stand in solidarity at the State House. Please consider joining me.

Link for additional rally information and list of sponsors: http://uptownrising.com/stoptheviolence/  



The CoSW held the 1st Annual Celebration of Black History Month Challenge.  Using Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous "I Have a Dream" speech as the inspiration, seven BSW/MSW students submitted entries regarding what they are inspired to change in the world as a social worker. Although all of the students are winners and submitted wonderful entries, Antwan Adams captured first place with a $100 grand prize and the second place prize of $50 went to the Mary Wilmer Group.  Congratulations to these inspiring agents of change!

Antwan Adams


The University of South Carolina will hold a memorial tribute for the 49 souls taken in the shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando at noon on Wednesday, June 29th 2016 in the Hollings Room of the Thomas Cooper Library.  President Harris Pastides and Provost Joan Gabel will deliver remarks along with other members of the campus community. Several CoSW students and alumni will take part in the memorial tribute. For additional information, please check here.


jefferson memorial 1626580 960 720The CoSW is pleased to have 4 students attending the 2017 HEALS Policy Summit in Washington, DC. MSW students Andrea Johnson and Akua Adams, and BSW students Jordan Thompson and Dee Gamble will participate in the summit at the National Association of Social Work (NASW) National Office and meet with the SC delegation on Capital Hill. A key part of the summit is training the students to advocate for legislation important to the social work profession and its clients. As part of the training, HEALS students hear from Senate staff and lobbyists about best practices in advocating for issues important to social work in Congress. Attendees also hear inspiring stories from social work leaders whose careers took unexpected pathways.

Social Work HEALS (Healthcare Education and Leadership Scholars) aims to educate and train emerging social workers to strengthen the delivery of health care services in the United States. Social Work HEALS scholars have heightened awareness of prevention and wellness and learn how to address issues of structural racism that are embedded in social institutions. We are one of only 10 schools across the country to train HEALS scholars. The Social Work Heals grant is funded by The New York Community Trust with Dr. Teri Browne as Principle Investigator and Dr. Melissa Reitmeier as Co- Principle Investigator.


The CoSW extends our condolences and support to those affected by the tragedy in Orlando. We now know that at least one of the wounded has ties to our area. We are here to offer our support and services to those in need in the aftermath of this heartbreak. To read UofSC's comments, click here.


Pitner RonThe I. DeQuincey Newman Institute for Peace and Social Justice continues to grow as it remodels itself and welcomes a new endowed chair.

Dr. Ronald Pitner was named endowed chair last fall after serving in the role of director for three years. The Newman Institute is named after The Reverend I. DeQuincey Newman, an important leader in the history of social justice and poverty issues in South Carolina. “I find it an honor to follow in those footsteps,” says Pitner, “expanding his mission and effecting more positive change for various communities.” Pitner’s new role as endowed chair will still require community outreach, but now he will focus on “the more scholarly activities, [such as] promoting research and scholarship on peace and social justice.”

It is in that vein that the Newman Institute is pleased to host Dr. Llewellyn J. Cornelius for the spring Newman Lecture on February 16 at 6pm in the Capstone Campus Room. Cornelius is the Donald L. Hollowell Distinguished Professor of Social Justice and Civil Rights Studies and the Director of the Center for Social Justice, Human and Civil Rights at the University of Georgia. Lecture attendees will benefit from his years of experience in Community-Based Participatory Research, psychosocial research, and survey and evaluation research. Cornelius’s talk is titled “Why is the south the epicenter of the new HIV/AIDS Epidemic? The role of barriers to health insurance in disparities to HIV care” and will focus on “disparities in the rates of HIV/AIDS by region and race,” as well as the impact of factors such as lack of insurance and stigma. Anyone from the community is welcome to attend.

While the invited Newman lecture is a cornerstone of the Institute, Pitner has plans to expand the scope of the Institute’s offerings, beginning by introducing a new call to action each year that centers on a particular theme. Pitner lists the goals of the annual call to action as follows: “1) to have a facilitated and interactive dialogue with the university and South Carolina community during the fall semester of each year on a ‘specific call’ related to diversity, inclusion, and social justice; 2) to have members leave the dialogue fully charged with a plan for reflection and contemplation about an appropriate action to take; 3) to provide two reflective check-in meetings with dialogue participants to discuss how they are thinking about their plan for action; and 4) to culminate during spring semester with community members presenting their plan for action.”

After unveiling the year’s call to action, the Newman lecture will then become one component of a larger program. Pitner explains that the Institute will host four events, two in the fall and two in the spring. This additional programming will include student-led facilitations on social justice issues, community events and forums, as well as some collaborations with venues. For example, Pitner would love to host a film showing at the Nickelodeon Theatre followed by a facilitated dialogue. Previously, Newman Institute events have been sponsored by African American Studies, the Law School, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, and Pitner hopes to grow these sorts of campus and community partnerships.

Newman 2Beyond the calls the action, the Institute has emphases in research and training. One current research project, for example, involves working with the USC and Penn State schools of law on increasing diversity in admissions by looking at socioeconomic background and other factors. The Newman Institute also facilitates the Poverty Factor Training program and hopes to schedule more sessions in the future.

When asked about the intersection of social work and social justice, Pitner explains that in the National Association of Social Workers’ Code of Ethics, “social justice is an integral part of it—it’s naturally a component of social work anyway.” Social justice is a core mission of social work, and Pitner teaches about it by exploring “this notion of trying to restore equity in some way.” Social justice is a broad concept, he says, encompassing race, schools, poverty, and much more. As Pitner leads the revitalization of the Newman Institute, he does so by not only thinking of poverty but also about race, gender, and other intersecting issues and identities, thus building on Newman’s legacy.

Individuals or organizations interested in sponsoring Newman Institute programming may contact Dr. Ron Pitner at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Sarah Wells, development officer for the College of Social Work, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



The College of Social Work is partnering with the South Carolina Department of Corrections to develop strategies to assist prisoners with mental health problems. Led by Drs. Dana DeHart and Aidyn Iachini, the program will establish a summer institute to train corrections staff and students on how to respond to inmates experiencing mental health issues, including crisis intervention, discharge planning, coordinating care with community providers and working with families of prisoners. With three-year funding by a $400,000 U.S. Department of Justice grant, the training will consist of both classroom and online components with the goal to develop a model for mental health education and training that can be used in prisons nationwide.



CMEGBanner1The College of Social Work is offering a new field placement unlike any other, thanks to an opportunity through CoSW alumnus and former professor Dr. Carl Maas and Medical Care Development International. Starting this July, one student will have the opportunity to have an impact in the fight against malaria with the Bioko Island Malaria Control Project (BIMCP), funded by the Government of Equatorial Guinea and private funders Marathon Oil Corporation, Noble Energy, and Atlantic Methanol Production Company. Maas, who is currently the Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at Marathon’s Equato-Guinean operations, will be the field instructor.

guineaThe goal of the field placement is to provide an opportunity for a master’s level social work student or mature bachelor’s level student with an interest in international development and international public health. The placement will be managed by Medical Care Development International, who runs the Bioko Island Malaria Control Program (BIMCP). BIMCP, which started in 2004, is a public-private partnership providing a multi-component intervention to control the transmission of malaria as well as offer medical and community-based behavioral change interventions to the Equato-Guinean population living on Bioko Island. To date, the BIMCP has reduced malaria transmission in the island’s youth by 75% and reduced infant mortality due to malaria by 85%. This project offers the CoSW student an opportunity to work with one of the premier malaria control programs in the world.

EG Intern 1The ideal candidate is fluent in Spanish and a MSW and/or MPH student or a BSW senior who has completed all coursework save the field practicum. The student will live in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea and work on the Annual Malaria Indicator Survey, supervising field enumerators, and data collection. Field enumerators are often local university students, so the CoSW intern will have the opportunity to develop their leadership skills and empower others. This role also provides a unique experience in international community engagement due to the setting, which includes multi-ethic and multi-national communities both in Malabo and around the entire island. Maas describes the work as an opportunity to engage “a neat kaleidoscope of communities and engaging them on their terms.”

EG Intern 2This field placement will also require a student who is up to the challenge. As Maas explains, “there’s a structure here, but it’s a very difficult setting” due to the weak state environment, which is in many ways “disadvantageous to social work practice.” It is essential that the CoSW intern is focused on completing the data collection accurately and ensuring the highest data quality—a task which often requires creativity and resourcefulness in the face of day-to-day obstacles not normally seen in the developed world.

EG Intern 3Maas, himself, was excited by the opportunity to shift gears from academia to international social work practice through a separate opportunity to develop a funding package with the aim of supporting a series of trials testing a malaria vaccine—an opportunity that “doesn’t come along every day.” In addition to the impacts that the BIMCP has accomplished, Maas has been impressed with Marathon’s long-term funding commitment of a holistic malaria control program. The opportunity to manage this type of project was a perfect match for his background in public health and social work. Before working with Marathon, Maas was not aware of Corporate Social Responsibility positions and had not considered them an option for social work practitioners. While at USC, “I taught macro social work, including social work administration, for example, running NGOs and social work programming, as well as program evaluation,” he says, “and I never realized that corporate social responsibility existed as a career option.” Hence, this placement also will provide an opportunity to learn more about Corporate Social Responsibility as it is practiced in an international setting.

