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MSW Student Poster Presentations

Young, Black and Gay: The Documentary

BSW Cording & MSW Hooding

The Local Buzz12.01.2016

When MSW alumna Becca Smith-Hill stepped into a new neighborhood coffee shop, she only intended to try the coffee and gather information for her personal blog. But the resulting collaboration was even richer than the locally-roasted coffee. Smith-Hill is an Intellectual Disability teacher at Dreher High School in Columbia, and she now sends some of her students to The Local Buzz for on-the-job (OTJ) training.

Prior to entering the MSW program in the CoSW, Smith-Hill taught middle school students with intellectual disabilities. Her background in psychology and education prepared her to teach, but she did not know how to help students in poverty. Seeing her students struggle frustrated her, and she recalls thinking to herself, “I’ve got to figure out how to do better.” This led her to social work, where she learned about “seeing things from a perspective I didn’t have” and “meeting people where they are.”

Students in Smith-Hill’s class at Dreher learn life and domestic skills like doing laundry or cooking, and she guides them through every step in the process. For example, students may study a recipe, then make a grocery list, then cook. Sometimes, they will even go to the store and pick out their ingredients. “My whole goal is to make them as self-sufficient as possible,” says Smith-Hill, stressing the importance of functionality.

Placing students at The Local Buzz was a natural fit. Her students get hands-on experience at the coffee shop and then run their own coffee business at Dreher. Students take orders from teachers and staff, make the coffee, and then navigate the halls to deliver the drinks. The students then profit $10 each week from their hard work.

Three of Smith-Hill’s students participate in the OTJ experience at The Local Buzz, spending about two hours there one day a week. Smith-Hill explains that the process isn’t easy: students walk to a nearby bus stop and take the city bus to Five Points, where they must switch buses to get to Rosewood Drive, where The Local Buzz is located. Once there, the students don their Local Buzz shirts and aprons and begin working through a task list, which includes cleaning, greeting customers, and helping owner Stephanie Bridgers with the baking. The students love spending time there, and getting an occasional free scoop of ice cream is an added bonus.

The Local Buzz 2Smith-Hill is grateful for the connection she made with Bridgers when the coffee shop opened. Bridgers has a “passion for helping,” says Smith-Hill, and did not hesitate to get the OTJ program off the ground soon after they discussed it. For Bridgers, The Local Buzz is not just a coffee shop—it’s a “café-community” with a mission to bring people together. She cites this welcoming, inclusive atmosphere as a reason why Local Buzz is the perfect spot for OTJ training. The students “are part of the staff, and people ask ‘When are the boys working?’” says Bridgers. She explains that the students learn a variety of skills: how to take a bus to a job, attend to job tasks, and get to know people. “It’s a nice opportunity to give them something that I don’t think they’d be able to have,” says Bridgers.

The lessons about cultural competency that Smith-Hill gained from her MSW serve her well today when she interacts with a variety of different people. Now, she has the knowledge and skills to build rapport with parents, students, and community members and be a resource to the families of her students.

Ebone Morant10.28.2016

During the historic floods of October 2015, CoSW students lived the social work code of ethics: to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty. One student, Ebone’ Smith-Morant, who works in Special Education with the Georgetown County School District, recounts her efforts to rebuild and empower her community.

One year ago, lives were forever changed. As I reflect, there are still an array of emotions filling my heart and mind. In October 2015, an historic flood devastated the rural communities of Georgetown County, SC. While weather forecasters and emergency officials kept residents abreast of weather-related information, no one could prepare these communities for what was to come.

The rain continuously fell and the local rivers seemed to flow uncontrollably.  The flood waters ran across roadways and filled homes. Emergency officials assisted us with travel, supplies, and medical care. After the waters receded and the emergency officials left, however, our community was left in disarray, dismay, and utter disbelief. Homes were destroyed, families displaced, roadways impassable, and many still in need of power, food, and necessities. And many unanswered questions. Although my home was still intact, my heart was broken for my community!

