Dean's newsletter

Read the latest information and news from the School of Social Work in our monthly newsletter from the Dean.

June 2021 newsletter

Dear Alumni and Friends of the School of Social Work,

Happy start of the summer! While we have summer classes and are preparing for a full return to campus, the summer provides a time to rest, reflect on the first half of the year, and prepare for the months ahead. As non-traditional as last year was, our faculty did great work in their teaching and research, our students continued to be engaged in a remote environment, and we saw growth in all aspects of the School. Now as we look to a more normal semester, we are excited to welcome new faculty, see our students in person, and look forward to events from our alumni chapter and student groups. As those occur, we will keep you informed.

There is much work ahead for social workers as we face the ongoing recovery of the pandemic, a mental health crisis, and the potential economic and housing challenges in the fall. I know you, our alumni and friends, are doing your best to uplift our community members, but I also hope you take some time this summer to safely enjoy the benefits of reopening and take time for your own rest and relaxation.

A group of students sit around a table talking. There are books and computers on the table.

Social Work Professor talks normalizing discussing suicide for Suicide Awareness Month

In honor of Suicide Awareness Month (May), Marina Murphy, MSW and School of Social Work lecturer contributed multiple pieces to Nevada Today discussing the importance of normalizing talking about suicide and answering the important question, “Does talking about suicide make someone more likely to commit suicide?” Marina runs the Suicide Prevention Training for the School of Social Work and is passionate about this topic.

Social Work alumni chapter holds first meeting

The first member meeting of the UNR School of Social Work Alumni Chapter took place on June 8. In case you missed it... the chapter will be planning an end of summer bash. If you are interested in helping plan this event or become part of the Alumni Chapter please email the Alumni Chapter.

A group of people inside a building listening to three drag queens who are sitting on a stage.

Social Work Associated Graduates raise more than $1500 for local shelter

SWAG hosted a charity bingo event to raise funds for the Women & Children’s Center of the Sierra. The event was held at The Emerson in downtown Reno and with a sold out house, they were able to raise more than $1500 for the shelter.

Newsletter archive

  • May 2021 newsletter

    Dear Alumni and Friends of the School of Social Work,

    Congratulations to the Class of 2021! This past academic year was an unusual one with the majority of classes held remotely as we got through another year of the pandemic. However, our spring graduates have persevered and are now ready to begin the next phase of their journeys as social workers. Both the spring Class of 2021 and Class of 2020 were able to celebrate their accomplishments with in-person convocation ceremonies. Family and faculty gathered in a socially distanced manner in Mackay Stadium to cheer our graduates across the stage and recognize their hard work.

    With this end of this academic year, we must also wish Dr. Eric Albers a very happy retirement as he joins a group of distinguished emeritus faculty. He has taught with the School of Social Work for over 35 years and most recently served as our MSW Program Coordinator. Dr. Albers is a U.S. Army Veteran, earned his PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy from Texas Women’s University. As a Psychiatric Social Worker, he has worked hard to support Nevada’s rural communities and build strong ties between the University and local community. He’s inspired so many students throughout his tenure, and we are so grateful for everything he has done for the School.

    A trip down memory lane with Dr. Albers

    Dr. Albers sitting in a chair wearing a blue jacket inside a classroom

    School of Social Work faculty, staff, students and alumni paid their respects to Dr. Albers as we took a trip down memory lane.

    Retirement tribute for Dr. Albers

    Social work graduate walks in commencement in honor of late son
    Aida Guerrero and her two sons in front of a light up sign

    For many students graduating this May, the news of an in-person commencement was a long-awaited victory after two semesters of virtual ceremonies. Having the ability to walk across a stage is a once-in-a-lifetime achievement. For one social work student, Aida Guerrero, walking during commencement was more than a personal achievement but a tribute to her son, Diego, who passed away in a tragic ATV accident last year. Her son would have been walking across his own graduation stage this year, but now Aida will be walking for both of them.