EG Intern 4Maas emphasizes that the difficulty of the work is proportionate to its importance: “I like the fact that I have the opportunity to marshal resources from both industry and government and apply it to something that is demonstrably showing results in terms of health and welfare for a population greatly affected by malaria,” he says. Additionally, the BIMCP directly benefits Equatorial Guinea not only by supporting an important, central public health intervention, but also by laying the groundwork for the Equato-Guinean Malaria Vaccine Initiative (EGMVI). Through Maas’s guidance, the EGMVI is creating opportunities for national researchers to train and develop skills while conducting internationally recognized research on a cutting edge malaria vaccine with the potential to change the face of the African continent and beyond.

With apologies to Frank Sinatra, Maas suggests that “if you’re up for the challenge and you can be successful here, you can be successful anywhere. This internship is ideal for a candidate who can balance the realities of a weak state environment with the aspirations of a healthier public that seeks a brighter future.”

For more information regarding this field placement, please contact Dr. Melissa Reitmeier at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


On May 6, 2016, 45 undergraduates and 290 graduates marked the successful conclusion of their degree programs with a celebration at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. Students completing dual degree programs this year included one student with the MSW and Juris Doctorate, another with the dual MSW/Master of Public Administration, and six with the MSW/Master of Public Health. Also awarded at the ceremony were Graduate Certificates: 38 Certificates in Drug and Addiction Studies; nine Certificates in Social Work with Military Members, Veterans, and Military Families; and three Certificates in Gerontology. Additionally, seven BSW students earned Graduation with Leadership Distinction.

The MSW graduates were hooded in citron, as is traditional for the conferring for social work graduate degrees, and the BSW graduates wore garnet and gold cords. The undergraduate cording occurred first, followed by a reception for all CoSW students and their guests, and then the graduate hooding.

It was Melvina Ackwood’s third year working on the MSW hooding with Frances Spann, who has coordinated the event for 20 years now. Ackwood says “witnessing the expressions of pride and accomplishment on the faces of the graduates is priceless. Seeing the committee’s hard work materialize makes the day special” emphasizing that hooding is a “celebration rather than a ceremony.”

Rushondra James is a Student Service Coordinator at the CoSW, and she handles the logistics of the undergraduate cording celebration. Students graduating in May, August, or December of 2016 were welcome to participate; James performed a “senior check” last fall for each student to ensure that they were on the road to graduation.

Though administrative staff like Ackwood, James, and Spann are integral to a successful celebration, the day’s events are student-centered. A committee comprised of Student Services Advisors, Program Coordinators, and leaders from student organizations plan the celebration together. Students help choose the graduation speaker and who among the CoSW faculty they would like to perform the hooding and to announce graduates’ names. The cording address was given by Dr. Jeanne Cook, who is the current president of the South Carolina chapter of the National Association of Social Workers as well as an alumna of UofSC. The hooding address was given by Dean Anna Scheyett.

The cording and hooding celebrations included faculty and student awards, as well. Students choose the winners of faculty awards, and faculty evaluate academic achievement and leadership qualities in determining the winners of student awards. (A complete list of award winners and of the faculty selected to participate in the cording and hooding can be found at the bottom of this page.)

This year’s recipient of the BSW Student of the Year award, Eric Clark, was “honored” but noted that “there were many other students in the cohort that were just as worthy of recognition.” Aliza Petiwala, MSW Student of the Year for the Columbia campus, also claims that her hardworking peers were just as deserving as she, and cites the supportive faculty and staff at the CoSW. “This is not an award you get by yourself!” she insists.

Graduates are prepared to take on social work in the field and in graduate programs; James has spoken to graduates headed for MSW programs at Temple University, Boston College, and University of Maryland, for example, as well as quite a few staying here at UofSC. Clark is one such student; he is staying at UofSC for the MSW program because the CoSW “has helped to kick start my professional development,” and he is excited to begin a field placement at the Transitions Homelessness Recovery Center and continue his interest in serving individuals experiencing homelessness.

Both award winners reflected on what they most appreciate from their degree programs, highlighting the new knowledge that they will draw upon in their next endeavors. Clark explains why the CoSW was and will continue to be such a great fit for him: “the opportunities that I took advantage of in the CoSW program gave me a well-rounded experience that involved working with clients, meeting new colleagues, developing professional relationships, and even presenting at a NASWsymposium.” Petiwala is moving on and using her knowledge and skills to work in research and policy, but she, too, believes that the graduate program provided her with the tools to succeed, especially a “greater insight into the daily and systemic barriers disadvantaged populations face when trying to access social services that can help pull them out of cyclical poverty.”

Wherever our graduates go next, whether to a graduate program or the field, they will surely effect positive change. The CoSW is pleased to present our 2016 graduates to the world.

BSW Student of the Year: Mr. Eric Clark
MSW Students of the Year:

Ms. Aliza Petiwala (Columbia)

Ms. Brooke Andregic (Charleston)

Ms. Casey Phillips (Greenville)

BSW Outstanding Student in Field: Ms. Rebecca Christopher
MSW Outstanding Student in Field: Ms. Anna Bracknell
BSW Jim Ward Field Instructor of the Year: Dr. Nicole Cavanagh
MSW Jim Ward Field Instructor of the Year: Ms. Deborah Bennett-York
BSW Educator of the Year: Prof. Sudie Nallo
MSW Educator of the Year: Dr. Susan Parlier
Alumni Awards:

Ms. Lenora Bush Reese

Ms. Katherine Watts

Pioneer Award: Ms. Gwen Jobes Hampton
BSW Cording:

Dr. Anna Scheyett

Dr. Miriam Johnson

Dr. Daniel Freedman

Dr. Nicole Cavanagh

Ms. Jennifer Bosio-McArdle

Ms. Rushondra J. James

MSW Hooders

Dr. Nancy Brown

Dr. Nicole Cavanagh

Prof. Rhonda DiNovo

Dr. Candice Morgan

Dr. Susan Parlier

Prof. Eunika Simons

Ms. Fran Burke (Charleston)

Dr. Margriet Wright (Charleston)

Ms. Michelle Scott (Greenville)

Ms. Darlene Levy (Greenville)

MSW Announcers

Dr. Christina Andrews

Dr. Benjamin Roth


Levkoff SCongratulations to Drs. Sue Levkoff and Christina Andrews on winning the Breakthrough Leadership in Research award and the Breakthrough Star award. Awarded by the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Breakthrough Leadership in Research award  recognizes USC’s distinguished senior faculty, the Breakthrough Star award  honors outstanding early-career faculty.

Dr. Levkoff is a social gerontologist who focuses on the reduction of health disparities for older populations through a combination of information, communication, and other technologies. She conducts intervention research to test different mechanisms to enable “aging in place.”

Andrews CDr. Andrews’s research interests include Medicaid, health reform, and the impact of the organization and financing of addiction treatment on access to services.

Learn more about the Breakthrough award here.


The second year of a College of Social Work field placement at the Richland County Public Defender’s office has just wrapped up. Three students spent the spring semester in this placement, one of whom was the recipient of a coveted Training For Transitions grant, which is accompanied by a $10,000 stipend. Mary Wilmer, Callie Thomas, and Xavier Bailey benefitted from this unique field experience working under Dr. Aleks Chauhan, Assistant Public Defender, and Dr. Candice Morgan, Training for Transitions Field Seminar Leader and Instructor in the CoSW.

The Richland County Public Defender’s office serves approximately 700 clients each year but had no concrete resources for addressing these young people’s needs, such as housing insecurity or learning disabilities, before the CoSW’s field placement. Morgan spent 17 years as a social worker in the field, including time working with the Department of Mental Health, and she was able to build on previous relationships in the Public Defender’s Office and suggest the benefit of having social workers there to handle the clients whose needs go far beyond a night in jail. The Public Defender’s office and the CoSW turned out to be a great fit: “Social workers can help in many ways in assessment of needs,” Chauhan says, “stepping in and communicating with the family and the child.” She also notes that social workers can assist with direct services, coaching, empowerment, and grant writing.

According to Morgan, this field placement has “allowed the Public Defender’s office to see the need for a social worker,” and see the possibilities when lawyers and social workers are working side by side. Explains Dr. Melissa Reitmeier, director of field education in the CoSW, “we have students working with the juveniles, problem-solving with them,” and identifying resources like mental health or recovery services. The students assist the attorneys and work together to determine the best way to support juvenile offenders.

