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MSW Student Poster Presentations

Young, Black and Gay: The Documentary

BSW Cording & MSW Hooding

Professor Christina Andrews research into the differences in Medicaid coverage for substance use treatment and opioid use disorder medications was referenced in a recent article in The Atlantic magazine. Andrews and Colleen Grogan, Ph.D., of the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, conducted a survey to collect data as part of a nationwide survey of state Medicaid programs. Their research discovered that several states failed to cover all levels of care required for effective substance use disorder treatment or medications required for effective opioid use disorder treatment. The lack of coverage could possibly result in a lack of access to needed services for low-income populations.    

The article, How France Cut Heroin Overdoses by 79 Percent in 4 Years, discussed how overdose deaths have decreased in France and how changes in policy could decrease the numbers in the United States. It included a paragraph on multiple issues in the American healthcare system making accessing buprenorphine (a drug used to treat substance abuse disorder) difficult for addicted people and, per Andrews and Grogan's research, how state Medicaid programs impose limits on coverage.

The Atlantic is a national magazine, published 10 times yearly with more than 450,000 subscribers.

Grogan, C.M., Andrews, C., Abraham, A., Humphreys, K., Pollack, H.A., Smith, B.T., Friedmann, P.D. (2016). Survey Highlights Differences In Medicaid Coverage For Substance Use Treatment And Opioid Use Disorder Medications. Health Affairs


April 16, 2018

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW)–South Carolina Chapter recently honored a College of Social Work Professor and student at the spring symposium held in Columbia from March 21-23.

On the final day of the symposium, the chapter’s Social Work Awards were presented to individuals who best exemplify social work values. Clinical Assistant Professor Daniel Freedman was named the Social Work Educator of the Year, while senior Dannicia Laws received the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) Student of the Year award.

“Winning the award is humbling because I take a lot of pride in the profession and still identify as a practicing social worker,” said Freedman, who also serves as the BSW Program Coordinator. “I am grateful to have the opportunity to integrate practice and teaching.”

Laws, a native of St. Stephen, S.C., was nominated by Freedman for the BSW Student of the Year award.

“I was at the Charlotte airport during spring break when (NASW-SC Executive Director) Carla Damron called and told me I won,” said Laws. “Winning the award is an honor for me to represent the students. I know all of us works hard, and it’s very humbling just to be chosen.”

Laws began her collegiate studies as a psychology major but eventually switched to social work.

“I knew I wanted to do something with working with people and originally wanted to be a guidance counselor,” said Laws. “But after talking with my aunt, who is a social worker, she gave me some ideas about jobs in social work, such as school social work. I did my research and after switching majors, I fell in love with the program.”

The NASW-SC Chapter is a membership organization of professional social workers that works to enhance the professional growth and development of its members. They also help shape legislation affecting the health and welfare of all people.




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 began her role as dean of the CoSW on July 1. Click here to learn more.

April 10, 2018

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is an organization with a mandate to protect refugees and other stateless people. The UNHCR maintains an active research portfolio and collaborates with scholars of forced migration to implement and improve refugee programming. Assistant Professor Breanne Grace, who studies solutions to statelessness in East Africa, was invited in January to present her work at the UNHCR headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland and use their official archive for her research.

“I gave a 45-minute briefing on my research and how it can be applied to their programs,” said Grace. “It was not a lecture but more of a nuts and bolts of a policy brief on specific policy outcomes and advisement for how the UNHCR might design future regional policy based on my data.”

Grace’s research focuses on what the UNHCR calls, “durable solutions to long-term displacement.”

The UN’s three durable solutions are intended to end long-term refugee warehousing and displacement with the goals of returning refugees to the activities of daily life, such as work, sending children to school and other forms of community integration. The UNHCR’s three forms of durable solutions are repatriation, which returns refugees to their home country after war. Local integration provides refugees the opportunity to live and work in a country after war where they sought refuge as an alternative to a refugee camp. Resettlement gives refugees the opportunity to start new lives in a new country.

Grace presented her research on resettlement in Tanzania.

“My research examines regional solutions to encampment, including the first intra-African refugee resettlement program,” said Grace. “Tanzania has a long history of hosting refugees and creating innovative local integration solutions. The research I presented in Geneva examined a program designed for refugees who fled Somalia for Tanzania and the questions of long-term integration.”

Grace’s research was funded through the U.S. State Department, in cooperation with the University of South Carolina’s Rule of Law Collaborative (ROLC), and a sub-initiative, the Justice Sector Training, Research and Coordination (JUSTRAC) program through the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law (INL) Enforcement Affairs (a branch of the state department).

Rule of Law is a principle where power should be governed as a nation with well-defined and established laws. According to Grace, all questions of citizenship relate to Rule of Law. Grace uses longitudinal ethnography to examine how refugees access rights in resettlement over time. She compares how the UNHCR and governments conceptualize and design rights into refugee programming for how refugees daily access their rights.

“The goal of my research is to understand how refuges pursue rights, and the obstacles and barriers they face, so the UN and governments can better design policies for refugees to access their rights,” said Grace. “I’m excited for my research to be part of a conversation with people who regularly discuss refugees’ rights. It was rewarding to be in dialogue with others who design the policies and programs.”

Grace’s JUSTRAC report that formed the basis of her talk, “Complex Vulnerability and Access to Justice for Former Refugee Populations: The Case of the Somali Zigula in Tanzania” is now available on the JUSTRAC website.


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.


April 3, 2018

Former President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.” For one class assignment, five students have used Roosevelt’s advice to educate and share their passion for a legislative bill. 

Master of Social Work students Kathryn Buckley, Lexy Felton, Flavia Gibson, Kendall Moore and Amanda Sandford are students in Professor Kristina Webber’s class, Advanced Policy for Social Work Practice: Children, Youth and Families. At the beginning of this semester, their group came together when they all chose the policy assignment topic, “Educational Opportunities for Dreamers.”

“Balancing various responsibilities along with allotting the time needed to strategize and carry out our plan has made me aware of the amount of effort that is needed in advocacy,” said Sandford. “It was difficult at first to think of what we could do that would be feasible for the semester and most meaningful towards what we ultimately want to achieve.”   

The students decided to focus their efforts on the South Carolina Dreamers Act of 2018 (House Bill 4435/Senate Bill 869), which is legislation that would allow Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients (often called “Dreamers”) in South Carolina to qualify for in-state tuition rates, certain state-based merit earned scholarships and professional licenses. The crossover date for the legislation is April 10, 2018, the last day for a bill to move out of the chamber in which it was introduced and move forward for consideration in the opposite chamber. If nothing is moved forward, the process must start from the beginning in 2019.

“Since our assignment is about policy, the South Carolina Dreamers Act was a perfect plan for us to advocate and push because it is something presented in the legislature right now,” said Moore. “It was fortunate for us to have something we can support right now. The class itself has helped us because we are required to prepare an ‘elevator speech’ to prepare us for talking with legislators and learning more about advocacy.”

With a limited amount of time, the students first created an advocacy plan for the bill through on-and-off-campus efforts. 