Instinctively, I jumped right into serving. We adopted the motto "United, we will recover." I joined with the community elementary school to establish a clothes closet to accept donations. We provided clothes, cleaning supplies, non-perishable food, and other essentials. Additionally, I assisted seniors with FEMA applications by interpreting the contract language. What a reward it was to help connect those in need to services such as energy assistance, home repair, clean-up efforts, and other areas of need. Above all, talking with flood victims seemed to alleviate some anxiety and provide a sense of comfort as they shared their stories of frustration and disbelief, yet thanksgiving!

Local churches and other community organizations united in efforts to rebuild, restore, and recover! Everyone was a family-working in harmony! Our community is still rebuilding. But, we stand strong and proud. "United, we ARE recovering."

IMG 2927Leon and Connie Ginsberg have been close to the College of Social Work for thirty years, since 1986 when Leon was appointed Carolina Research Professor (later, Carolina Distinguished Professor) and Connie served as executive director of Family Connection of South Carolina for 15 years. Family Connection served as a field instruction placement for the College and many of its full-time employees were graduates of the College.

During his last years at USC, Leon was Dean of the College. After retiring from USC, Leon served as Interim Chair of the Department of Social Work at Appalachian State University and finished his work at Appalachian State as Interim Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Leon finished his MSW at Tulane in 1959 and the doctorate in political science at the University of Oklahoma in 1966. He was a faculty member at Oklahoma for five years and then served for nine years as director, later dean, of the School of Social Work at West Virginia University, beginning in 1977. He became Commissioner of the Department of Human Services of West Virginia in 1977, where Connie was also a state official in the Department of Culture and History. After completing his work at Human Services, Leon became Chancellor of the West Virginia Board of Regents for Higher Education, them came to USC.

When asked why they chose to give to the College of Social Work, Leon made this statement: “We are not accustomed to making large donations and really don’t have the means to do so often—but the College is one place we were and are anxious to help. Colleges within Universities must depend on private philanthropy and alumnae are an integral part of its finances.  Many supporters giving many donations of any size often make the differences of what the college is able to sustain and to offer. We have enjoyed working with the faculty and students of the College and are indebted for Dean Emeritus Frank Raymond who allowed us to initiate all sorts of exciting programs including international social work experiences for social work students, national conferences on social welfare policy and technology. We’ve been pleased to see Dean Scheyett carrying forward the College’s excellence including the new building, and are sorry to see her go—even though it is to a School with which we have had many connections over the years. We wish the faculty, staff, and students continued success in educating social workers and in contributing to the knowledge base of the profession.”

Blackmon KarenGrowing up in a small, rural town of North Carolina, Karen Blackmon was accustomed to seeing people help each other. Her parents were both interested in being kind to other people and, although they didn’t have the means to give money, they gave to their community in other ways. In the present day, Ms. Blackmon gives back to the community not only with her time and efforts, but also with her generous support of the College of Social Work.

Ms. Blackmon has lived in Columbia for over 30 years. She attended Western Carolina University and majored in psychology and minored in social work. However, she has always worked in business and is now a business development manager in the relocation department at Russel & Jeffcoat Real Estate.

Ms. Blackmon and her husband, Scott Blackmon, have been involved with the University of South Carolina for many years. Mr. Blackmon is an alumnus of the Darla Moore School of Business and served as a bridge that connected Ms. Blackmon with USC, which led her to the College of Social Work.

“In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.”
Alex Haley

Patrick Patterson1Family is at the core of Patrick J. Patterson’s, MSW/MPH ’00, life and work. The married father of two is the Senior Manager at ICF International that oversees the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. Patterson grew up in Columbia in the Saxon Homes community and was shaken when his father, James, left their family when Patrick was 15. His mother, Geneva, remained a stronghold in his and his 3 siblings lives. Upon graduation from C.A. Johnson High School, Patrick enrolled at North Greenville University and after strong academic turnaround he earned an academic scholarship to Benedict College. He then enrolled in the MSW/MPH program at USC and completed an internship with the fatherhood program at the Sisters of Charity Foundation. He helped launch a statewide fatherhood initiative that is now part of the SC Center for Fathers and Family. After rising through the ranks, he took over management of the National Responsible Fatherhood Initiative in 2010. Patrick is also the President/Founder of Global Partners for Fathers & Families, an international consulting firm whose mission is to grow client services and funding through expert grant writing training, technical assistance, ​and the use of technology.