This placement is not for faint of heart, though: Morgan says that the Public Defender’s office is very fast-paced, and students experience a sharp learning curve. Students must familiarize themselves with court processes in addition to serving as advocates for the youth they serve. Chauhan notes that “this is the real deal” for students—“they get exposure to abuse, lack of resources, systemic problems…things that you read about in books, but in our offices it becomes life.” The students at the Public Defender’s office placement “see the most vulnerable clients,” says Morgan, and this lets them “get a firsthand view” of the criminal justice system. “Students get to see how complex it is to work in family systems,” says Morgan, “and work with attorneys who don’t always see things the way we do” as social workers. Working in an interdisciplinary and interprofessional setting gives MSW students a taste of what it means to work in the social work profession, in which multiple collaborators and stakeholders will not always understand the value of a social worker.

Mary Wilmer and Callie Thomas worked as Youth Advocates this spring, meeting with clients on a weekly basis and connecting them with community programs and resources to help them achieve their goals. Chauhan says that the rapport built between the Youth Advocates and clients matters because “the key to lowering recidivism is not just services, but knowing them [youth] and nurturing them and linking to positive role models; it’s really exciting for me to see that these social work interns are so enthusiastic about the work and so dedicated.”

The Public Defender’s office field placement is “a well-rounded opportunity,” according to Wilmer. She says “I feel like I am being molded into quite a tactful and effective social worker” as result of this field experience. Thomas was finishing the dual degree program in Social Work and Law at the time, and this placement is an ideal fit for dual degree students like her, she says, noting that it combines law, social work, and both micro and macro skills. Thomas also sees the far-reaching impact of her contributions at the Public Defender’s office: “I believe it is paramount, albeit challenging, to assist the adolescents in setting longer term goals for themselves for when they re-enter the community,” and the most important aspect of her work was “to help the adolescents and their families see past the momentary detention, realize that the barrier is only ephemeral, and help them believe in their ability to set and achieve longer term goals.”

Reitmeier states unequivocally, “I love this placement.” One of Reitmeier’s goals is to promote interprofessional teamwork because “social workers bring a unique and special perspective, a more strengths-based perspective that focuses on understanding diversity and resilience.” Social workers are “value-added” on any team, according to Reitmeier, and Chauhan agrees, claiming “I’d love to see a social worker for every child,” because “social work is crucially intertwined with what we can do.”

The students themselves are also pleased with the opportunities at the Public Defender’s office. Xavier Bailey notes that working as Chauhan’s intern taught him not just about social work and the criminal justice system, but also about himself. Watching Chauhan, whom he refers to as “Superwoman,” inspired him each day. “She understands the difference between what is right and what is justice,” he explains, and she made him think more clearly about his role as an advocate for vulnerable populations. Thomas calls her time there “amazing,” stating, “there is no question that this field placement has allowed me to utilize skills acquired in the classroom, continuously critically think about system improvement and program development, and confirms my passion in the field of juvenile justice.”


i3 1 12 2017A01.12.2017

Congratulations to The Autism Academy of South Carolina and Juvenile Reentry Program at the Richland County Public Defender’s Office for being the first organizations inducted into the CoSW’s i3 Incubator.

i3 brings community members and researchers together to explore and test innovative ideas for solving social problems. The incubator is a catalyst for engagement between the social, private, and public sectors across the city.

i3 1 12 2017BAssistant Professor and i3 Director Dr. Robert Hock says, “we created i3 to be a source of inspiration and a kind of R&D lab for Columbia’s social sector. We help local organizations test and launch high-impact social innovations in our community. This year, we have two dynamic teams who are deeply committed to creating opportunities for youth in our city.” To read the press release, click here.


DeanVertCourtyard 8597As many of you know, this May was a “graduation” of sorts for me as well and my farewell to the University of South Carolina. On June 3rd I will step down as Dean of the College of Social Work and on July 1 I will assume the duties of Dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Georgia.

This move was a difficult decision for me, but the right opportunity for me and for my family, and I am leaving the College in very capable hands. Our Interim Dean for the College will be Dean Tayloe Harding. Dean Harding has prior experience as interim dean of the Honors College and is a good friend to the College of Social Work—I hope you’ll give him a warm welcome and lots of support. The Provost is establishing a search committee and will begin a national search for a permanent dean for the College in the near future.

My five years here at the College have been tremendously rewarding, and I am so proud of the work the faculty, staff, students, and alumni have done. We have hired amazing new faculty and staff, revised our curricula, grown our research, increased our relationships with and impact on the community, and moved into a beautiful new home in Hamilton College. I will always treasure the relationships I’ve developed here at Carolina and in Columbia, and feel very fortunate to have been a part of this wonderful community.

I’m honored to say that a fund has been established, the Anna Scheyett Pay It Forward Fellowship, to provide support for students in financial need, who want to serve populations that struggle with financial insecurity, and who, once they are established professionally, commit to helping other social work students and “paying it forward.” I hope you’ll consider contributing to this fund. Most importantly, I hope each and every one of you will continue to strengthen your connection to the College, to be involved in the excellent work that goes on here, and to continue your support of our students.

Thank you for a rewarding five years and for collaborations and friendships I’ll never forget. I hope you’ll stay in touch (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and visit if you’re ever in the Athens area.

Warmest regards,

Anna Scheyett


fullsizerender-8CoSW Alum Dr. Stephanie Kripa Cooper-Lewter came to America through international adoption from an orphanage in India. At a young age, she began the quest to understand her “why.”  She recently penned a manifesto for the adoptees soul to help others on a similar quest. To read more, click here.

Andrew Arnold named volunteer of the year05.05/2016

During the annual Walk-A-Mile-In-Her-Shoes event, hosted by Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands (STSM), BSW student Andrew Arnold was honored with the 2016 Volunteer of the Year award.  Arnold initially volunteered in the office but felt compelled to do more after seeing the agency’s work first hand.  As a Volunteer Advocate, Arnold can work directly with survivors of sexual assault including accompanying survivors to local emergency rooms and/or answer calls on the crisis hotline.  He is also active in the agency’s Speakers Bureau, providing education and information to the community at events and health fairs.  Arnold hopes to continue working with the agency and the community to eventually rid our society of sexual assault and abuse.



Newspaper with Indian students and Prof NalloThe CoSW hosted eight students from Maharaja Sayajirao (MS) University of Baroda, located in Gujarat, India, for ten days in November as part of the India Global Classroom Experience. The students were paired with a current CoSW student “buddy” as they learned about social work in the US, including education, mental health, drug and substance abuse, geriatrics, and child care. This visit is a part of an exchange program led by Ms. Sudie Nallo and Dr. Melissa Reitmeier. MSW graduate student Sarah Gray sat down with Ms. Nallo to learn more about this exciting partnership.

What is the India Global Classroom?
The India global classroom experience is a unique opportunity for students to gain knowledge about social services practices that reflect cultural standards. In January 2016, 15 CoSW students traveled to India for two weeks as a part of the exchange program. CoSW students gained knowledge in India, through the MS University, and MS students are gaining knowledge about U.S. practices. One key factor that we see from the global classroom experience is rich discussions about how Social Identities play out in the day to day lives of individuals. The global classroom allows students to talk about stereotypes and biases that we have about each other in a safe space.

The global classroom experience allows students to learn about how populations employ privilege and oppress others, or how individuals come together to use privilege to support communities. Also, this experience provides the opportunity to learn about different methods and ways to address social issues that are socially and culturally expected but not mandated in different cultures.

What is one thing that is different?
A few things that emerge as different about the CoSW program versus the Social Work Program at MS University are the procedures, practice, socialization, and methods of addressing different concepts or issues. Also, a difference in the two communities, USC and MS University, is how culture is defined. The definition of culture defines how the community treats issues and how the qualification process is justified.

What is the same in the programs?
Both programs show an equal importance around supporting and empowering populations that are marginalized. They both also expose students to the beauty of their culture. In celebrating the American culture, we can acknowledge the similarities while addressing challenges and differences that we have from an empowerment standpoint. Students from both programs are similarly hungry for experience, and extremely open to learning about other cultures.

indian studentsIn terms of practice, both programs focus on issues that are most profound and have similar methods of prioritizing needs in the community.        

What did the India students do while they were here?
The India students who visited USC participated in a lot of American culture activities. They went bowling, attended a USC football game, and took excursions to Charleston, Folly Beach, and Fort Sumter. The students stayed in the Capstone residence hall while they were visiting and ate at Gibbs Court each morning. They also attended Vista Lights, a USC talent show, and experienced music and dance at the Kroger Center for Arts.

The India students met Dr. Tayloe Harding, the Interim Dean in the CoSW, and listened to faculty lectures on topics from mental health to aging. They visited four CoSW field placement sites and were able to see how social work plays out in the placements as well as the similarities and differences between American and Indian agencies.


IMG 663305.01.2016

The Third Annual South Carolina School Behavioral Health Conference was held April 21-22, 2016 in Myrtle Beach. Dr. Aidyn Iachini, along with Kevin Rhodes from Kershaw County School District, and TFT scholars Mariah Bowen, Hannah Vaughn, and Brooke Barr represented the CoSW (Carissa Orlando, a doctoral student in the UofSC Department of Psychology also participated) by presenting papers and posters. Conferences like this provide students with the opportunity to share what they learned with other practitioners in the field and network with others in their area of interest.