“We set up a ‘Take 5 Table’ inside the College of Social Work to talk with students and others on why the bill is important in not only a social work context,” said Felton. “There was also an effort to get people to call their representatives and tell them to vote ‘yes’ so it can move on to the next step in the House.”

Gibson added how the group moved quickly with an imminent deadline.

“We were stuck at first because there’s only so much we could do in a short time period,” said Gibson. “Part of our advocacy plan is calling our legislators to tell them to support the bill and meeting people in person to make a bigger impact. At first, the thought of speaking with a legislator was very intimidating. But as we became more involved with the advocacy plan, we were more confident about speaking with everyone. We used each other’s strengths and weaknesses to accomplish the task.”

The group also collaborated with the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, an organization advocating for social service issues, especially immigration rights.

“Knowing we had a small window of opportunity due to the April 10 deadline helped ignite the fire to get more people aware and involved with the issue,” said Sandford. “I didn't think the five of us had much to offer to make a difference but working with SC Appleseed has reaffirmed the importance and power of collaboration in this field. They graciously provided us with information, tools and guidance we needed to help us begin and follow through with our plans. It is a confusing and overwhelming process to deal with legislation, so it has been great to have an established group committed toward the same goal to use as a resource.” 

Webber’s assignment has also helped Felton increase her knowledge about DACA and the importance of research.

“I went from not knowing a lot about DACA, to being part of this group, understanding more about the legislation, and advocating and sitting in on meetings where I can make a difference in the not just the university community, but the Columbia area as well,” said Felton. “This project is something all of us are very passionate about, and I’ve learned that it makes a huge difference by researching a topic before advocating.”

According to Moore, another benefit of the class is the importance of educating oneself and others on the issue.

“There might be a lot of misconceptions on social media or what people have heard, especially with this bill,” said Moore. “The class itself has really helped us understand how educating people is important in advocacy. People must know what is actually happening and not just go off on what they see on the news or social media.”

But aside from their specific topic, the assignment has helped the group learn about general advocacy for future policies, legislations and campaigns they support.

“As social workers in advocacy work, our main ability is to use our knowledge to educate others,” said Buckley. “While we might not be able to necessarily persuade someone, we can give them the information they need to consider other viewpoints and look at things differently. We’re just trying to research as much as we can and pass along that knowledge to others.”

Gibson added how passion is also an important component of advocacy.

“Personally, I have always been passionate about this topic for many reasons,” said Gibson. “But seeing how the group’s passion about this advocacy plan grew over the weeks has been very inspiring and proof that when people with the same passion and goals get together, there is so much more that can be accomplished.”


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.

March 1, 2018

Today kicks off National Professional Social Work Month. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is lead this year’s celebration with the campaign theme, “Social Workers: Leaders. Advocates. Champions.”

National Social Work Month 2018 webThe campaign will inform the public and legislators about the crucial role social workers for generations have played in improving the well-being of people and improving our society for everyone. For example, social workers such as social reformer Jane Addams, former Labor Secretary Frances Perkins, and civil rights leaders Dorothy Height and Whitney Young have helped Americans secure voting rights, Social Security, unemployment insurance and other programs.

Social work is a fast-growing profession with more than 680,000 social work professionals in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Clinical social workers are the largest group of mental health providers in the United States and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is one of the biggest employers of social workers with a master’s degree.

Social workers are trained to look at situations in a holistic way, helping bring together people and communities to find ways to address pressing individual, group and societal issues such as hunger, affordable housing, equal rights for all and making organizations and government accountable.

Social workers also follow the NASW Code of Ethics, calling on members of the profession to enhance the basic needs of all people, especially on the needs and empowerment of those who are vulnerable, oppressed or living in poverty.

The following is a list of some of the activities the NASW is holding during March to highlight the contributions of the social work profession:

Social Work Month Online Toolkit: The toolkit offers social workers and their allies tools they can use to educate others about the positive impact of social workers. It includes an official proclamation that social workers can have their lawmakers distribute, downloadable logos, and a sample press release and letter to the editor.

NASW “Social Work Talks” Podcast: NASW will launch a “Social Work Talks” podcast series in March with the purpose of informing, educating and inspiring the social work community. The podcast will feature news about NASW policies, services and products, and highlight influential social workers from around the nation.

Television/Video Public Service Announcements: NASW has released two 30-second TV public service announcements that show how social workers help people overcome life’s challenges and highlight the achievements of the social work profession. Social workers and their allies can share the video on their social media channels or ask their local TV stations to air them.

Media Awards: NASW will honor news and magazine articles, TV shows, films and other media that show how social workers are effective advocates, champions and leaders.

Merchandise: Social Work Month merchandise will be used to promote the “Social Workers: Leaders. Advocates. Champions” theme. Jim Coleman LTD is the official vendor.

Please visit the College of Social Work social media channels on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for student, faculty and alumni features during National Professional Social Work Month. 


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..

Feb. 27, 2018

2018 Newman Lecture 7 webPolice shootings are an often-discussed topic in the news and throughout the country. The College of Social Work’s I. DeQuincey Newman Institute for Peace and Justice spotlighted the subject for their 2018 Newman Lecture on Feb. 22 with University of Colorado, Department of Psychology Professor Joshua Correll’s presentation, “Police and Racial Bias: Lessons from the Lab for the Street.”

“I saw Joshua Correll speak at a conference a few years ago about implicit bias in police shootings, and I thought it would be a perfect social justice issue to discuss,” said Professor Ronald Pitner, Director of the Newman Institute. “He focuses on a social justice issue and takes it to a level of implicit bias, which most people do not consider. What was most interesting to me was how his research focuses specifically on implicit bias and police shootings, and the trainings he hosts for police departments.”

Correll discussed his more than decade-long research on how an individual’s race can influence a police officer’s decision to shoot. Part of his research included creating a video game involving 100 trials with police officers and community members. Each game began with a random number of background scenes appearing on the screen in a quick slide show. Suddenly, a White or Black male appeared on the screen either unarmed or armed with a pistol. Players were instructed to press a “Don’t Shoot” button for unarmed targets and a “Shoot” button for all armed targets. Participants were also asked to make decisions as quickly as possible. Failure to respond in time resulted in a message indicating the player was too slow. Regarding error rates, the results revealed participants were more likely to mistakenly fire on an unarmed target when he is Black, but more likely to mistakenly choose not to shoot an armed target when he is White.

“Even though the research showed some evidence of racial bias in police officers, it also offered some promising evidence of an ability to correct it,” said Correll. “Our research led us to teach how people can improve on the quick decision-making process, which is vulnerable to all types of unintended influences. We also wanted to show how can we can safeguard those influences and make the correct decision.”

Correll also discussed his subsequent work with police officers and community members to develop strategies for reducing bias. He concluded that expertise and practice can reduce bias and training can prepare officers for non-optimal, high-stress conditions. Following Correll’s presentation, Capt. Wendell Harris of the Richland County Sheriff's Department provided additional insight and first-hand experiences.

Correll is hopeful some of his research can be used to help all police officers.

“The American Psychological Association (APA) has begun to think about offering guidelines and advocacy based on our research,” said Correll. “The National Academies of Science also just announced they will release a statement on proactive policing.”