    Read Aida's story

  • April 2021 newsletter

    Dear Alumni and Friends of the School of Social Work,

    April was a busy month as we worked diligently to complete and submit our reaffirmation documents to CSWE. Though it is hard to believe, we are almost at the end of the spring semester and the 20-21 academic year. Our students have persevered through remote learning and hybrid classes, continued their field placements in compliance with social distance regulations, and embraced Zoom and Facebook Live to host events for their student clubs. It has been a remarkable year, and we are very proud of our upcoming Class of 2021 graduates. For students who choose to participate, we look forward to seeing them walk across the stage in Mackay Stadium for an in-person graduation in a few weeks.

    We will reflect more on the year next month, but for now, I look forward to presenting you with some exciting updates from this past month and upcoming events for the last few weeks

    Welcome Class of 2022

    The School of Social Work continues to see increased enrollment in our programs. We recently accepted 112 students into the 2021-2022 cohort of Bachelors of Social Work. These students will begin their BSW professional sequence and enter field work.

    Student groups represent the School of Social Work

    Our student clubs have been hard at work putting on a variety of impactful and successful events to give back to the community and their peers. Here’s a look at what they’ve been up to.

    a group of students in a park

    Students helped make 250 lunches for members of the community

    a collage of multiple headshots

    USSWA and SWAG hosted a career panel where six local professionals spoke about their experiences in Social Work. Guest panelists included:

    Steven Hammonds: The Life Change Center
    Nicole Sitton-School of Social Work
    Randy Khong-LCSW
    Stacey Shinn- State Innovation Exchange
    Kimberly Schmeling- child welfare
    Salena Carr-Picconi- Hospital social worker

    social work students handing out burritos

    Members of FUSED Social Justice Action Club alongside the Reno Burrito Project handed out more than 400 burritos, clothes, hygiene kits, and snacks to our houseless neighbors in the Reno community!

    FUSED also hosted the first DARE TO MACRO event that brought together a panel of macro social workers to talk about their experiences and careers. Guest panelists included:

    Teresa Benitez-Thompson, MSW, NV Assembly Majority Floor Leader
    Erika Minaberry, Staging Location Director and a Field Organizer for Bernie Sanders Campaign
    Joelle Gutman Dodson, MSW, Government Affair Liaison,Washoe County Health District
    Nick Shepack, MSW, Policy & Program Associate, ACLU
    Renee Hamel, MSW, Field Representative at AFSCME Council 4


  • March 2021 newsletter

    Dear Alumni and Friends of the School of Social Work,

    Happy Social Work Month! This last year has been challenging for all of us on multiple fronts and has pushed us as social workers to confront crisis after crisis. But you have stepped up to the challenge each time. It is fitting that we then take this month, the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, to celebrate our social workers and recognize your essential role in our communities and in the upcoming recovery and improvement of issues like systemic inequality. Thank you for everything you do!

    As you have seen throughout the month, we have run a social media campaign to highlight the achievements of our alumni and local social workers, as well as share the hopes our students have for their future careers’ impacts. It has been inspiring to hear these stories. You can see all the posts on our Facebook and Instagram pages. We also want to thank you for your support of our crowdfund campaign for the Barbara West Larsen School of Social Work Founder’s Endowment scholarship that has greatly increased critical scholarship dollars to our students and Nevada’s future social workers!

    Social Work Advocacy Day

    On February 17, more than 130 practitioners and students participated in the Social Work Advocacy Day. This year Social Work Advocacy Day focused on assisting with food insecurity on AB138: Revises Provisions Relating to Public Assistance, advocated for BDR 55-116: Student Loan Bill of Rights, and supported diversifying and raising revenue to continue to provide programing to the populations social workers serve. This event provides our students the valuable lesson of advocating for policies, utilizing community organizing, and engaging in social and economic justice. Throughout the history of this event, our students have been able to have a meaningful impact on legislation that affected our target populations.

    Read more about SWAD

    Womxn and Democracy: An Intersectional Conversation

    As part of Women’s Month, I was honored to be a panelist speaker along with many other accomplished University women from diverse backgrounds and disciplines. We discussed the multiple, invisible barriers to entry in an intersectional context, the ways those in a majority can engage in effective allyship, and how to make effective change in with a flawed system. We brought our unique lived experiences and professional experience to the table for a dynamic and engaging conversation.