Hear Their VoicesHow do you turn a 35-page resource manual into an easily accessible, age-appropriate, comprehensive pocket guide for youth in transition? That was the question being asked by staff at Transitions Homeless Recovery Center in Columbia. The center had a growing population of unaccompanied youth ages 18-24 that needed guidance into living independently. CoSW alum and Transitions Community Resource Specialist Lauren Wilkie, along with former CoSW dean Dr. Anna Scheyett and CoSW donor Ms. Stacey Atkinson began a collaboration that would go on to produce the Young Adult Passport.

Dr. Anna Scheyett, now Dean at the University of Georgia School of Social Work, says, “Youth at risk face so many challenges--and one of them is the complexity of the service system designed to help them. The Young Adult Passport was designed to put lots of information about supports and services at youth's fingertips, so they can access what they need as easily as possible.”

CoSW graduate research assistant Andrew Flaherty, with the help of Nyssa Snow, Doctoral student in the USC College of Arts and Sciences, created a gap analysis of resources and agencies that were connecting unaccompanied young adults to resources that would help them make a successful transition into independent living. Using qualitative data from the United Way of Midlands, the research team produced a suggested guide to services based on current and projected future needs. Ms. Wilkie and Ms. Atkinson developed a strategic plan to pilot the resource list with a group of young people transitioning to independence. The youth work group provided additional qualitative feedback and analysis, and designed the resource guide. The Young Adult Passport is written in youth-friendly terms and connects young people with resources that have the expertise to help them meet their goal of independent living in spite of previous challenges with housing insecurity.

Hear Their VoicesMs. Wilkie says, “A part of being a community resource specialist is recognizing that even the experts don’t know what’s available. Having a guide that’s easily accessible to teachers, parents, counselors, coaches, and easily understood by youth, is very important in our area. While this guide may not encompass every resource, it is a starting point for every need.”

The Young Adult Passport is still a work in progress. In 2017 CoSW graduate students will conduct another assessment for potential resource updates. Transitions will also work to make the guides water-proof, reduce printing costs. Click here to view the electronic version of the Young Adult Passport.

“With the support of non-traditional doors, opportunities for success are being made available because the College of Social Work, faculty, and students had the courage to stand with our youth,” says Stacey Atkinson, LMSW, of how CoSW is helping to make an impact in the lives of the youth in transition in our community.

monique mitchell book04.22.2016

The new book by Dr. Monique B. Mitchell, Research Assistant Professor at the Center for Child & Family Studies, will be hitting shelves in May. The Neglected Transition: Building a Relational Home for Children Entering Foster Care explores children’s experiences of loss and ambiguity as they transition into foster care, as well as the questions children ask during this critical life transition. Dr. Mitchell uses child-centered research, practical examples, and healing suggestions to create a foundation from which to build a relational home. Drawing from the compelling stories of children, she invites readers to join children on their journey as they transition into the foster care system and courageously share their experiences of loss, ambiguity, fear, and hope. Dr. Mitchell is passionate about enhancing the lives of children in foster care. Her research focuses on life transitions, meaning-making, grief and loss, ambiguity, and youth empowerment.

Order your copy of The Neglected Transition: Building a Relational Home for Children Entering Foster Care today at oup.com/us.


2 Hooding 10Many students walked across the stage to receive their Masters of Social Work this December and become University of South Carolina alumni, but for a few of them, it was their first time setting foot in South Carolina. These students completed the College of Social Work’s Korea-based MSW program, a unique program made possible via many partnerships with Korean universities. Dr. Sung Seek Moon, Director of the MSW program in Korea for the past two years, coordinated the December visit to USC for university commencement and CoSW hooding.

The Korea-based MSW program began in 1994, initially meant to serve U.S. military personnel interested in pursuing social work studies. However, according to Moon, many Korean students wanted to study U.S.-based social work, which is typically more practice-driven. The program continued to grow and can now boast a total of 195 alumni, including 19 this year.

At the December CoSW hooding, two Korea-based MSW graduates were honored with awards: Seungha Cho won the Academic Excellence award, and Kang hee Kim was recognized for Outstanding Leadership. This was the first visit to the U.S. for both graduates, and they delighted in the campus tour, citing the historic Horseshoe as a special favorite. While in Columbia, Dr. Nancy Brown ensured the graduates enjoyed a taste of South Carolina cuisine, including shrimp and grits and barbeque. Cho noted that SC barbeque, dripping with sauce, is quite different compared to Korean barbeque, which emphasizes salt and texture.

2 Hooding 15Beyond the chance to sample culinary traditions, the CoSW provided these students with something very special: MSW programs in Korean universities are typically very theory-driven and only require 120 hours in the field. USC’s MSW program emphasizes the importance of internships in the process of becoming a professional social worker by requiring 900 hours of work in the field. Students Cho and Kim indicated that this opportunity to develop their social work practice was a key factor in deciding to enroll.

Both Kim and Cho chose USC’s MSW program because of the stellar faculty and the practice-based curriculum. Cho noted that learning from expert faculty was “very powerful.” “Their knowledge is beautiful,” she said. Kim loved how her classes were active, often using role-play exercises to help students grasp an idea. Cho agreed that practice and a focus on professionalism were highlights of the curriculum. Cho especially enjoyed Dr. Daniel Freedman’s class for his expertise in mental health (her field of specialization) and his helpful feedback to students.

The Korea-based MSW program offers night and weekend classes for working professionals, and most instruction is in-person with USC faculty who stay in Korea for the duration of each academic term. This set-up, said Moon, is “beneficial for USC faculty members” because it allows them the opportunity to experience the culture. There is “an emerging trend is immersed experiences,” said Moon, and faculty can have this valuable experience as they teach in Korea for 6-8 weeks and also connect and collaborate with Korean social work scholars. The MSW in Korea is not just for U.S. service members anymore, asserted Moon, or even just for Korean students—USC faculty researchers have quite a bit to gain as well.

3 Tuesdays Dinner 31Moon said that the Korean program is a “very unique opportunity” for both students and faculty because it offers a “common ground to expand USC’s global perspective” and work with Korean faculty and universities. He cited the exciting new Graduate Certificate in Drug and Addiction Studies led by Dr. Nancy Brown in concert with Namseoul University as one example of working with Korean leaders in social work on global issues.

Of the ten graduates who made the trip, some were hesitant to come, largely due to the commitment and expense of traveling so far. But, Moon noted, after the university commencement and CoSW hooding ceremonies, many confessed to him that the visit was meaningful and has given them “unforgettable memories.” Participating in commencement here in Columbia has given the new graduates a sense of community and ownership of their degrees, and “they feel like members of the USC community.”

Both Kim and Cho hope to attain PhDs in social work in the U.S. Kim is currently planning to perfect her English language skills before applying; Cho has already applied to doctoral programs, hoping to follow in the footsteps of her mother, who is a professor of social work in Korea.

Reflecting on her USC MSW experience, Cho stated that is was a great opportunity for learning a different style of social work practice. “I’d like to say ‘thank you’ to USC for allowing us to have this program.”

Stacey M Olson04.18.2016

A spark that ignited in an undergraduate Child Advocacy Studies course at USC Upstate has now transitioned into a local adaptation of the National Compassionate Schools Initiative. Stacey Olson, a first year MSW student, is currently undertaking an Independent Study at the USC Upstate Child Protection Training Center to examine the existing framework of the Compassionate School Initiative established by Washington State. Under the direction and supervision of Dr. Jennifer Parker and Dr. Lynn McMillan of USC Upstate, and Dr. Naomi Farber with the USC College of Social Work Olson has completed an extensive review of the literature and helped propose a training series for educators in Spartanburg, SC. She says, “The thought of more than half of the children in an average classroom having some form of an adverse event in their life before the age of 18 inspired me to want to share this information with others.”

The Compassionate Schools framework provides a flexible structure that can be adapted to meet the unique needs of each school environment. The aim of the series of trainings is to create a universal understanding school-wide that traumatic event/s (in any form) can be stressful, burdensome, and have an enormous impact on a student’s ability to learn, form relationships, and behave appropriately. The goal is not to identify students who have experienced trauma, but rather to help schools recognize all children need skills of resilience.

Outside the classroom, Olson was also invited to participate on the Spartanburg Compassionate Schools Steering Committee and to be an Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Master Trainer for South Carolina by the Children’s Trust of South Carolina.

For this initiative, each Spartanburg school district was offered 20 slots for school staff to attend a summer training workshop developed by the USC Upstate Child Protection Training Center. Participants will learn about the impact of traumatic experiences on a child's behavior and capacity to learn, and how to focus on compassionate responses in the classroom, among other topics.

s. To learn more, click here.



india gp web

The CoSW will host eight students from Maharaja Sayajirao (MS)University of Baroda which is located in Gujarat, India for ten days this month. The students will pair up with a current CoSW student “buddy” as they learn about social work in the US including education, mental health, drug and substance abuse, geriatrics, and child care.  This visit is a part of an exchange program led by Sudie Nallo and Melissa Reitmeier. Find the story from The Time of India here.