The I. DeQuincey Newman Institute for Peace and Social Justice seeks to continue the mission of Civil Rights Leader Rev. I. DeQuincey Newman by promoting social justice through interdisciplinary education, consultation and research at the local, state, national and international levels.

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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!

Feb. 19, 2018

The opioid epidemic is a critical issue facing South Carolina and the nation. According to College of Social Work professor Christina Andrews, Ph.D., the United States is losing more people now to opioid overdose than at the height of the AIDS epidemic. On Thursday, Feb. 15, Andrews shared her concerns, suggestions and possible solutions in front of the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington.

Andrews, a leading researcher on opioid misuse, was one of four individuals and the sole witness on behalfAndrews Christine 17 of the democrats to provide oral testimony and answer questions at the hearing, “Opioid Epidemic: Implications for America’s Workplaces,” before the Committee on Education and the Workforce.   

“A staffer for the committee contacted me and said she had been reading my work and some of the papers I had written about Medicaid expansion, the opioid epidemic, and my article in the New England Journal of Medicine on how a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could negatively affect the nation’s capacity to respond to the opioid epidemic,” said Andrews.

Testifying for approximately two hours, Andrews discussed how opioid misuse is impairing employer’s ability to hire and retain qualified workers. She cited a July 12, 2017 report from the Federal Reserve Bank’s Beige Book, a summary of regional economic conditions, indicating a strong link between opioids and labor force participation. Andrews also referenced Princeton University economist Alan Krueger’s study that 50 percent of unemployed adults age 25 to 54 reported to take pain medication on a regular basis. In addition, she cited a National Safety Council survey, which found 70 percent of employers reported negative consequences of opioid use, including absenteeism and drug use on the job. Andrews stated the most effective strategy to address the challenges is expansion of treatment.

“It was a great opportunity, but I think this committee was really interested in ensuring the important role the ACA has played in addressing the opioid epidemic, particularly in providing a set of tools for states to enable them to cover more people and pay for evidence-based treatment,” said Andrews. “It was something they really wanted to put at the forefront of the conversation.”

Andrews believes there is bipartisan agreement that the opioid epidemic is an important issue. But the question remains, “Will the U.S. Congress act on the suggestions and possible solutions from Thursday’s hearing?”

“The questions I received provided an opportunity to cover some of the key aspects of my research, such as addressing the opioid epidemic, parity legislation, Medicaid expansion and the effectiveness of medication assisted treatment,” said Andrews. “Only time will tell if the suggestions I made are heard across both sides of the aisle.”

Video: “Opioid Epidemic: Implications for America’s Workplaces” – Feb. 15, 2018

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.

Feb. 13, 2018

The inaugural Integrated Behavioral Health Symposium was held Monday, Feb. 12 at the USC Alumni Center. Students, faculty, professionals and community partners gathered to listen to speakers and a panel of practice and policy community members. The event was sponsored by the College of Social Work and co-sponsored by the Arnold School of Public Health, the School of Medicine Columbia, the School of Medicine Greenville, the College of Pharmacy and the College of Nursing.Small Group Discussion 1 website

Keynote speaker Joseph Parks, MD, Medical Director for the National Council for Behavioral Health, delivered his talk, Integrating Primary Care and Behavioral Health Care: How Far We've Come. He discussed topics such as, rearranging how hospitals and mental health clinics deliver care and changing the way medical professionals work together. Meera Narasimhan, chair of the neuropsychiatry and behavioral science department at the School of Medicine Columbia, spoke on using telepsychiatry in behavioral health. The innovative method allows practitioners to address healthcare needs throughout the state, especially in rural areas. College of Social Work Professor Christina Andrews also addressed current implementations and future plans for incorporating and advancing integrated behavioral health throughout South Carolina. 

The symposium featured a panel of practice and policy community members from statewide social service organizations and governmental departments. The panel consisted of Sara Goldsby, director of the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services; Pete Liggett, deputy director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services; Rick Foster, senior adviser to the South Carolina Hospital Association; Katherine Plunkett, manager of clinical quality improvment of the South Carolina Primary Health Care Association; and John Magill, director of the South Carolina Department of Mental Health.

Following the speakers, each table participated in a small group activity to create and present action steps. The symposium concluded with a reception, poster presentation and awards. Ryan Orland, a student at the School of Medicine Columbia, received the award for best poster.

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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

Katrina Spigner 11.13.2017

Individuals often aspire to leave a legacy. Author Shannon Alder once wrote, “Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” College of Social Work alumna Dr. Katrina Spigner is using her personal experiences, struggles and financial resources to help students.

Spigner is currently a consultant for community engagement for the University of South Carolina College of Social Work’s I. DeQuincey Newman Institute for Peace and Social Justice and an instructor in the college’s Master in Social Work program. In September of this year, Spigner established The Dr. Katrina E. Spigner Endowed Fellowship Fund to honor her experience at the College of Social Work while earning her Masters of Social Work (MSW) degree. Since Spigner received her degree as a single mother raising two children, the endowment will help single custodial parents who are MSW students and facing the challenges of pursuing an education while raising a family alone.

Spigner’s association with the College of Social Work began in 2002. After earning her bachelor’s degree in social work from Columbia College, she immediately enrolled in the Advanced Standing Program.

“I came to USC as a single mom with two small children and newly separated after 11 years of marriage,” said Spigner. “It was horrific trying to navigate school, internships, writing papers, exams and two part-time jobs. As they say, the struggle was very real.”

Despite her challenges and busy schedule inside and outside the classroom, Spigner graduated with her MSW in 2003 and earned the faculty’s highest honor for academic achievement. After working as senior program director for the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina for 10 years, she returned to USC as an instructor in May 2015.

“In 2002, I was challenged by having to navigate everything that came with being a single mom and student,” said Spigner. “Now I was returning to the classroom as a professor and seeing the faces of women who, like myself at one time, were thinking, ‘How am I going to do this?’ or ‘How am I going to care for my child and go to work and school?’”

Spigner easily related to some of her students’ situations. This made it easier to share her own story of overcoming adversity.

“I shared my own story each semester, since I recognized what I was seeing and hearing,” said Spigner. “It gave these women permission to share their stories with me. They shared their plight and challenges, such as lack of resources, limited transportation, days without childcare, and deciding whether to buy medicine or food.”

classroom meeting with Dr. Katrina Spigner Spigner listened to her students’ stories and eventually felt a call to action. This was her inspiration for establishing the endowment.

“It was time for me to do something,” said Spigner. “I thought, ‘What is that something?’ It was to do what I could to make resources available for single custodial parents to help them address some of their challenges. It was important for me that these were high-achieving students who were really focused on their schoolwork. I wanted to include that in the fellowship since that was very important to me.”

Spigner has emphasized the power of social workers’ voices for advocates and underserved populations. Since social workers are positioned to have a voice as caregivers, teachers, service providers, consultants and coaches, they must use the power of their own voices before becoming a voice for others.

“This fellowship is important to me because I want future practitioners to harness the power of their own voices, so they can master their influence when they’re in the field,” said Spigner. “USC’s social work program is where students learn to harness the power of their voices before they step out into the field to help others do the same.”