  • February 2021 newsletter

    Dear Alumni and Friends of the School of Social Work,

    I hope this newsletter finds you well. Our semester is off to a strong start. In addition to continuing classes and field placements, we are making strong headway on our accreditation. The committee has been hard at work finalizing our documentation, and later this semester our accrediting body will meet with faculty, students, and community representatives to confirm our programs are meeting the standard of excellence we promise our students. We are confident that will go well, and we will keep you informed on the results.

    Though we are seeing a calming in the pandemic, the effects of this past year will be felt for much longer – whether on employment, learning outcomes, or our collective mental health. This year has brought some positive changes, such as highlighting flexibility in our work and instruction methods and sparking critical conversations on equality, but it has also brought incredible levels of stress and isolation. Social Workers will continue to be on the front lines of this battle, but we also need to make sure to take care of ourselves. As part of that, I have joined NSHE Chancellor Melody Rose’s Mental Health Taskforce to bring a social work perspective to combating the challenges our students and faculty are facing. I look forward to sharing updates with you. As we look ahead, I am excited to celebrate National Social Workers Month and introduce you to some new hires as our school continues to grow.

    Welcome to Dr. Lillian Wichinsky New Associate Dean

    “I love being out in the community and working with community organizations,” explained Dr. Wichinsky. “As social workers we like to think we’re going to solve all of the world’s problems, but we’re not going to do it alone. We’re going to solve them by working together with engineers, journalists, businesses, and other professionals.”I am thrilled to announce that Dr. Lillian Wichinsky was recently hired as our new Associate Dean for the School of Social Work. Dr. Wichinsky brings with her more than 25 years of experience in the social work profession with a passion for community practice. She has a Ph.D. in Social Welfare from Florida International University in Miami, a Master's degree in Social Work from California State University in Sacramento, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from the University of Florida in Gainesville. 

    Dr. Wichinsky’ s passion lies in community practice. Some of her previous professional work includes child welfare, advocating for individuals with disabilities and the homeless, best practices in working with youth transitioning from foster care, and working as an evaluator and grant writer. Dr. Wichinsky fell in love with advocating for systemic change and has focused her career assisting organizations to make those changes to better serve the needs of the community.

    Dr. Wichinsky joins the School of Social Work after serving as the Director of the University of South Florida’s Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships. “I’m looking forward to working alongside Dean Martin to assist the school in the re-accreditation process, mentoring faculty, and teaching students. Being in the classroom reminds me why I do what I do.” expressed Dr. Wichinsky.

    Social Workers are Essential

    March is Social Work Month, and very fittingly, this year’s theme is ‘Social Workers are Essential.’ We hope later this year to meet together for our second Celebrating Social Work Leaders event. But in the meantime to comply with gathering regulations, we will celebrate this month through a social media event. We will highlight the excellent work of our students, alumni, faculty, and friends on our Facebook and Instagram pages. We will also run a crowdfund for one of our scholarships to further support our students in meeting their educational goals through this tough time. Stay tuned for more information to follow, and follow the school so you don’t miss this great campaign.

  • January 2021 newsletter

    Dear School of Social Work Alumni and Friends,

    Let me begin by wishing you a very happy and healthy start to the New Year. Though 2021 won’t bring a magical end to the hardships of the past year, I think we can all be cautiously optimistic that at least as far as the pandemic is concerned, the situation may begin improving soon.

    January brings the start of our Spring semester, now a week later than normal to provide students and faculty more time to social distance following the holiday season. For the majority of classes, we will continue with remote instruction with smaller classes (25 students or less) to meet in-person through the hyflex model. To allow more time for social distancing, spring break was canceled this year, but the University has instituted a series of ‘reading days’ to give opportunities for downtime away from the routines of the semester. With vaccination ramping up in the state and beginning to reach our campus community, we can hope to return to a more normal academic year in the near future.  

    I look forward to the start of the Spring semester and want to share a few recent news/events below.