Billingsley Awardees 201604.17.2016

The CoSW’s Institute for Families in Society and the African American Studies Program presented the 2016 Andrew Billingsley Faculty and Community Awards to Dr. Tisha Felder, USC College of Nursing, and Mr. James T. McLawhorn, Columbia Urban League, during the annual Robert Smalls lecture on March 30, 2016. The awards reflect the partnership between the two entities to jointly honor the legacy of Dr. Andrew Billingsley whose extensive body of work highlights the strength and resilience of African American families.

Dr. Tisha Felder, Andrew Billingsley Faculty Award winner, focuses her work on breast cancer prevention and control, with the goal to develop culturally responsive interventions that support mothers who desire to breastfeed and to improve evidence-based cancer care in African American and otherdisadvantaged populations. Mr. James T. McLawhorn, Andrew Billingsley Community Award winner, has initiated job training programs for African American women, fathers and youth; created multiple youth leadership initiatives; helped place foster children into permanent homes; and has promoted understanding and civil rights attainment in the Columbia area.

Click here to learn more.



College students are not the only beneficiaries of the CoSW’s faculty experts and community partnerships. The CoSW often offers CEU opportunities for practitioners in an effort to strengthen our community and foster positive relationships with organizations. The Second Tuesday Series and i3’s Innovation Design Institute are just two ways in which the CoSW is committed to community.

The Second Tuesday Series features rotating guest speakers and is open to anyone. Lana Cook, Field Seminar Instructor and Training Coordinator, currently facilitates the program, which was started by Director of Field Education and Clinical Associate Professor Melissa Reitmeier. Reitmeier introduced the idea three years ago as a way to give back to the field community, explains Cook, and the series took off from there. “Field supervisors give so much of their time,” says Cook, and offering free CEU opportunities seemed like a good way to thank them.

The purpose of Second Tuesdays is to provide the tools required for developing a certain skill set. Additionally, each event boasts excellent opportunities for networking. Social workers from schools, hospitals, and non-profit organizations can learn from each other. Attendees may come to the event hoping to learn about an underserved population, but they can also gain exposure to how other organizations work to serve that population.

This fall semester, Second Tuesday has hosted a workshop on poverty and homelessness, led by the MSW graduate and Director of Programs at Transitions Lauren Wilkie, and a program about working with undocumented immigrants, led by Assistant Professor Ben Roth. Roth was “pleasantly surprised at the number of people in the room who came with questions.” Roth began the evening with a brief history lesson starting in the 1800s, in order to show “how recent the idea of ‘undocumented’ as a category is in relation to the story of immigration in the U.S.” and how important understanding this history is for social workers. Participants asked questions about immigrant rights and immigration policy in South Carolina and were engaged and enthusiastic.

The last Second Tuesday of the year is “Introducing Welcome Table SC: A Collaborative for Race and Reconciliation” with Rushondra James, a Student Services Program Coordinator with the CoSW, and Dawn Campbell, an instructor in Women’s and Gender Studies. James and Campbell were selected as Faculty Facilitators for the new South Carolina Collaborative on Race and Reconciliation sponsored by UofSC’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Advance registration is a must, as seating is limited.

i3 photo2A very different learning opportunity is offered via Dr. Robert Hock’s i3 project, which is an incubator for bold ideas for solving social problems. Applications for the 2017 cohort are due on November 14th. Groups from non-profit organizations can attend a Prep Session and apply for the i3 Incubator. In the future, i3 will host an Innovation Design Institute. The Institute “is part of i3’s mission,” explains Hock, “to help equip leaders in social sector organizations to create innovative solutions and implement them in the community.” Though any group is welcome to apply for the i3 incubator, Institute participants will have an “opportunity to put focused energy into teams of people and to walk everyone through a process” that will help gain a nuanced look at a problem and determine possible solutions. In this human-centered design process, teams identify a problem, craft a problem statement, and use visual thinking techniques like storyboarding or creating a composite of a client. Then, after participants have made some insights, they move on to the brainstorming phase. The goal here is to “keep pushing for the ideas that haven’t emerged yet—then we move into the prototyping process,” says Hock. Participants “build to learn,” an energizing strategy which is not always feasible for time- and cash-strapped non-profits.

“Our hope is to inspire leaders and equip teams to launch new social solutions in our community—and get people excited again!” says Hock. “We’re hoping to spark and be a hub of creativity” for social organizations looking to innovate and invigorate.

i3 will continue to offer prototyping and workshops on program implementation and a variety of free resources on its website. Through innovative projects like i3 and workshops like Second Tuesdays, faculty and staff at the CoSW are engaging the community and strengthening social work practice in South Carolina.

Darby Enright04.12.2016

BSW student Darby Enright was presented with the 2016 Stand Up Carolina award. The Stand Up Carolina Hero Awards, hosted by Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention & Prevention, recognize accountable bystanders—members of the University of South Carolina community whospeak up,stand up, take action, and make a difference in the lives of others. Through a variety of actions and deeds, large and small, Stand Up Carolina Hero Award recipients have helped friends, classmates, coworkers, and even complete strangers.

Darby said, “I am so humbled and thankful to have received a Stand Up Carolina HERO Award. I am blessed to attend a University that has offered me so many opportunities to grow both in leadership and philanthropic efforts."

Latino community with 10.31.2016

When Lauren Andreu began the MSW program, she looked around the classroom and was surprised not to see “a ton of people who looked like me.” Andreu, a native South Carolinian and Cuban-American, knew that the Latino population in South Carolina was climbing, but this demographic shift wasn’t represented in her program.

Andreu also experienced some knowledge gaps in her classes and was often called upon to represent the Latino perspective. “Sometimes that was alienating,” she admits, and problematic—“I’m just one person,” she says. She couldn’t possibly represent the variety and complexity of Latino experience.

Andreu was inspired to take action by her first-year internship at PASOs, an organization dedicated to building healthy families in the Latino community. At a stakeholders’ meeting with service providers, Andreu recalls hearing a nurse tell a story about a laboring pregnant woman who had to wait two hours for a translator to arrive at the hospital. Hearing that story “just put an exclamation point on my initial thought” that there are gaps in resources and services for Latinos in South Carolina, says Andreu. This “ah-ha” moment led Andreu to seek out other students, the dean, and Assistant Professor Ben Roth.

The result of their efforts is the new Latino Leadership Development Initiative, which aims to recruit and retain talented Latino students. Andreu stresses that the initiative wouldn’t have taken off without the “efforts and energies” of other students, including recent MSW graduate Alfonso Franco and current BSW student Melissa Aguirre. So far, the initiative has produced a strategic plan that outlines steps for increasing Latino student enrollment within the next five years. According to Roth, the initiative seeks “to equip students and faculty to better engage, serve, and collaborate with the Latino community.” This goal can be achieved by increasing Latino representation within the College and providing additional training opportunities.

The initiative began as a simple dialogue: “a group of undergraduate and graduate students had a couple meetings and convened a group of faculty to talk with them,” says Roth, “opening up the opportunity for those students to share their perspective.” Over a dozen faculty attended this fruitful initial conversation. The students set the agenda and started by each sharing the story of their path to higher education. “They wanted a more nuanced and sophisticated appreciation of who Latinos are,” explains Roth. Some of these students were international, some were local, and all had different experiences. These personal stories were “a really captivating way to engage these heads of programs at the College,” says Roth, noting that “everyone was enthusiastically supportive.”

Key to the initiative’s success is keeping the dialogue going. This semester, the initiative is sponsoring a lunch event for Latino students and allies. The goal of the meeting, according to Roth, is “to formalize a core group of students for carrying the initiative forward and raising further awareness” of the issues faced by members of the Latino community.

Short-term goals include reducing some of the financial barriers that Latino students may encounter. The strategic plan recommends the creation of new scholarships and graduate assistantships, including a dedicated graduate assistant for the initiative. Other goals include improving Latino visibility and making the CoSW more welcoming to Latino students. These multi-faceted goals recognize that there is no easy, one-size-fits-all solution to improving Latino recruitment and retention in the CoSW; after all, “Latino” encompasses a variety of different experiences and perspectives.

Andreu has already been recognized for her hard work: she’s a recent recipient of the prestigious Gosnell Scholarship, awarded by the National Association of Social Workers. The award is named after Consuelo Gosnell, a prominent social worker and civil rights activist, and was also awarded to Roth when he was an MSW student. For Andreu, the scholarship “means that there are people in the social work realm who really value the importance of the work that is being done with Latino communities,” and she says she is encouraged by it.

Andreu hopes that the initiative extends well past her graduation and “gains traction with faculty and staff,” citing the importance of added cultural competence in the classroom so students are ready to engage with the Latino community when they enter the field. Thanks to the efforts of Andreu and Roth, the Latino Leadership Development Initiative is providing a path toward improved representation and cultural competence that will prepare CoSW graduates for the future.

Anyone interested in supporting the Latino Leadership Development Initiative is welcome to contact CoSW development officer Sarah Wells at (803) 777-3902 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Learn more about ways to support the CoSW here.