Spigner has devoted her time and effort to helping educate the social work leaders of tomorrow. Now, she can help financially support others who have experienced similar struggles as her own experiences.

“I’m so excited and thrilled to give back in this way,” said Spigner. “But I want to challenge others, so it just doesn’t stop with me. I really want to use the fellowship to leverage other giving and encourage more women to give, especially those who were in the same struggle as myself. I want to challenge them through my giving.”

Please consider making a gift to support the College of Social Work through Dr. Spigner’s endowed fund. Visit https://sc.edu/giving/givenow/education to make your gift online. To ensure your donation supports the Dr. Katrina E. Spigner Endowed Fellowship Fund, please choose “Social Work” from the list of Colleges and Schools, check the “Other” box, and enter fund number B22128 in the “Other Area” box, along with the amount of your donation. If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact Assistant Director of Development Sarah Wells at 803-777-3902 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Dr. Katrina E. Spigner Endowed Fellowship Fund will be awarded by the Fellowship and Scholarship Committee of the College of Social Work to student(s) who are single custodial parents, possess a high academic standing, and have demonstrated a financial need.  Dr. Spigner’s intentions are to award the fellowship to further the diversity mission and enhance the multi-cultural makeup of the student population accepted for admission or currently enrolled.



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


shutterstock 112994128Within the past 20 years, the number of opioid prescriptions in the U.S. has quadrupled and so has the number of deaths due to opioid overdose. Researchers in the College of Social Work are working to stem the tide of opioid abuse by studying the availability and quality of treatment and by improving drug use screenings.

Social work is uniquely suited as a home for this work. The study of opioid use has long “been dominated by the fields of psychiatry and psychology,” which are based on the individual, says CoSW professor Dr. Christina Andrews. Social work, however, “focuses on broader social context to understand how neighborhoods, communities, local economic markets, and broader policy contexts” influence public health issues like this one.

“Between 2000 and now, we’ve seen a tripling in the number of people who are coming into treatment and citing opioid use as their chief concern,” and yet there has not been a corresponding rise in the availability of treatment, says Andrews. Methadone access has actually decreased a bit, and Andrews suspects “it may have to do with insurance providers who will cover buprenorphine but not methadone,” which then affects what’s available in the marketplace. Andrews has been collecting data to show the influence of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on the opioid crisis, and she and her team are now comparing data gathered just prior to the law’s implementation with data from earlier this year. Andrews recently co-authored an article in The New England Journal of Medicine detailing just how disastrous repealing the ACA could be for the opioid crisis.

The ACA is also integral to instituting routine screenings for opioid abuse in various health care settings. The Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) program, which aims for early intervention and subsequent behavioral change, is currently a billable service under the law, and Dr. Melissa Reitmeier believes that repealing it could have long-term consequences. She and her co-principal investigator Dr. Aidyn Iachini, both CoSW faculty, are working on Health Occupations Providing Excellence in SBIRT (HOPES) which will implement a SBIRT training program for graduate students in the fields of nursing, social work, and medicine in order to give them the skills to assist patients at risk for a substance use disorder. Their purpose is “to better prepare our workforce of helpers; because what’s the point of just training the students if they don’t have the coaching out there?”

addict 2713598 960 720The five-module program is experiential in nature. Participants are introduced to the basics of alcohol and drug use and then engage in role-play and simulation exercises. “Most people are shocked that low risk drinking equates to no more than two glasses of alcohol a day,” reflects Reitmeier, "or that the size of a “glass” is actually quite smaller than one imagines or consumes.”  After being given a foundation in the subject, students learn how to use motivational interviewing and engage in a simulation exercise to ensure they know how to perform a proper screening. “The purpose is to start screening those people who might fall through the cracks,” says Reitmeier. “Most people do not know that high-risk drinking (which is not dependency) frequently leads to social, legal, medical, domestic, job and financial problems. Alcohol may cut your lifespan and lead to accidental injury or death. This can happen even in the absence of physiological signs.” Reitmeier believes that “asking about substance use is something practitioners should do at every intake process at every health care facility,” and HOPE in SBIRT (HOPES) aims to make it a routine practice for future nurses, doctors, and social workers.

While routine screenings can catch an opioid dependency issue, its problem starts with overprescribing, which is an increasing problem in South Carolina, according to both Reitmeier and Andrews. “There are more prescriptions for opioids each year than there are people in this state,” explains Andrews, “and that puts us in the top ten of states with the number of prescriptions written per person. We still have a problem in terms of the distribution of legal opioids in this state.”

South Carolinians also face difficulty accessing adequate treatment for drug abuse. Andrews notes that medication-assisted treatment is hard to find here compared to other parts of the country. Even where a program does exist, “the problem is that a lot of these programs don’t take Medicaid, so a lot of low income folks are trapped and kind of locked out of these kind of treatment programs even if there is one available to them.”

Andrews also finds that there are often wait lists for free or subsidized care. While The 21st Century Cures Act, passed last November with bipartisan support, allocated $1 billion in federal funds for opioid abuse, the $7 million of it received by South Carolina is an important but insufficient investment.

Regarding her current research, Andrews says: “I think we really have been able to make a contribution in terms of showing these decisions about what insurance decides to cover affect not only whether folks can pay for treatment but whether providers even bother to offer those treatments.” By uncovering barriers to treatment and by promoting routine screenings, CoSW faculty are doing their part to solve the opioid crisis.


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.

group of aging adults09.12.17

In recognition of September as National Healthy Aging Month, here are some facts to consider from the CSWE-National Center for Gerontological Social Work Education, Aging Facts Sheet:

  • Between 2010 and 2030, “Baby Boomers” will enter the age of 65 cohort, resulting in 21% of Americans being over age 65. This represents a 100% increase in over 20 years, compared to a 30% growth in the total population.
  • Among adults age 65 and older, 5.1 million, or about 13%, are age 85 and older. By 2050 about 21 million people will be age 85 and older, representing a 500% increase over 65 years.
  • By 2025, 1 in 26 Americans can expect to live to age 100, compared to 1 in 500 in 2000. Ageism may now be more pervasive than sexism or racism.
  • Of low-income elders, 22% report that their health needs go unmet compared to 2.5% of middle- and upper-income elders.
  • Fewer than 25% of older adults who need mental health services receive treatment. A major barrier to treatment is the shortage of geriatric mental health professionals.
  • About 66% of older adults live in a family setting in the community– with a partner, child, or sibling – although not necessarily in a multigenerational household.
  • One to 3 million Americans age 65 and older are LGBT (or 3‐8% of the older adult populations), which is projected to double by 2030.
  • Older LGBT adults currently are more likely to live alone, and less likely to be living with life partners and to have children than their heterosexual counterparts.