    Community Advisory Board member recognized

    Mary Liveratti

    We are pleased to recognize Mary Liveratti as the 2021 recipient of the Lucy Peres Award from the Nevada Aging Network. This award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated exceptional dedication and service to Nevadan Senior Citizens and the aging service committee. Mary served 32 years with the Nevada Division for Aging and Disability Services, and was the Deputy Director of the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the State President for AARP Nevada. For the last year and a half, Mary has also supported our future social workers through service on our Community Advisory Board. Mary will be recognized as part of the Nevada Aging Network’s Engaging with Aging Virtual Conference on February 23. Congratulations, Mary!

    Register for Social Advocacy Day

    The 2021 Virtual Social Work Advocacy Day allows professionals and students to utilize the collective voices of social workers and those we serve to our elected officials. Join the National Association of Social Workers Nevada the School of Social Work, University of Nevada Reno, and the School of Social Work, University of Nevada Las Vegas in speaking out on important issues facing the social work profession in Nevada's legislative arena. The goal of the event is to further social workers' knowledge about legislative advocacy and provide an opportunity for social workers to speak with their legislators about the social work profession and important client issues.

  • December 2020 newsletter

    Dear School of Social Work Alumni and Friends,

    As I reflect on this year, I cannot help but think of the monumental moments of change, hardship, and support we have all experienced personally and professionally. No one could have predicted all that 2020 brought, and it will be one that we will not forget. When the year started, the School of Social Work did expect this to be an incredibly year. We were half way through our first year as an independent academic year, had a great event planned for Social Work Month in March, and looked forward to incredible growth in our student body, faculty, and community engagement. And it should be noted that those things still happened.

    The Community Advisory Board planned and executed the first Celebrating Social Work Leaders event to honor the tremendous success of our alumni and community partners. We brought together more than 180 people to provide a platform to highlight the important role social workers play in our community, and we were pleased to hear that people felt it was a kind of reunion with their former classmates or coworkers. The general sentiment from those who attended was that it made them feel proud to be a social worker. We also announced the formation of the School of Social Work Alumni Chapter. With the pandemic declared just two days later, it remained a bright spot in the year.

    Our school also grew in a variety of ways. We had 13 new faculty and staff join our team and saw wonderful growth in our MSW enrollment. Our students also formed the Social Work Student Advisory Board to better advocate for their needs and interests in the School.

    We also took great steps to connect further with our community. Not only will our new Alumni Chapter provide opportunities for graduates to remain connected with each other and the School, but we now have an active social media presence on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. With this, we saw our community further connect and support us. The Pete and Aloha Domenici Scholarship for Social Work was established, our alumni and community partners grew our existing scholarships to further increase their impact for our students, and we were notified of a planned gift established to support our future students and goals.

    Of course, most of this happened in the shadow of COVID-19, the resulting economic crisis, and the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. As a result of these crises, we had to rapidly move to remote class instruction, saw budget cuts as an institution and potential hardships individually, and confronted many hard conversations about racial justice and systemic oppression. It would have been understandable to become overwhelmed by all the challenges, uncertainties, and losses.

    But it is how our students, faculty, and community came together that will let me look back on this year with pride. Our faculty did a wonderful job making the transition to remote learning as painless as possible and worked with students who found themselves in less than ideal learning circumstances. The Community Advisory Board continued to meet monthly and offered support to the School to ensure we can continue our core missions and connect with students and faculty to find solutions to the challenges this pandemic has brought. And most impressively, our students proved their calling to the Social Work profession by going above and beyond despite all the challenges.

    They used their field placements or volunteered to provide information, resources, and support to vulnerable populations in response to COVID-19. They teamed up with other health-profession students to provide telehealth and resource accessibility screenings to the community over the summer, and for their hard work were recognized with the Healthcare Heroes Volunteer Award. Additionally, knowing how their fellow students may be struggling with current events, they organized virtual speaking events, such as SPEAK UP (Safe Place to Engage in Anti-Racial Knowledge and Understand Privilege), to share, listen, and take action on issues that matter to our communities.