Thinking like a Social Worker


CoSW faculty Terry Wolfer and Melissa Reitmeier will present the inaugural Case Method Training Institute July 20-23, 2016. The purpose of this training institute is to equip social workers, educators and field instructors to foster critical thinking and problem solving skills. Case method teaching requires active participation, application of relevant theory and the generation and evaluation of solutions. Dr. Wolfer, CoSW PhD Program Coordinator, has co-edited or coauthored six collections of decision cases, including most recently Decision Cases for Advanced Social Work Practice: Confronting Complexity. Dr. Reitmeier, Director of CoSW Field Education, has taught the case-based MSW capstone course for 12 years, authored several decision cases, and conducted research on learning outcomes of case method teaching.

This Training Institute qualifies for 15 CEUs. For additional information and registrations, click here.

field nov story10.31.2016

Working in the field is an important part of the curriculum for MSW students. According to Director of Field Education and Clinical Associate Professor Melissa Reitmeier, in a field placement “there’s a lot of opportunity for students to learn about a client and the multiple systems that impact them,” and this allows students to “apply the theory, values, and knowledge” from the classroom. The College of Social Work boasts over five hundred connections to community organizations across South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia. Here is a look at just a few ways CoSW students are learning and serving out in the field.

Kershaw County High Schools and Richland School District Two are field sites where CoSW interns are improving their social work practice and helping families. Camden and Lugoff-Elgin High Schools in Kershaw County offer an interdisciplinary setting. The graduate students placed here have the opportunity to interact with mental health providers, school counselors, teachers, school staff, families, and students. Their role, explains field instructor Dr. Candice Morgan, “is to provide the support for human services” while also implementing the Aspire program developed by Dr. Aidyn Iachini.

Aspire is a nine-lesson program designed to assist ninth graders who are at risk for dropping out of school. The program incorporates motivational interviewing (MI) and skill building in order to support these students in making the positive changes they envision for themselves. Iachini and Professor Rhonda DiNovo provide forty hours of training in MI to prepare students for working in this placement, followed by conducting role plays in which students receive personalized feedback on their MI skills. Once the students are working on-site, they work in concert with school counselors, principals, and others to determine which ninth graders would be a good fit for the Aspire intervention. Iachini explains that the program is structured thusly: “the first four lessons are the clinician/CoSW intern getting to know the high school students, their values, what they care about, what they think they’re doing well in school, and areas where they’d like to see improvement.” After fostering a conversation with the high schoolers, the CoSW intern helps the students develop change plans with feasible goals and then monitors their progress.

At Richland Two, CoSW student Ashley Clay works on-campus but off-site, rather than in the school building like at Camden. Morgan says that this placement is a “very focused behavioral health setting” in which the graduate students provide individual counseling services (with supervision) to parents and students. Clay values the opportunity to work in an interdisciplinary setting, stating that she has “learned several techniques from the counselors that I used that are very helpful in my practice,” and she believes that having this experience will serve her well post-graduation. “Before I was always social work, social work,” says Clay, “but to do our jobs effectively sometimes we have to work with others that have different backgrounds and perspectives. At my field placement I get a well-rounded experience.”

Another unique field placement is at the Free Medical Clinic, and Keisha Magee is currently working there. “I really admire the staff at the Free Medical Clinic because they donate their time to help those in need,” says Magee, who values the opportunities for networking and creative thinking offered by the Clinic. Her placement has allowed her to directly help those in need. “Recently, I was able to contact an agency and receive a donated CPAP machine for a patient at the clinic,” she says, and she's been able to assist patients with finding eye care, dental care, and meals. “Being able to collaborate with other professionals to treat the person as a ‘whole’ in order to improve patient care is very important to me,” notes Magee, and her placement here has fostered an interest in medical social work.

A good field placement “needs to develop core competencies for our students,” says Reitmeier, which means “unique and varied opportunities to achieve mastery.” Field placements in the CoSW can offer hands-on experience, exposure to other disciplines, and inspiration for career goals. Morgan is grateful for the field office’s support in supervising these unique placements and “making sure that the students and myself feel confident that the student will make autonomous decisions and feel comfortable enough to call and ask for guidance as they need it.” Iachini notes that CoSW students also “have access to a lot of faculty to support their learning and skill development.” Iachini, Morgan, DiNovo, and Andy Flaherty, as well as an on-site field preceptor and field liaison, all work together to facilitate the Kershaw County Schools placement. According to Morgan, the goal is for every CoSW student “to work autonomously as a social worker will in the field,” ensuring that each graduate of the program is ready to effect positive change in every possible client system.



A new study abroad program recently returned from India, and the 15 students and 2 faculty involved will treasure the experience for a lifetime. Dr. Melissa Reitmeier, Clinical Assistant Professor and Director of Field Education, calls it “a life-changing experience on so many levels” and “an intellectual opportunity.”

The program is the result of an ongoing cultural exchange between Maharaja Sayajirao (M.S.) University of Baroda in Gujrarat, India, and the College of Social Work under the leadership of Dean Anna Scheyett. Last year, Professors Bhavna Mehta and M. N. Parmar visited USC thanks to a Provost’s Visiting Scholars grant. During their visit, they expressed interest in developing field placements, and a study abroad program was offered as a first step. Clinical Assistant Professor and program leader Sudie Nallo was able to visit India previously on grant from the Walker Institute of International and Area Studies, and she hopes that USC’s relationship with the M. S. University continues beyond these grants. “I hope these students will be ambassadors” and enable an ongoing relationship, she says. Reitmeier joined Nallo as an additional faculty member to supervise the students and to assess what global field and service learning opportunities for social work practice might exist. She was also there to identify and encourage collaborations between faculty with similar research interests.

india1According to Nallo and Reitmeier, India offers social work students a new perspective, not only on how to solve social problems but what constitute social problems in the first place. India’s population is so huge, explains Reitmeier, that the size of the population results in an approach to solving social problems that is at times “more progressive and innovative even than ours.”

Each morning, students attended lectures at the M. S. University and then went on observations in the afternoons. Students were able to draw fruitful comparisons between the cultural and social problems addressed in the lectures and what they are learning back home. For example, one lecture dealt with the topic of domestic violence, and students noted that both India and South Carolina have high rates of domestic violence and were able to view an issue with which they have some familiarity through a different lens. Nallo says she “implored students not to see India as different, and challenged them to see similarities.”

india2Students were able to observe social work in a variety of contexts, including a hospital, a vocational school, an ashram, and the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA). At SEWA, students toured both the factory and the store run by the women. At the Muni Seva Ashram, students visited a day care, a nursing school, an obstetric/gynecological clinic, and a home for the elderly. Students also visited Gandhi’s home and the Akshardham, a grand Hindu temple.

The trip made an indelible impact on everyone. Allison Volk, a second-year MSW student, says visiting rural villages and seeing the passion of the social work practitioners “made me want to be more pro-active and fight for things” when necessary. Student Briannea Hastie agrees, noting that, comparatively, “we have so many privileges and resources” here in the United States that we should not hesitate when faced with barriers.

Reitmeier’s favorite part of the trip was seeing students’ personal and professional growth: “It really was a life-changing experience in terms of having the opportunity to immerse yourself in another culture but within the same profession—we’re all working toward the same thing.” Donna Dixon, also a second-year MSW student, agrees that “we all kind of approach social issues the same way,” and for her this realization was incredibly inspiring. “We’re not alone” in wanting to change the world, she says. “They’re working, too.”

Plans are already underway to offer the program next winter, while the first cohort eagerly anticipates a reunion soon.


The Fall semester began a few weeks ago bringing new students, new challenges and new opportunities. One such opportunity, that also happens to be a challenge, is the CoSW search for a new, full-time dean. We are pleased to have the Parker Executive Search Firm directing the search and Dr. Thomas Chandler, Dean of the School of Public Health, serve as the search committee chair. The committee is comprised of CoSW faculty, staff, students, donors and alums, along with University officials. For additional information, please see the official position description here.

Carla Damron book cover03.10.2016

The Stone Necklace might not feature a social worker character, but Carla Damron’s background in the field nonetheless informs her writing. Damron, an alumna of the USC College of Social Work’s MSW program, is the author of the Caleb Knowles books which follow a clinical social worker as he solves mysteries, so her most recent novel is a bit of a departure.

The Stone Necklace is set in Columbia, SC, and follows the intersecting lives of a diverse cast of characters, including a nurse, a homeless man, and a teenage girl. Just published in February, The Stone Necklace has already received acclaim: in addition to being called “masterful” by renowned author Pat Conroy, the novel was selected for the One Book, One Community initiative this year. The purpose of One Book, One Community is to engage Richland County residents by reading a book together, generating discussion, and participating in events centered on the book.

As this year’s One Book selection, The Stone Necklace has been serialized in The State newspaper and been the focus of numerous cultural events. Damron recalls being shocked by the first book event, held at a small library branch. She expected perhaps a dozen people, but almost 100 showed up. The purpose of One Book is to bring a community together, and Damron feels that the One Book organizers have been incredibly creative in this regard, sponsoring an improv night, a jewelry-making class, and a photography show, in which three photographers captured images of people and locations around Columbia inspired by the novel.