So, what does this mean for the College of Social Work?  First, it means that geriatric social workers will be in high demand over the next 10-20 years. Studies estimate the need for a minimum of 70,000 social workers just to handle the “greying” of the baby boomers. Unfortunately, national studies indicated that fewer than 3% of social work students currently specialize in aging while 71% of MSW graduates will have provided some geriatric intervention by the time they graduate. (Pace, 2014)

This indicates a definite need for geriatric social workers. It supports the notion that working with the aging populations provides social workers with opportunities to work with and between social networks and service delivery systems to ensure that they are providing continuity of care as this population ages. Because aging does not happen in isolation, geriatric social workers must be competent in all areas of health and mental health, individual, family and group settings, and they must be culturally competent and knowledgeable with all types of interventions and levels of service (WHO, 2017). This makes September a great time to thank a geriatric social worker, not only for what they are doing for our aging population but also for how they are preparing the future for all of us.

Interested in Geriatric Social Work?  The College of Social Work offers a Certificate in Gerontology.

We also invite you to attend:
Geriatric Journeys: A Social Work Perspective
September 25, 2017
9:00 a.m. - 4:00 a.m.  
Hamilton Lobby
“This interactive experience will take the participant through the challenge and barriers of the aging process, provide resources and tips to help the management of care for our Aging population”

Council on Social Work Education, (n.d). Facts on Aging. Retrieved from https://www.lsu.edu/chse/socialwork/files/facts-on-aging.pdf
Pace, P.R., (2014, February). Need for Geriatric Social Workers grow. Retrieved from http://www.socialworkers.org/pubs/news/2014/02/geriatric-social-work.asp
World Health Organization, (2017, May). Ten Facts on ageing and health.(WHO Retrieved from http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/ageing/en/


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..



Penney“Because our profession is committed to social justice and equity for all people, exposure to different cultures and people groups is a remarkable and powerful opportunity for learning, reflection, and growth for social work students, faculty and practitioners,” says CoSW professor Patrice Penney. As the field of social work moves toward more global approaches, the CoSW is expanding its existing international opportunities and relationships. Students and faculty are no strangers to working and learning abroad; our commitment to global social work is but one way in which the CoSW is pushing the envelope in order to produce quality research and career-ready graduates.

Study abroad opportunities for CoSW students include trips to Aruba, Bolivia, India, and Vietnam. The Bolivia program is a new addition to the roster, taking off as an alternative spring break in 2018. (Interested students should contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..) Sudie Nallo, Clinical Assistant Professor and International Field Placement Developer, has been involved with these opportunities from the beginning, when the CoSW reached out to the M.S. University of Baroda in India. These study abroad programs serve various purposes, according to Nallo. They provide students with dynamic cultural competency training and allow CoSW faculty to engage with community partners.

These partnerships are the result of the work by USC and CoSW leadership. Without the support of the dean’s and the provost’s offices, Nallo these programs likely wouldn’t be possible. Of USC’s supportive efforts, Nallo notes, “I would absolutely say that how these relationships are developed first comes from senior administration,” Then, those same administrators lead the charge by “encouraging and supporting faculty members to develop programs.”

vietnam templeAn exposure to global social work is important for all students, says Huong Nguyen, a CoSW faculty member and the Global Carolina Regional Director for Vietnam and Southeast Asia. The “problems they tackle and the clients they serve will embody a global world or be affected by an increasingly globalized world. We know, for example, that in South Carolina alone, the percentage of foreign-born share of South Carolina's population increased from 1.4% in 1990 to 4.8% in 2013 and will continue to grow. If our students are not exposed to global social work, they will not be able to relate to, therefore serving effectively clients who have global experiences or embody global values.”

Faculty enjoy seeing the excitement on their students’ faces as they experience something new abroad, but they also get to witness the transformation that takes place. “All of them came back from the trip as changed people, whether in a big way or small way,” explains Nguyen. “They think more broadly about their roles and contribution in this big world, and they think about the legacy they want to leave behind as a social worker. And sometimes, they just come back as more thoughtful and kind people after they saw how people with much less resources lived in other parts of the world.”

12615272 1315892338436165 8456195518925626490 oIn India, Nallo instituted a “buddy system,” in which USC students connect with Indian students with similar social service interests. “The peer engagement piece is so critical to what we do,” explains Nallo, because it enables students “to connect to another young adult from a different background and learn about themselves through that process.” It’s “through that commonality of wanting to help others” that students make these connections that transform them and their social work practice.

Faculty, too, have much to gain from experience abroad. Penney’s work prior to joining the CoSW took her all over Southern and East Africa and led her to found the Initiative for Children at Risk Africa, which provides “trauma-focused training for caregivers of orphaned and vulnerable children related to the children’s psychosocial needs around experiences of trauma and loss.” Penney notes that the relationships she built in Africa “have shaped my attitudes, my thinking, my commitments, and my way of life.” Nguyen’s research on Buddhism and mental health care took her to Buddhist temples in Vietnam, Thailand, and the U.S., where she immersed herself in the way of life there: “I woke up at 4am every day with the monks, followed their daily routines, ate vegetarian meals for months, slept on hardwood floors without air-conditioning through very hot summer months in Vietnam, and observed everything from exorcism sessions to deep meditation.”

These rich experiences play a key role in the classroom. Not only do students enjoy hearing about these firsthand experiences, says Nguyen, but one anecdote can provide a starting point for discussing many topics in social work from a global perspective. Penney also relies on stories as well as case studies to allow students to “hear the thoughts and feelings of Africans” and begin to build a relationship— “much better to be engaged in that learning through actually building relationships in other cultures—hence my excitement about the College of Social Work’s interest in continuing to develop international social work.”

IMG 4745In addition to multiple study abroad programs and international faculty engagements, the CoSW has begun to offer exciting international field placements. Student Doward T. Hunter is currently interning with the Bioko Island Malaria Control Project in Equatorial Guinea under the supervision of Carl Mass, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager for Marathon Oil. Hunter believes that incorporating social work [in international efforts] can improve social justice and global health,” because social workers “will not stop working once a hospital is open, or a declaration is signed ensuring rights; they will fight and continue to fight to bring more and more improvements.”

Maas adds that “international social work brings hope and opportunity to improve ones’ condition to those who are most likely to be ignored or repressed within their social, economic, and/or political context. Likewise, international social work bears a responsibility to not exacerbate or act as a foil to perpetrate historical or popular discrimination that results in limiting individuals and groups from meeting their potential.” In addition to bringing hope, global social work can also function as a “bridge between the concept of social justice and global health and the execution of those concepts on the ground,” explains Maas. “To be an international social worker is to bring the best of humanity to some of the least just and healthy areas on the planet.”

This lofty mission is at the heart of the CoSW’s increasingly global approach. As CoSW faculty and students continue to explore global perspectives here and abroad, more impactful connections and transformative moments lie ahead. Says Penney, “I have experienced first-hand how engaging with people in other contexts challenges my thinking, enlarges my perspectives, and deepens my compassion and desire for service. I look forward to the rich conversations and innovative ideas that may emerge from engaging with University of South Carolina students and faculty to explore and address social justice issues in different parts of the world, especially in the two-thirds world.”


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..