    I believe we will all be happy to say goodbye to 2020, but we also know that our work will continue and be more important than ever as we begin to recover and rebuild after this pandemic. We have always known that the core of our profession is to work collaboratively across disciplines and promote social justice, human rights, and the health of our communities – and this year has underscored how critical our work is. As dark as some moments of this year have been, there is also much to look back on with pride and hope. Thank you for all the work you – as alumni, faculty, student, or friend – have done for our community. I look forward to starting the new year with you and seeing what we, as social workers, can achieve together.

    Happy Holidays!

    Austin Pollard

    BSW student recognized as volunteer of the year
    Austin Pollard is recognized by Human Services Network for his commitment to the community and helping others through volunteer work.

    Grad caps

    Celebrating the class of 2020
    Congratulations to the class of 2020! Meet our graduates and see details from the virtual commencement ceremony.

    Shadi Martin

    Commencement message from the Dean
    "The world needs you now, more than ever before." A powerful message from the Dean to graduates.

  • November 2020 newsletter

    Dear Friends and Alumni of the School of Social Work,

    This week marks for many the start of the holiday season, and this year will be a particularly unusual one as we are unable to gather with all our friends or family for safety. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to start this message by thanking you all for the work you have done this year in response to the crises we have all faced, whether this is working on the frontlines of the pandemic, advocating or organizing for social change, getting out to vote, or staying home to stop the renewed spread of COVID-19. These problems cannot be fixed by one person or in a silo, and everyone here at the UNR School of Social Work knows our alumni and friends are at the forefront of these responses.

    Before sharing some exciting updates from our students and faculty, I wanted to first congratulate Joe Arrascada on his election to the NSHE Board of Regents. He was a founding member of the School’s Community Advisory Board and an alumnus of our MSW program. With how he’s served our School, we look forward to seeing what this next step brings.

    Radical Kinship, hosted by FUSED

    Birds flying into the sky

    On Thursday 11/12, the FUSED student group hosted a conversation with Dr. Susan Chandler about the idea of Radical Kinship in Social Work. It is a way of living social justice values and providing healing to the communities social workers support. Dr. Chandler drew from her many years of experience teaching and working within the criminal justice system to discuss the complicated history social work has with community of color, and ways of improving for the future to bring people together. If you would like to view the event, the recording is posted to the FUSED Facebook page

    Women Inspiring Women Summit

    Shadi Martin, Dean of the School of Social Work

    On Saturday 11/14 I had the privilege of speaking as part of the Western Nevada College (WNC) 2020 Women’s Leadership Summit: Women Inspiring Women. My talk was titled “Leadership – A Moral Obligation.” The conference speakers were a diverse group of distinguished women from all over Nevada. A few notable speakers including Nevada Lieutenant Governor Kate Marshall, Nevada State Senator Yvanna Cancela, Great Basin College President Joyce Helens, TMCC President Karen Hilgersom, NSHE Board of Regents Amy Carvalho, Lisa Levine Carol Del Carlo, and our own Associated Students of the University of Nevada (ASUN) President Dominique Hall.

    Follow the School of Social Work on Social Media

    Get an inside look at the School of Social Work developments, faculty and student achievements, news and more by following the School of Social Work on Facebook and Instagram.

    Keep well and stay safe!

  • October 2020 newsletter

    Dear Friends and Alumni of the School of Social Work,

    I hope you are all keeping safe and healthy as we move through the fall. Autumn is always viewed as a season of change and transition, but this year it seems to be especially so. September proved a very busy month for the School of Social Work and the University as a whole. Now that we are a little more settled, I want to provide an update on the last two months, beginning first with updates on two prominent University members.

    You likely heard that the NSHE Board of Regents has selected the 17th President of the University of Nevada, Reno. On October 5th, we welcomed former Governor Brian Sandoval, an alumnus of the College of Liberal Arts, back to the University. His selection was particularly exciting for the School of Social Work given the role he played in bringing social workers into Nevada’s schools. I look forward to working with the President’s Office further to connect the School of Social Work to the local and state community as a resource.