In addition to staying busy with One Book events, Damron serves as the Executive Director of the South Carolina chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW-SC). Prior to her role with NASW-SC, Damron worked at the Department of Mental Health. Her experience as a social worker informs both the content of her writing and the ways in which she approaches the writing process. “Because I’ve worked in mental health for so long,” she explains, “I use the same approach I use when I work with clients in working with the characters” in order to create fully-realized people with compelling back stories and motivations. With The Stone Necklace, Damron wanted to pull from her social work knowledge and write about recovery. “I’m a great believer in recovery,” she says, “so that was a thread I wanted to be there.” As it turns out, the main characters of The Stone Necklace “are all dealing with their own recovery story in one way or another.”

Social work informs Damron’s writing, but is the reverse true? Damron’s work with NASW-SC requires a variety of writing, including editorials, newsletter articles, and letters. The work of advocacy, in short, demands a good writer. Damron believes that writing, whether a novel or case notes, “teaches you to think creatively and problem-solve creatively.”

Creativity is an aspect of social work that Damron appreciates. “One thing I love about social work is that it’s such a wide field,” she says. “There’s so many different things you can do,” she notes, running through the various roles she’s held over the years, including counselor, therapist, program manager, and administrator. For now, though, she’s happy as a novelist/advocate, using her gift with words to make a difference: “I feel like it’s my job to be a voice for all of South Carolina’s social workers and the clients we serve.”


Julie SmithwickJulie Smithwick, a 2005 MSW graduate, is the founder and director of PASOs at USC’s Arnold School for Public Health. PASOs, which means steps, provides culturally responsive health education, services and navigational guidance to about 8,500 Latinos a year in 29 of the Palmetto State’s 46 counties. Learn more about the program here.


IMG 139903.10.2016

Dr. Sue Levkoff is the recent recipient of an R25 grant from the National Institute on Aging, one of the institutes of the National Institutes of Health. An R25 grant, she explains, is a research education grant, and this one will allow her to provide undergraduate students from five historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in South Carolina with research training in aging, medicine, and STEM at UofSC. Levkoff has the active involvement of several UofSC faculty including: Dr. Alan White, Associate Dean for Undergraduate STEM Education for the College of Arts and Sciences, who has been a leader in the field of science education and will help ensure that the training program meets the educational needs of the participating students; Dr. Jenay Beer, Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Sciences and Engineering and College of Social Work; Dr. Shaun Owens, Assistant Professor in the College of Social Work; Sudie Nallo, Clinical Assistant Professor in the College of Social Work; and Dr. Lauren Clark, Research Manager in the UofSC Office of Research. A long-time colleague of Levkoff from Harvard Medical School, Dr. Hongtu Chen, serves as the outside evaluator for the program.

IMG 1406The overall goal of the SC-ADAR program is to increase the number of qualified underrepresented racial and ethnic minority students who pursue scientific graduate studies in programs focused on science and aging. The components of the SC-ADAR include: two ten-week summer research training programs, in which selected students will work in a lab under the mentorship of a UofSC faculty member, participate in courses developed specifically for the program to introduce students to the basic biological and social theories of aging, attend professional development seminars offered by the UofSC Office of Research, and engage in networking events with other students participating in summer National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates programs at UofSC. The summer program is a full-time residential program, with students being paid a stipend and living in campus housing. The SC-ADAR summer will culminate in a poster presentation at UofSC Summer Research Day.

IMG 1394Levkoff cites the valuable input of coordinators at the HBCUs in nominating students to apply for the program. After a competitive application process, a cohort of eight students, hailing from Allen University, Benedict College, Claflin University, and Morris College, was chosen. Eight new students will be selected each year for the five years covered by the R25 grant funding.

The SC-ADAR is “completely interdisciplinary,” which is Levkoff’s modus operandi. “For over 30 years as a social scientist faculty member at Harvard Medical School, I have collaborated with physicians on various research studies and educational training programs,” she says, so she’s accustomed to, and enjoys working with, people in other fields. “The opportunity with the SC-ADAR is to take those interdisciplinary skills, working across disciplines and bringing people together” and turn them into wonderful research training opportunities. Levkoff reached out to many UofSC schools and departments, including medicine, nursing, public health, and computer science and engineering, in order to identify research mentors willing to accept students into their labs and offer them experiences in research. From the resulting list of faculty labs, students were able to choose what interested them most. The matching process ensures that students are paired with a project and mentor that best fit their interests and goals; likewise, it allows faculty members to choose students who they believe would be the best fit for their lab.

The program extends past the two summer research experiences, though. Levkoff explains, “each student has two co-mentors, one at UofSC who will serve as the primary mentor during the summer research training, and one at the HBCU, who will serve as the primary mentor during the academic year between the two summer sessions.” When students return to their home institutions for their junior year, they will meet with their HBCU mentors, who will serve as “cheerleaders” to encourage the students’ sustained interest and enthusiasm in research and in pursuing graduate school education in the sciences or health professions. The HBCU mentors will also offer hands-on support with the application process for graduate training, all of which Levkoff hopes will lead to students pursuing careers in academic medicine and/or STEM fields as they relate to aging. Levkoff is especially proud of the proposed co-mentoring model, and hopes that those HBCU co-mentors who wish to collaborate on aging –related research with UofSC mentors will have the support to do so through the SC-ADAR program.

Providing this training in research is a calling for Dr. Levkoff. She notes that although her focus is primarily research, “I see myself as an educator, and the most important thing I can do as a professor is train the next generation.” She cites the immense privilege of having a strong educational background as her motivation. “It’s my turn to give back,” she says, and ensure that minority students have access to the mentors, education, and research opportunities that they might not otherwise have.


SERG logoSERG: Student Empowerment Resource Group is a new initiative comprised of faculty and staff who were concerned about CoSW students. In true social work fashion, faculty and staff want to ensure that students have a strong foundation so that they can succeed in school.

Deborah Duvall and Sudie Nallo are currently co-chairs of SERG. Nallo, a clinical professor, explains that after the disastrous flooding in October, CoSW faculty and staff came to realize that students have crises that may overwhelm them and affect their academic success. SERG is meant to support those students.

“I think all of us have had students who have come to our attention,” says Duvall, assistant to the dean. She’s been surprised and dismayed to learn of CoSW students who struggle to pay rent, who are not eating well, who experience a medical emergency, or who are taking care of disabled or impoverished relatives. One student needed an emergency loan to keep from being evicted; another student couldn’t afford a much-needed flash drive. CoSW faculty and staff decided that they could provide “a better developed resource base” for serving students in need.

According to Nallo, CoSW faculty and staff “were presented with this opportunity to address one of the issues we saw play out in the real-world, affecting our students’ abilities to successfully matriculate.” As a clinical professor, Nallo feels that SERG “would be the most ideal place that I could be of service to the college,” connecting resource opportunities that help get students to graduation.

serg fall2016“Faculty and staff got together and began meeting every other week,” says Duvall. Then they invited students to come share their needs. The result? So far, SERG has facilitated the installation of a charging station in Hamilton for charging phones, laptops, and other devices; hosted a self-care workshop about mindfulness; and established a supply closet with pens, ponchos, and other items for students to ensure they are prepared and ready to succeed.

Duvall notes that the chief goal of SERG is to “create a safe space” for students in need to come forward and ask for help and not be embarrassed, saying, “we have students who have worked so hard to get here, and we want this to be successful for them.”

SERG’s goals for next year include increasing visibility, hosting workshops, and working on an online resource tool. SERG currently has an online portal which serves as a hub for students to locate resources for tutoring, meals, housing, interviewing, and more. Additionally, faculty can log in to the portal to make referrals. Having these sorts of resources readily available for students in need “can be the difference between passing and failing,” explains Nallo, so a key goal for SERG in the next year will be refining and expanding that portal.

Also in the coming year, SERG will host a variety of educational opportunities, including a financial literacy workshop to inform students about budgeting and how to make financial decisions should a crisis occur. “We want to have high impact training events that provide the students with skills they can apply in their day-to-day life,” says Nallo.

The key message that Nallo wants students to know is this: “Support is available through the College of Social Work to help you successfully graduate and achieve your career goals.”


Kyunghee MaKyunghee Ma, a CoSW Ph.D. student, has received two grants to further her research, “Acculturation Stress and Depression among International Students from China and India at the University of South Carolina” from the USC Office of Research and the Shorelight Education Research Project. Ms. Ma’s research explores the relationship between acculturation stress and depression among first-year international students from China and India at USC and also examines the moderating impact of social support on depression. Her studies focus on students from collectivist Asian cultures because these students are more vulnerable to the negative impact of acculturation stress on mental health due to cultural emphasis on internal regulations and stigma associated with mental illness.
The USC Office of Research sponsors the Support to Promote Advancement of Research and Creativity (SPARC) grant to provide funding but also to give students the experience of preparing a competitive grant application. The Shorelight Education Research Project is a pilot effort to encourage research about international student success at our partner universities. This is the inaugural distribution of funds.


newman povertyA group of CoSW faculty and staff recently completed Poverty Factor Training, a series presented by the I. DeQuincey Newman Institute for Peace and Social Justice and the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina. A diverse group of faculty and staff completed the four module series, and they now have seals to place on their doors that recognize them as “resource advocates.” This designation indicates that they are willing and able to point students toward resources.