Jill Head Shot8.7.2017

2.5 million youth in the U.S are homeless, accounting for 1 in every 30 youth.  Unaccompanied homeless youth - those not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian account for 1.7 million of the 2.5 million. Although all homeless youth are at risk, unaccompanied youth are vulnerable by virtue of often having to live in unsafe, temporary situations, including cars, parks, the homes of other people, shelters, and motels. In South Carolina, school districts identified 14,360 homeless students during the 2015–16 academic year. At the local level, Richland County School Districts in central South Carolina had 248 unaccompanied youth.

For the past 40 years, Palmetto Place in Columbia, SC has sheltered youth facing abuse, abandonment, neglect, or homelessness. After a recent expansion, Palmetto Place now has two houses and more than 50 beds to house the most vulnerable children and teens. Jill Lawson, 2010 MSW graduate, has been with Palmetto Place for over 12 years. Serving as a volunteer, board member, part-time counselor, and now as Executive Director, she has helped many teens develop into successful, independent adults. The CoSW prepares social workers, like Jill, to not only consider individuals’ internal struggles but also to help examine their relationships, family history, work environment, community environment, and the structures and policies that impact their lives to identify ways to help address a problem or challenge.

Recently, Midlands Anchor featured the stories of two formerly homeless Palmetto Place residents as these ladies prepare for their next big steps; one enrolling at Midlands Tech, the other pursuing an MSW at the College of Social Work. Lawson says, “I’ve had lots of kids go into the military, job corps, and college after high school graduation. I can’t describe how proud I am to see one of my “kids” enter the CoSW graduate school. I have no doubt that she will do great things and move mountains! I am excited to now be her colleague and work together in the social work field.”

Since 1969, the CoSW has maintained a commitment to excellent education, meaningful research, and service to the community, all of which continue to be at the core of all what the college does. This is made possible by long-standing ties with South Carolina communities.


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.

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CoSW Professor Teri Browne is well-known as an advocate for patients’ rights and access to healthcare. She recently sat down with WACH-TV in Columbia, SC to discuss some of the potential impact changes to the health care law could bring, particularly for patients with kidney disease. The interview is available here.


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.


field trip Leigh

Students in the CoSW’s Advanced Social Work Aging Theories class, along with Dr. Katherine Leith, participated in a Green Building/Universal Design home tour sponsored by Tim and Alysia Kehoe (construction management) and Stan O’Brien (builder/owner). Tim is a certified Aging in Place Specialist and holds Green Building  Residential Construction certifications with emphasis on universal design. He helped the students understand the concept of universal design:  creating environments that are usable and effective for all ages and all abilities.  Specifically, Tim demonstrated for the students how building a home according to universal design standards can resolve a number of accessibility issues, ensure a more responsive living environment, and facilitate the process of aging in place. The universal design features of the home the students toured highlighted very clearly environmental press can be lessened or even eliminated to ensure greater person-in-environment fit, even if the person has a physical or cognitive disability. 

Opportunities for students to have real-world experiences with the topics discussed in classroom enhance learning and help grow stronger social workers.

Persons shown (from L to R): Courtney Haynes, Denise Wittig, Dr. Katherine Leith, Amanda Bohrer, Rachel Shrewsbury, Alysia Kehoe



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.


IMG 1002The College of Social Work is proud to thank our dedicated donors for their continued support of our students. In April, we hosted the annual Donor-Student Appreciation Luncheon where we connected donors with the students they support. While the CoSW has a long history of producing social workers with the education, experience and drive to promote social well-being and social justice, we also know that our students often need the same types support and advocacy they are learning to provide for others. Student hardships can develop from the stress of attaining basic necessities and looming debt. The support of our donors helps bridge the divide between financial barriers and student success. Ebone Smith-Morant, a 2017 MSW graduate of our Charleston program and recipient of the Sarah and Sally Campbell Youth and Family Fund Fellowship, enlightened guests with how she has benefitted from receiving the fellowship award and talked about her experience handling the aftermath of the 2015 floods in rural South Carolina. As a result of her efforts, Ms. Smith-Morant developed a program that provides holiday gifts to children. Edikan Ndon, a recipient of the Dorothea Crouch Kemp Fellowship, shared her desire to return to her native Nigeria upon completion of the MSW program to help establish a network of social support for displaced families. As an international student, she found attaining financial resources for her education challenging. The fellowship alleviated stress, allowed her to focus more on her studies, and she will be graduating debt-free.

Supporting the College of Social Work through immediate gifts and endowed scholarships and fellowships opens educational doors and set a strong example to other potential supporters for generations of students to come. With the generous donations and legacies from our donors, alumni, and friends, the College of Social Work can prepare the next generation of social workers to make the world a better place.

To make a donation to the College of Social Work, go to https://giving.sc.edu/supportanarea/collegesschools/collegeofsocialwork.aspx.  


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.



Yancey Kemp WiseYancey Kemp Wise earned a master's degree in social work from USC to help others deal with the mental illness she battled for most of her adult life. She went on to establish a fellowship to honor her mother. Now, through the continued devotion of her sons, that fellowship is helping present-day students and continuing her legacy of caring. Click here to learn more.


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.

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Three CoSW students: Dee Gamble (BSW), Katherine Wallace (MPH/MSW) and Andrea Johnson (MSW) participated in an Interprofessional Practice Simulation. This voluntary session included students in pharmacy, physical therapy, nursing, speech & hearing, and medicine. All students participated in team based care and assessed consenting patients using various intake measures. Afterwards, students were debriefed by discipline and then as a team. Thanks to Dr. Teri Browne for coordinating and Dr. Melissa Reitmeier for serving as the onsite faculty/supervisor for social work. This session proved to be educationally relevant and a rich learning experience for our students.


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.”


NHDr. Huong Nguyen has been appointed as a Global Carolina Regional Director for Vietnam and Southeast Asia. The two-year term runs from June 1, 2017 until May 31, 2019. In her role, Dr. Nguyen will be charged with coordinating the university’s efforts to further teaching, research, and community outreach in the designated.

Dr. Nguyen says, “I am very excited about this appointment since it will open up more opportunities for USC faculty and students to collaborate with Vietnam and countries in Southeast Asia. It really is an exciting and beautiful region with very friendly people and diverse cultures. Eight faculty and more than 30 students from USC have traveled to Vietnam in the last 3 years and I hope more will come.”


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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.



single image 05 alcolu cold case 1Deborah Trapp, a former caseworker with DSS and part-time MSW student, is a child advocate for Cold Case. She knows how overwhelming the work load can be for DSS caseworkers. Learn more about her work here.


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.


single image 05 social work fellowshipBrothers Tim and David Wise continue their mother's passion for eliminating the stigma of mental illness and helping students pursue advanced degrees with the Dorothea Crouch Kemp Fellowship.  Learn more about these proud CoSW donors and the legacy they foster here.

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.


Book Signing Picture Mitchell BeeckenIt’s May! In addition to flowers blooming and bright minds graduating, it also happens to be National Foster Care Month. To honor children, youth, and families involved in the foster care system here in South Carolina, we are celebrating some of the great work being done in the College of Social Work in the field of foster care. Faculty member Dr. Monique Mitchell has served as the state research director for the National Youth in Transition Database (a national data collection that examines the outcomes of youth transitioning out of foster care) for six years. During this time, she developed a nationally recognized child-centered methodology that has helped South Carolina and other states approach youth with sensitivity, establish meaningful relationships with them and ensure that they’re being heard. Dr. Mitchell recently published The Neglected Transition: Building a Relational Home for Children Entering Foster Care by Oxford University Press and regularly consults with children, youth, and invested parties in the child welfare system to inform policy and practice and to develop resources and curricula that serve youth in foster care.