    Earlier this month also marked the passing of Ellen Frances Pillard. She earned her BSW from Antioch College and MSW from the University of Washington before joining the School of Social Work in the late 1970s, helping to build a new school as part of the national wave of social work school creation. Her professional background had been in supporting children with developmental disabilities and their families, which she dearly loved. However, her first major research project focused on women in prostitution, which became a cornerstone of her academic career. In 1986, she received the Alan Bible Teaching Excellence Award and was the 1992-1993 Chair for Faculty Senate. She was also a major supporter for the creation of the Women Studies Department. However, she is truly remembered as an educator who worked hard to support and guide her students.

    Beyond her professional work, she was President of the Sierra Club and a board member for the national leadership. She loved the desert in all its forms and exploring the history of the land and its indigenous peoples. She not only advocated for the environment, but also Native America communities, women’s rights, and particularly the LGBTQ community. She was very politically active, but also more personally made sure to have a kind word for anyone who needed one, particularly her students navigating the complexities of their identity. Ellen’s legacy of social justice shows this has been a guiding value for the School of Social Work from its earliest years, and her example is one that can guide us as we continue to advocate for a more just and equitable society in our role as social works. She will be dearly missed by all who had the privilege of knowing her. The School of Social Work faculty and staff will be making a donation to her alma mater, Antioch College, and her family has also advised that donations in her memory to the Sierra Club would be welcomed too if anyone would like to contribute.


    On September 2, our undergraduate students hosted their second SPEAK UP webinar on DACA and Undocumented students. The event’s guest speakers were Jahahi Mazariego, LSW, a Social Services Coordinator at UNR’s Equal Opportunity and Title IX office; Mayra Sierra-Ruiz, a Coordinator in the UNR Office of Admission & Records; and Mariana Sarmiento, MSW, Resource Coordinator for Diversity Initiatives at UNLV. They presented on topics related to difficulties and barriers students face in continuing and access educational and financial aid support when pursuing their education as well as updates to DACA. It was an incredibly informative event, which allowed the sharing of information and best practices between two universities, and resulted in an additional workshop about how to write testimonials for advocacy purposes. I cannot say enough how inspirational our students are as they not only strive to provide educational opportunities on matters they care about, but also take action in the community.

    The third SPEAK UP event was held last Thursday on October 22. Our own Amanda Cuevas, MSW, LSW and the Vice President for the Board of Directors of the Nevada Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence was joined by Rica Andrade, Project Manager for Bamboo Bridges’ Project Resilience, Vanessa Rios, a domestic violence and sexual assault advocate, and Rita Imus, a Safe School Counselor and SART Advocate for Crisis Support Services of Nevada to discuss their experience working with survivors of domestic violence.

    School of Social Work Alumnus of the Year

    Last week was Homecoming, and though we could not gather in-person for the usual festivities, the Nevada Alumni Association hosted their Alumni Award Ceremony virtually. We are very pleased to recognize Frank Cervantes ‘94 as the 2020 Alumnus of the Year for the School of Social Work. He is the Director of the Washoe County Department of Juvenile Services, a position he has held since 2013, where he oversees operations and staff at the Jan Evans Juvenile Justice Facility. In his current role, he is leading the conversation on how social work values and the juvenile justice system can work together to truly support children and their families in difficult circumstances. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, Frank is also working to ensure that the youth in his care are kept as safe as possible from the disease. Additionally, he has supported the community as a former board member for the Children’s Cabinet and as a current member of our Community Advisory Board. Congratulations, Frank!

    LOA Meetings

    As part of a mission to create a more unified School and educational experience for our students, our BSW Coordinator, Mariana Dubose, has held monthly meetings with our LOA faculty. These are professional members of the community who teach on a semester-to-semester basis. This is an opportunity for this group to get together with the regular academic faculty to discuss developments at the University or School and goals for the curriculum. In a year marked by such rapid transition, the need to ensure unity between our instructors has never been more clear, and we pleased with this new development.

    Phi Alpha Honor Society and Dean’s List

    While the School of Social Work focuses on supporting students through these challenging times, I do not want to lose sight of also recognizing their achievements. I had students approach me about a local chapter of the Phi Alpha Honor Society. The School had been a member several years ago, but our membership had lapsed with leadership transitions. We are in the process of rejoining Phi Alpha to provide our students the opportunity to have their academic achievement recognized on a national platform.