Dr. Carol Bolton Sisco has mastered many roles, including that of clinician, educator, researcher, and children’s advocate. Her extensive career had a bit of a rocky start, though: in her first year of the Master of Social Work program, Carol Sisco got stuck with a field placement she didn’t want. When asked about her practicum preference, Sisco was emphatic about not being placed in an addiction treatment program, but she found herself at Morris Village Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment Center. The experience changed her life. Not only did she come to love the work, she seized the opportunity and used what she learned there in her master’s thesis. Sisco became particularly interested in studying female addiction since male subjects had dominated previous research. She visited detox centers in Columbia and interviewed women overcoming addiction. The more time she spent in the addiction field, the more she found that it “just seemed to fit,” despite her earlier misgivings.

Butler P storyAn Interdisciplinary Approach to Treating Adolescent Eating Disorders

Helping a teenager recover from an eating disorder requires the support of professionals, family, peers, and others in an adolescent’s rapidly expanding world. While that concept might seem simple and obvious, Dr. Patrick Butler said that creating a high functioning, collaborative treatment team requires professionals trained to think and plan from the perspective of “person in environment.”

Sparking Change in South Carolina

Spigner K300When Katrina Spigner enrolled in the USC College of Social Work, she knew she wanted to use her master’s degree to solve problems on a larger scale than one family at a time.

Spigner, who graduated in 2003, has been using her skills to develop and facilitate the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina's catalytic grant-making program. As senior program director, she helps administer the grant review process and coaches organizations that win grants. She is responsible for strategic grants, which accounted for $627,000 of the foundation’s $2.1 million in grants in 2013. She also oversees the foundation’s Carolina Academy, an education component of the foundation's work to enhance the skills needed by nonprofit leaders to build organizational capacity.

Cooper-Lewter - Agent of Change“Walking Alongside” the Marginalized at Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina

USC College of Social Work alumna Dr. Stephanie Cooper-Lewter has been working as an agent of change in South Carolina—but not in ways that many would expect of a social work professional.

As the Senior Director of Research at the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina, Dr. Cooper-Lewter is engaged in a field that she says often is “not the first thing on the radar” for social work graduates. “A lot of students don’t think about philanthropy,” she said. “But we need social workers to be a part of the conversations about investing in different social issues.”

boltzdorene 350x350Dorene Boltz, LISW-CP, (’02) loves working with people and helping them deal with trauma they have experienced. As a psychotherapist at Joint Behavioral Health Services at Moncrief Army Community Hospital at Fort Jackson, she works with active duty service members and veterans who have been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.

In addition to one-on-one therapy, Boltz conducts several classes for her clients. One of them, Transitioning Warzone Skills, focuses on helping veterans recognize and tone down the survival strategies that have served them well in the warzone, but that are not as needed or helpful in their home lives. Another class, Mindfulness Meditation, teaches clients to regulate their emotions and helps them relax.

Martin A 350x350Amanda Martin, ’03, embodies the ethos and spirit of life-changing social work. She received the College of Social Work’s Alumna of the Year Award in 2010 for her work in Guatemala and her service in the Peace Corps.

In 2012 she was the plenary speaker at the Rotary International Convention, where she addressed an audience of over 20,000 members in Bangkok. She passionately describes her work in a Burmese refugee camp, where she has established the first public health college for adult refugees on the Thai-Burma border. Over 138,000 refugees reside in nine camps in the area. Martin lives and works in the Umphiem Mai refugee camp.

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