This year, Dr. Mitchell and MSW student Tracey Beecken traveled to Washington, DC to participate in the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) conference. Dr. Mitchell was invited to serve as the closing plenary speaker at the conference and launch her new book, Living in an Inspired World: Voices and Visions of Youth in Foster Care, published by the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) Press. Tracey has spent many years working and presenting with Dr. Mitchell on the outcomes and experiences of youth transitioning out of foster care. Together, they proudly represented the CoSW and the voices and visions of South Carolina youth in foster care to child welfare professionals throughout the country. Well done, Dr. Mitchell and Tracey!

We’re proud of the great work that all of our faculty and students are doing in the College for vulnerable children and youth being served by the child welfare system in South Carolina. Keep up the great work everyone!



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.



Gerald Davis Jr. Gerald Davis Jr. excels at giving back. Not only does the BSW/MSW alumnus have a full-time position working in foster care and adoptions with The Bair Foundation, he also currently serves as Director of Hannah House and as a BSW field instructor and MSW site preceptor. Davis puts his social work degrees to work every day in a variety of capacities, and his enthusiasm shows no signs of flagging.

Before stepping in as Director, Davis served on the Board of Advisors for Hannah House. Despite being a volunteer role, the Director position is no small task. Hannah House is a program of Christ Central Ministries Inc. that serves women and children in Columbia. More than a shelter, Hannah House offers assistance with job placement, child care, and housing, as well as workshops on topics like professional development and personal finance.

Hannah House isn’t just about solving homelessness—it’s “a second chance at life,” explains Davis. Hannah House staff “give the ladies empowerment and life skills to have a new start.” CoSW students contribute to this mission by aligning the women’s needs with local resources. When Davis works with MSW students, he ensures that they have a strong foundation in case management in addition to a working knowledge of available resources. “We don’t want students to just know about Hannah House, but about other organizations as well,” he notes. Davis works to “get interns to see other resources in the community” in order to better meet the clients’ needs. Student interns might find themselves connecting with a wide array of other programs as they work with women on issues related to drug abuse, housing, intimate partner violence, and more.

When asked where he finds the time to hold such an important position in addition to a full-time job, Davis asserts, “my passion in life is community engagement.” Davis loves ministry and giving back to his community. “I wanted to get into a Christian-based organization; I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives,” he states, and he believes his work at Hannah House allows him to do that in a way that reaches many lives. He recounts the story of how Hannah House and partner organizations were able to help a woman and her boyfriend overcome drug addiction simultaneously—now they are happily married. Another client, a single mother, was able to achieve stability and regained guardianship of her daughter and they now live in a two-bedroom apartment. His role at Hannah House is a volunteer one, but “my paycheck comes from the success stories,” he says.

Davis reflects that the opportunities for group work set him up to succeed in his leadership role at Hannah House. Davis knew he wanted to take on some kind of administrative role one day, and his coursework taught him about operations and budgeting while still building on his ability to work with individuals. In one MSW class, “we did a grant proposal, and we were able to look at our community and how we could attain a grant to help that community or a program,” he recalls. Not only was that particular group project incredibly practical and applicable to his current role, but “the group work is the best because you learn not only from your skill set but from others as well.” Davis values his time in the CoSW that taught him to learn from others and to see his own strengths and weaknesses.

He translates what he learned in group assignments to his work at Hannah House. “Everybody is different,” says Davis, “so you have to approach every situation differently.” Each woman at Hannah House must be treated as an individual, and “you have to get on their level and find out their needs—the client is the expert, you’re not the expert on their situation.” Taking off the “expert hat,” as Davis terms it, is difficult because “as a social worker you want to solve everything.” But he insists that the client must be allowed to lead. At Hannah House, “we try to get them to be self-sufficient, and they can’t be self-sufficient if you’re always being the expert,” he says. The goal is not to problem-solve but to facilitate.

Davis gained knowledge and skills in his BSW and MSW programs that he brings to his work every day. His most valuable lesson, though, is this: “Social work comes from the heart.”


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.



Kaneisha WheelockWhen Kaneisha Wheelock (BSW, 2015) saw the NAME FELLOWSHIP Interprofessional Fellowship in Substance Addiction Treatment publicized in a mass email to social work interns, she was interested but skeptical. “When I read about it,” she recalls, “it seemed pretty intimidating.” Nevertheless, “I figured it would be worth a shot…I had nothing to lose.”

After graduating from the CoSW with her BSW, Wheelock was offered a full tuition scholarship to SUNY-Buffalo. She’s graduating from Buffalo’s MSW program this year, and will then move to Seattle to begin the Interprofessional Fellowship in Substance Addiction Treatment at the Seattle Division of the Addictions Treatment Center within the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System. Throughout her journey, Wheelock has made bold choices that have paid off.

The Interprofessional Fellowship is incredibly selective—Wheelock is one of only two recipients this year out of over 500 applicants. She’ll be working with veterans on a variety of issues, including sexual trauma and PTSD. She will also collaborate with psychiatric and doctoral fellows to develop programs to improve substance abuse treatment for veterans, with the hope that these idea will then be implemented in VAs across the country. Wheelock says that “for me to just be graduating and be exposed to so many different problems is just a huge honor.”

Wheelock still seems a bit stunned by her achievement. “When I reflect back on it, [receiving the fellowship] just emphasizes the power of choice to me.” For her, receiving the fellowship was a moment of insight: “the only limitation I have in life is myself; it’s pretty encouraging that my background doesn’t define my future.”

Wheelock comes from a military family herself—her mother worked in military hospitals and VAs, and her father and both grandfathers are veterans—so she has person experience that informs her understanding of the stresses military families and veterans are under. She also has seen the effects of substance abuse on those close to her. Additionally, “as a woman of color and being raised predominately in a single mother household, I’m the first person on both my father’s and my mother’s side to go to college and to graduate school,” she says, so the odds seem stacked against her. She also reveals that she took a semester off of graduate school to care for ill relatives, has had seven surgeries, and had to re-learn to walk twice. But Wheelock refuses to be limited or defined by this abundance of adversity—it motivates her instead.

Her experiences have given her “a greater sensitivity to hear people’s stories,” which will be useful in treating veterans. “When they’re in the service, there’s this unity, and then you get out of the service…” she trails off. “It seems like all the people around you and even your community don’t understand you.” Her listening ear and compassion will put to work in her fellowship as she reaches out to veterans experiencing this isolation.

The fellowship opportunity required what Wheelock calls a “rigorous application process.” She endured a phone interview with 14 professionals on the line, and she was sure she was talking for too long. She was so nervous and convinced that it went poorly, “I didn’t even want to tell anybody I had an interview.”