    I am also pleased to announce that our social work students will be recognized as part of the Dean’s List for students who earn a 3.75 GPA. Now that we are an independent unit, I have felt very strongly about starting this initiative to recognize students for their superior academic achievement amongst their peers. We look forward to announcing our first Dean’s List for Fall 2020.

    School of Social Work Accreditation Update

    Every few years, the School of Social Work, like all academic units of the University, must go through an accreditation process to ensure that the School is meeting national standards for preparing our students at the BSW and MSW level. Our Accreditation Committee has been hard at work undertaking our self-study to review our curriculum and set goals for the coming years. Our self-study will be submitted in April and we are well on track to meet that deadline and prepare for the on-site visit. I am very appreciative for the work the committee is doing on top of teaching and research during an unusual year.

    Student Advisory Committee

    These newsletters have shown how engaged our students are both on- and off-campus. Several student leaders have joined together to form a Student Advisory Committee, who I meet with monthly to discuss developments for the School. I think it is important to have a platform for students to bring ideas and concerns just as we have our Community Advisory Board to keep us connected with community and professional needs. The Student Advisory Committee is in the process of registering with the Associated Students of the University of Nevada (ASUN) as an official student club, but they have already sent student representation to our faculty and community advisory board meetings.

    School of Social Work Alumni Chapter (SSWAC)

    Similarly, the School of Social Work Alumni Chapter has been approved as an official chapter of the Nevada Alumni Association. We are very pleased to have this formal organization for our alumni to gather and keep in touch with each other and the School. Please visit the SSWAC Facebook Page (linked here) to join.

  • August 2020 newsletter

    Dear Friends and Alumni of the School of Social Work,

    I hope this letter finds you all healthy and enjoying the last few weeks of summer as you prepare for the fall semester. Thank you for your positive feedback on this newsletter! As our fall semester begins, I wanted to share a few short updates:

    Students Return to Class

    Our semester has just begun with classes of 35 students or fewer meeting on-campus using the hyflex model. In this mode, half of the students meet in-person, while the other half are online, and they switch week to week. This will provide many students with the benefits of in-person instruction in a socially-distanced capacity. Students are required to wear masks while on campus, and classrooms will be sanitized between sessions. We used this model for Summer Session II through July and August, and across campus, the feedback from students and instructors was positive and encouraging. For students with an online week or in larger classes, the School of Social Work is confident that we can also provide high quality online instruction since we have an entirely remote degree program as well and many of our instructors are skilled at online teaching.

    Racial Justice Conversations

    Students and the university community have continued our conversations on racial justice and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our social work student groups are planning a new Speak Up (Safe Place to Engage in Anti-Racial Knowledge and Understand Privilege) Zoom event in September to discuss DACA and challenges to pursuing higher education. I have also been in conversation with Debra Moddelmog, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, and a number of department chairs to discuss developing an interdisciplinary degree/path in Criminal Justice Reform.

    Many of you who attended her classes will also be excited to hear that Professor Susan Chandler has offered to return from retirement to teach her very popular class: Mass Incarceration, Race, and Justice. In the wake of protests and renewed conversations about disproportionate incarceration rates, she reached out to me to offer this course. In the past, this course has received high praise and it frequently featured guest speakers from persons who were formerly incarcerated so students could learn from their experiences first hand.

    I can also provide an update on my conversations with Chief Renwick of the University Police Dept. and Sheriff Balaam of the Washoe County Police Department. They have agreed to provide students with field placements so social work students can gain first-hand experience and exposure to law enforcement and criminal justice procedures. We also have three officers from the University police and three from Washoe County PD who will audit our Structural Oppression class which addresses systemic racism, sexism and classism. This will allow for a semester-long, in-depth analysis and dialogue on these important topics.