The impetus for the training was increasing concern about some students’ unique challenges. According to CoSW professor and Newman Institute Director Ronald Pitner, “last year, our Dean approached faculty a few times about students who were having financial challenges,” and she was “concerned about what we as a college could do to help.” This discussion resulted in the formation of the Student Empowerment Resource Group (SERG) and prompted faculty to “think of ourselves as first responders to students,” says Pitner, and to “make sure that we are more cognizant of the ways that students are affected by poverty.” Tom Keith, President of the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina, sees this partnership with the CoSW “as a first step in helping to further educate faculty and staff at UofSC about poverty. Poverty is everywhere and we often don't see it or understand it.”

Helping lead the charge was Katrina Spigner, the Consultant for Community Engagement for the Newman Institute and President and CEO of Re-Source Solutions. Before taking on these roles, she worked for the Sisters of Charity Foundation and developed educational programming for non-profits across South Carolina under the auspices of Carolina Academy. In 2014, she piloted a training on generational and situational poverty for teachers in the Richland 2 School District. “It far exceeded what we expected,” she says, and “teachers had tremendous ‘a-ha’ moments.” Poverty Factor Training is “designed to push you past your thinking into a different way of perceiving people who live in poverty.”

Poverty Factor Training is successful because it is customized to the audience. The first day of the Poverty Factor Training consisted of an icebreaker in which participants identified goals that would shape the following days of training. The experiential lessons that followed also presented a special opportunity for faculty and staff to come together to have difficult discussions about the challenges faced by students coming from generational poverty.

Participants examined the mindsets of people who live in wealth, live in the middle class, and live in poverty, explains Spigner, considering issues based on each of those mindsets. “How does a person who lives in wealth think about education, or friendships, or community, or education?” asks Spigner, and how does that compare to the mindset of someone living in middle class or poverty? “For example, for someone living in wealth, the question is not going to college,” she suggests, but which Ivy League institution is the best fit. For middle class individuals, the question may be how to ensure scholarships. For people in poverty, “college is often not even on the radar,” says Spigner. It’s important to examine topics like education from these different perspectives since so many of our institutions are situated from a middle class perspective, she explains.

Poverty Factor Training “exposes faculty and staff to the many dimensions of poverty that exist today,” says Keith, expressing gratitude for the CoSW “for embracing this effort and making it a success.” Pitner hopes that more faculty and staff will complete the training. “Our ultimate goal is for us to conduct the Poverty Factor Training again, not only within our college but also with different entities on campus,” he says, and Spigner confirms plans for a training in the spring semester. Spigner affirms that the Newman Institute’s goal with Poverty Factor Training “wasn’t just to keep it within the walls of the College of Social Work, but to offer it wherever there was an opportunity.”

An upcoming training will be tailored to school nurses in Lancaster, SC. Poverty Factor Training “is appropriate for any person, any vocation, that is in a helping vocation” says Spigner. Hopefully, Poverty Factor Training will continue spreading the message about how students are affected by poverty and how to address it in a productive and empathetic manner. As Spigner reminds us, “poverty has no face; it could be anybody,” and now the CoSW will be better prepared to meet their needs.


astrid casasolaCoSW is pleased to congratulate Ms. Astrid Casasola, a senior in our baccalaureate social work program, on winning the 2016 Outstanding BSW Student by the NASW-SC. Ms. Casasola has a strong cumulative GPA, and has been on the Dean’s list every semester at USC-Columbia since fall 2012.  Among her many community outreach interests, she is a founding member of Kappa Delta Chi Sorority, a service-based organization that strives to establish a sisterhood that is passionate about providing service. Dr. Dan Freedman describes Ms. Casasola as “one of the most compassionate, motivated, and intelligent students I have ever taught.” The award will be presented during the Town Hall meeting of the NASW-SC spring symposium, March 21-23, in Columbia, SC. 

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Korea TableFaculty members spent the summer across the globe: they presented research in Vietnam, taught in our Korea-based MSW program, participated in a new study abroad program in Costa Rica, and initiated a graduate certificate program in Korea. Their work expanded the CoSW’s international reach, which already includes study abroad experiences in India and Vietnam.

This year marked the second international conference on the topic of school social work co-hosted by the UofSC CoSW and the Hanoi National University of Education. Faculty members Aidyn Iachini, Huong Nguyen, Melissa Reitmeier, Kristina Webber, and Terry Wolfer gave presentations on their current research and attended a workshop. Nguyen notes that presenting research abroad has special benefits for research: “Presenting research in Vietnam is important for our faculty to extend the impact of their scholarship to a country that is making historic development in social work. It also expands our faculty’s experiences in terms of how to modify and adapt American concepts and models of social work practices into a country with very different political, economic, social, and cultural context.”

Nguyen notes that “there is a lot for social work scholars in Vietnam and the U.S to learn from each other.” Vietnamese social work researchers gain insight into evidence-based practices used in the U.S., Nguyen explains, whereas U.S. scholars can learn about the way in which Vietnamese social workers are trained, “including a very different curriculum decided nationally by the central government, different structures for field education, and also different ways to connect social work schools with field settings.” By going to Vietnam to learn and share, our faculty have even more unique insights to the field that they can bring into the classroom.

Some students benefitted directly from cultural exchange this summer. Professor Ben Roth was one of five UofSC faculty members to lead a new study abroad program in Costa Rica this past May. The program, which centered on the issue of global health, included courses in Spanish, public health, and geography. Students were constantly immersed in Costa Rican life, staying with local host families in San Juan.

Roth taught “Social Welfare Institutions, Policies, and Programs,” which offered an in-depth look at the history and evolution of the social welfare state. Students read about U.S. social programs and then saw Costa Rican programs and institutions firsthand, a particularly “refreshing way to approach the content,” explains Roth. He notes that the “comparative nature of the service-learning aspect enhanced their understanding” in a unique way. Students spent their service-learning hours in a range of institutions, including a state-run psychiatric hospital, a state-run nursing home, and a clinic that provides services to people with HIV.

For Roth, seeing his students gain extensive knowledge and develop analytical tools for processing that knowledge is one of the best parts about teaching abroad. “The most rewarding aspect of the trip for me was debriefing with students after their service-learning experiences,” he says, allowing him “a window into how the overall experience was influencing them intellectually and personally.” The “USC in Costa Rica: Global Health” program will be offered Maymester 2017 as well.

In addition to participating in this new study abroad opportunity in Costa Rica, the CoSW continues to boast a strong outpost of the MSW program in Korea. This summer was Professor Candice Morgan’s fourth time teaching in the Korean MSW program, and she hopes it won’t be her last. “I always have a very rewarding time over there,” she says, and her time with her Korean students has positively influenced her interactions with her American students.

This summer, Morgan taught a course focusing on community social work with the goal of training students “who are interested in community organizing to be able to analyze the issues and to develop a way to respond to the issues with the idea of making positive social change.” When she teaches similar content here in Columbia, she often starts with the abolitionist movement, “big historical moments,” she explains, so teaching in Korea provides an exciting challenge to re-contextualize the material. “When you go over there [to Korea] to teach, you learn your subject from a different point of view,” and this makes her a stronger teacher as a result.

Social work students in Korea also have a new opportunity for learning from the CoSW’s excellent faculty. In coordination with Namseoul University, the CoSW now offers a graduate certificate in addiction studies. Nancy Brown, Director of the Graduate Certificate in Drug and Addiction Studies, hopes that this new program will both prepare students for working in the field and help the Korean social work community advocate for themselves. The inaugural cohort of 15 will complete coursework and a field placement.

Brown wants to see addiction programs “expanding treatment and making it accessible,” and she believes training social workers in this certificate program will make a difference. “Being part of improving treatment, whether it’s here [in South Carolina] or in Korea has been my goal as a social work educator and counselor,” says Brown, and the new program with Namseoul University is an important step in furthering that goal.

Our faculty are making an impact at home and abroad, building relationships and having experiences that will shape their research and teaching. As a result, the CoSW continues to have an international reach that makes it truly unique.


WKD2016CoSW faculty member Dr. Teri Browne is a Co-Investigator on a Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) funded project to provide a model of care that improves the lives of patients with kidney disease and their families. Kidney Prepare Now, which stands for
Resources to
And Families’
Readiness to
Engage in Kidney Care
Break the News
Review your Options
Weigh the Pros and Cons,
puts patients at the center of their care. The five year study seeks to improve the care patients receive as they transition through stages of kidney disease toward kidney failure and study whether these changes lead to improved patient health and well-being. For additional information on Kidney Prepare Now, visit www.kidneypreparenow.org.

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