But, in the end, “I think they just realized how passionate I am about helping others and about this population.”

Wheelock is also passionate about the University of South Carolina, largely due to the relationships she built here with members of cohort and with CoSW faculty and staff. Of Dr. Daniel Freedman, Jennifer Bosio-McArdle, and Rushondra James, she says, “I know if I ever need any support, I can reach out to them,” because “they have been such stabilizing factors w/in my social work career.” She remembers the kindness, good humor, and integrity of the people in the CoSW. These three in particular “do an amazing job of showing us that we are enough to help others see that they are enough.”

Wheelock still stays in touch with the other students from her field placement, reaching out to them for guidance. She feels able to do this “because of the integrity of the program,” in which students support one another. She believes that the “BSW program produces social workers whose impact goes beyond campus, beyond USC, and beyond South Carolina.” She is now excited to take her skills and knowledge to make positive change in Seattle and across the nation.




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.”


IPE cohortThe College of Social Work is set to celebrate its largest cohort of Interprofessional Education (IPE) Scholars this year. Thirty-nine BSW and MSW students benefitted from Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) and Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)/National Association of Social Workers (NASW) support and a variety of field placements including clinics, schools, and elder care facilities. They are now prepared to use their valuable skills in the world beyond USC.

Dr. Teri Browne co-chairs IPE in the health sciences at USC and is Primary Investigator (PI) on The Social Work Healthcare Education and Leadership Scholars (HEALS) grant and says that IPE training is a necessity for emerging social workers: “Social work traditionally has been practiced in interprofessional teams, and just recently our educational accreditation standards from the Council of Social Work Education have moved towards requiring interprofessional practice and education.” She notes that UofSC is one of only a handful of schools that include social work and public health in IPE initiatives in such a major way.

Browne notes that “HEALS is an exciting opportunity both for our BSW and MSW students” because it awards scholarships to two students from each program annually. “USC was one of ten schools of social work across the country who received this,” explains Browne, so not only is it a huge opportunity for students, but it is an honor for the CoSW as well. HEALS provides these four students with “specialized training on how to both work on IPE teams and also how to advocate for health parity,” says Browne, noting that the students had the opportunity to visit Washington, D.C. for national policy training on health social work and for legislative appointments with South Carolina’s elected officials. HEALS scholars also attended the annual James Clyburn lecture at UofSC and were even able to meet Rep. Clyburn.

Interprofessional Scholars Poster ShowcaseBobby Gamble is a graduating BSW HEALS scholar who interned at the Rice Estate of Lutheran Homes of South Carolina, a facility which serves older adults in hospice, rehabilitation, assisted living, and independent living. Gamble had the opportunity to see the perspectives of social workers, physical therapists, nurses, and doctors as they worked to care for older adults. As a social worker in this setting, one must “desire to build rapport with that client,” insists Gamble; “you see their strengths even when they’re in a desolate place.” Gamble would often visit clients in different settings to show what he calls his “compassion component,” stopping by for a chat in the client’s room or checking in during physical therapy.

TFTCohortsmallerThirty-five graduates participated in Training For Transitions (TFT), which places students at sites working with adolescents, young adults, and their families. “Additionally, the scholars must complete a yearlong integrative seminar focused on behavioral healthcare in interprofessional settings which is taught by Dr. Candice Morgan.” states Dr. Melissa Reitmeier, Director of Field Education in the CoSW, is the PI for TFT and also co-PI for Social Work HEALS. Dr. Reitmeier believes “the combination of didactic and experiential learning allows scholars to internalize this skillset and better prepare them for behavioral health work upon graduation.” Dr. Aidyn Iachini is co-PI on the TFT grant funded by HRSA and also serves on the IPE advisory council. IPE is important, she says, because “a lot of the issues that social workers help address are complex,” so it makes sense that more disciplines and professionals should be involved. “I tell my students that it will be very rare that they will be working in isolation with a client.” She explains that, more often than not, social work practitioners will be collaborating with many other professionals to address the complex needs of the clients they serve. “I think it’s important we train our students to work with these professionals prior to entering the workforce,” Iachini says.

Krystal MimsOne TFT scholar, Krystal Mims, learned how gaining different perspectives from various professionals paints a fuller picture of clients and allows social workers to “have a scope of who you can reach out to” for resources. Mims was placed at the Palmetto Health USC Medical Group, where she established a support group for teens with Type 1 Diabetes. At the pediatric endocrinology clinic, Mims worked with nurse practitioners, doctors, and office staff. She also reached out to clients to assess their needs and make any necessary referrals. For new Type 1 Diabetes patients, she needed to approach this process carefully, “since this experience would be so new to them.” She also reached out to the community coordinator of JDRF for guidance on starting a support group for teenagers with Type 1. By establishing this group, she hopes to “provide a foundation of support” from which teens can learn from each other about how to manage their diabetes.

Qui VuuQui Vuu’s TFT field placement was unique from her peers’ due to the setting: The John A. Martin Primary Health Care clinic in rural Winnsboro, SC. Collaborating with health care providers, nurses, and business office personnel allowed Vuu to “provide better integrated care for the clients.” Because the clinic is in a rural setting, “there’s a huge sense of community, and if the services or the funding is not there, then we try to fill those gaps as best we can.”

Vuu valued her experiences in the classroom, but applying her knowledge in the field “made it so much more meaningful,” calling her field experience “amazing.” Vuu explains that “being able to collaborate with other professionals, having other professionals respect my opinion—that was very empowering.”

Regarding these students’ futures, Browne hopes “that they can be better equipped to help communities, clients, patients, [and] family members with psycho-social barriers to health outcomes and mental health outcomes,” but “most importantly, I hope they’re able to go out and articulate to teams what the role of social work is” and perhaps even get “involved on a community and policy level to impact health.” Iachini hopes that students “come away with a better understanding of what some of the evidence-supported practices and interventions are for working with individuals who have unmet behavioral health needs.” Iachini reflects that these students have “had the opportunity to work with other interprofessionals through their field experiences,” resulting in a strong foundation and a valuable network that should serve them well in the future.

After graduating, Mims wants to achieve licensure and work in either a hospital or school setting, where “it will always stay interesting.” Gamble initially thought he wanted to work with youth or military families, but he is grateful for the opportunity provided by his IPE experience at Lutheran Homes and is now open to working with any population. “We’re all aging; we’re all approaching something,” he says, and at the end of the day, “we’re all people, and we all need somebody.”

As Vuu states, “the possibilities are endless with this degree,” and we are excited to see what our IPE graduates achieve next!


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.

Phi Alpha 25.1.2017

On Tuesday, April 17th, the College of Social Work inducted over 50 new members into the Xi Tau chapter of Phi Alpha Honors Society. Each student received an honorary certificate, graduation cord, and a pin to signify their placement into the Honors Society. Recognizing both undergraduate and graduate student achievement, the induction ceremony is held at the end of each academic year. The Phi Alpha Honor Society promotes humanitarian goals while celebrating excellence in scholarship and achievement in social work. The honor society also recognized two members of the CoSW faculty as honorary members: Dr. Katrina Spigner and Dr. Naomi Farber. 


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.

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