    Community Support of Our Students

    Another major topic of discussion in the community was the state budget cuts. We are preparing for an especially lean year. Our major concern has been the well-being of our students and ensuring they can achieve their educational goals without undue hardship. Many of you have provided great support to the University’s emergency student funds, Pack Provisions food pantry, and to existing scholarships or the annual fund for our School. On behalf of our students, I cannot thank you enough for these contributions as our students face even greater hardship in this health and financial crisis.

    Going above and beyond, two supporters of our school created planned gifts to support our future students through gifts to the annual fund and to create a scholarship. Ms. Lona Domenici has established the Pete and Aloha Domenici Scholarship for Social Work through a planned gift in honor of her parents. She remembers her father helping many young people from their Yerington community pursue and finish their education, including one man who earned his Bachelors of Social Work from UNR. Lona hopes this gift will continue her father’s legacy by making education more accessible to future social work students. We are incredibly appreciative of this long-term investment in our School and students to come.

    I look forward to keeping you informed about the semester ahead. 

  • July 2020 newsletter

    Dear Friends and Alumni of the School of Social Work,

    I hope you are staying positive and keeping healthy through these tumultuous times. These last four months have been difficult for so many, but have also led to much needed conversations surrounding health, economic, and racial disparities in the community. Though we must continue to persevere to protect our health and should seize opportunities for growth and change, we also hope you find opportunities to enjoy the summer and to take care of your own wellbeing – mentally and physically.

    As we move through the summer, I want to provide an update on the School of Social Work. Classes may have ended, but our students and faculty continue to adapt to the challenges of these times to serve the Truckee Meadows community. The work students and faculty began in the spring semester continues into the summer. More than 20 students from the School of Social Work and School of Community Health Sciences were brought together to provide telehealth and resource accessibility screenings through Delivery with Dignity. This is an initiative started by Lt. Governor Kate Marshall, and has been working in close collaboration with the Nevada CAN program, developed by the Sanford Center for Aging and the Department of Health and Human Services to provide telehealth services for Nevada’s seniors during stay at home orders. Students volunteer to make phone and Zoom calls to ensure seniors and other eligible individuals are food secure, can access medications and other health needs, and ensures they are referred for food delivery and other resources as needed. Dr. Anngela-Cole who helped coordinate this effort highlights the tremendous efforts of our recent graduate students Sierra Johnson and Alyssa Webb in Community Health Sciences, who serve as student coordinators for the project.

    While navigating the global health pandemic, our country and the world was shocked by the killing of George Floyd and the ripple of protests demanding changes to systemic oppression. The core of our profession as social workers is to raise up our fellow humans to promote social justice, human rights, and the health of our community from a holistic perspective. We know Black Lives Matter, are proud of the work our alumni do to uphold and promote that concept, and look forward to providing avenues for our students, faculty, and the community to have the hard and necessary conversations to advance that mission. On June 24th, I worked with our student groups and organized a zoom event entitled Speak Up (Safe Place to Engage in Anti- Racial Knowledge and Understand Privilege). We had over 60 social work students participate in this event which was viewed as a great success by those who attended and we are working to schedule another one in early fall. We hope this will be the first of a series of these important conversations at our school.

    Since the role and methods of policing have been central to recent conversations, I have been in talks with the UNR Chief of Police Todd Renwick and Washoe County Sheriff Balaam to look for ways that the School can engage with the police department to improve policing on campus and in the community. We have plans to provide field placements within these two police departments for social work students and plan to make our required Structural Oppression course available to police officers. While this may lead to uncomfortable and difficult conversations, education and understanding are at the root of progress and healing, and we want to provide a platform for that to happen.

    On a lighter note, those of you who were able to join us at Celebrating Social Work Leaders may recall that the School was beginning an alumni chapter. The Executive Board, led by our new BSW Coordinator Mariana Dubose, has been coordinating with the Nevada Alumni Association to finalize the formation of the Chapter. In the meantime, you can still join the School of Social Work Alumni Chapter (SSWAC) by visiting the SSWAC Facebook Page (linked here) to reconnect with your fellow alumni and learn about upcoming events.

    Thank you again for all your tireless, critical work and continued support through this challenging time. Though it will not be easy, we shall get through this together.