Widener University
Center for Social Work Education
Vol. I, Issue V
May 2012
In This Issue
Graduation & Banquet
Child Sexual Abuse Treatment Workshop
PhD Student Spotlight: Wanja Ogongi
Practice Corner: Sensorimotor Therapy
BSW & MSW Student Award Recipients
Faculty Spotlight: Ginny Focht-New
Children's Art Fair
Widener Center for Violence Prevention
Using Therapeutic Writing as a Tool for Social Workers
Dr. Ando's Refugee Research Project
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Support the Center for Social Work Education
Did you know that the percentage of alumni giving is almost as important as the amount a university receives?  Your donation of as little as $5 can make a big difference for the Center for Social Work Education.  Please consider helping to support the Center and its students by mailing a check to:
Widener University Development Office
Attn: Center for Social Work Education
One University Place
Chester, PA 19013

or through the University Advancement Office's website.

Thank you for your support of Widener University's Center for Social Work Education. 
WCSWE Advisory Board
Gail Ober, Chair
Harriet Burton-Wilson, Vice Chair
Delarue Birch
Liz Braccia
Karen Britt
June Cairns
Cheryl Cunningham
Cole Glaser
Elicia Gonzales
Mary Grant
Maggie Meshok
Neilda Mott
Pat Mulholland
Shanna Perkins
Bruno Rescigna
Janet Riley Ford
Cheryl Sadeghee
Beth Shuman
Jaclyn Tomasetti


John Poulin

It has been a busy year at the Center for Social Work Education.  All of the faculty and our four graduate assistants spent numerous hours preparing our self-study reports for the reaffirmation of accreditation of our MSW and MSW programs.  The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredits social work programs for eight-year periods.  The Commission on Accreditation will review our BSW and MSW programs in February 2013.  This June our self-study materials will undergo an initial review by the Commission on Accreditation and a site visit will take place on October 25 - 26.


Preparing for our reaffirmation has been an on-going three-year process.  We began by revising our mission and program goals to align them with CSWE's 2008 Educational Policies and Accreditation Standards. The faculty then spent a considerable amount of time crafting the program competencies and practice behaviors that are used to assess the social work practice competencies of our BSW and MSW graduates.  The faculty completely reviewed both curricula, modified program structure and requirements, and developed new courses and modified existing courses to ensure that the BSW and MSW curricula provided students with learning experiences that allowed their mastery of our program competencies and identified practice behaviors.


This past academic year has been devoted to implementing our new BSW and MSW curricula and to the on-going assessment of their effectiveness.  This past year we have also focused a great deal of attention on strengthening our implicit curriculum (the student learning environment) and preparing our detailed self-study accreditation reports.   It has been a long but ultimately rewarding process.  We are excited about our new curricula and the way students and faculty are responding to our classes and the learning environment at the Center for Social Work Education.  We look forward to receiving Commission on Accreditation's initial review in June, our October site visit, and to receiving the Commission on Accreditation's reaffirmation decisions in February.


John Poulin, Ph.D.

Director and Associate Dean

2012 WCSWE Graduation & Banquet
BSWs Brent Banquet
  MSW Grads 
On Wednesday, May 9th the Center for Social Work Education held a graduation banquet for its 12 BSW, 97 MSW, and 2 PhD graduates at Heritage Ballroom.  Graduates, guests, faculty, and staff enjoyed an evening of food, music, speeches, and socializing.  Students from the BSW and MSW programs were honored with awards and the accomplishments of the Center's two PhD students were recognized.  


Students were asked to submit photos of themselves and quotes about their time at Widener to be used in a slideshow that was featured at the banquet.  Many students had wonderful things to say about their experience in Widener's BSW and MSW programs, a sample of which are featured below:
"My time here at Widener has been full of many incredible experiences. I have found much success throughout my journey and am very thankful for the support of my social work family. I found a home within our small class and it is bittersweet to leave." - Emily Fleming, BSW
"The MSW program allowed me to grow professionally and personally.  There was a lot of support from my professors and friends which is much appreciated.  It also enhanced my commitment to helping people in my country to avoid and solve problems.   I have so many memories that I will always be happy to remember." - Sultana Asfahani, MSW
"Widener University's clinical MSW program has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life thus far.  Thank you!" - Jashina Miller, MSW
"My educational experience at Widener University was fulfilling.  I am truly grateful for the overwhelming support that I received from various professors, supportive staff, and classmates." - Ina B. Hurst, MSW
"The social work program at Widener has given me an increased knowledge in the profession of social work and I will forever remember those of my classmates and professors who were helpful during my study here." - Nelson Suah, MSW


Saturday, May 12th was the actual day of graduation at Widener's main campus and most of the Center's graduates were in attendance.  The day was a wonderful one to cap off years of hard work, perseverance, and achievements.  Please enjoy photos from the day below.

PhD Grads 2 MSW Grads 2

Opening Pandora's Box: Child Sexual Abuse Treatment Annual Conference   
On Thursday, June 7th the Center for Social Work Education, along with Family Support Line and Widener University's Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology, Post Graduate Center, will be hosting a workshop for interested professionals and students.  The 9th annual Opening Pandora's Box conference focuses on "A Perspective on Therapy with Families Besieged by Child Sexual Abuse."  Presenter John Brendler, MSW, ACSW, LMFT is a family therapist in private practice in Media and teacher of family therapy who is widely recognized for his expertise in working with families dealing with destructive relationships and life-threatening symptoms.  The conference will run from 9:00am-4:00pm that day and participants are eligible for 6.5 CEUs.  For more information and to register, please visit the conference website.
PhD Student Spotlight: Wanja Ogongi Wanja Ogongi PhD Committee 

This semester the Center for Social Work Education is proud to graduate one of its first PhD students, Wanja Ogongi.  Dr. Ogongi recently completed her dissertation, entitled "Together Again: Parents' Stories about Their Journey through the Foster Care Reunification Process."  Her work highlights many of the challenges of the foster care system and is a worthwhile, insightful read for social workers in the child welfare system as well as within the field at large. 


Dr. Ogongi is from a village called Kiangai in Central Kenya and was the first woman in her extended family to go to college.  These influences shaped the dedication in her dissertation, as follows: "I would also like to dedicate this dissertation to my family and community. Its completion culminates a great desire to set a trend in diligence, hard work, and persistence in the pursuit of academic excellence for future generations of women in my extended family and all the little girls in my home village of Kiangai, Kenya. I hope this work will represent women's ability to redefine and recreate our lives despite the tremendously constraining, oppressive, and repressive situations in which we often exist. This work is for, and because of you, and all the generations to come. It's dedicated to all our journeys in learning to thrive."


Dr. Ogongi also gives special thanks to her college sweetheart and husband of 17 years, Evans Ogongi, who supported her through this endeavor.  With her dissertation behind her, Dr. Ogongi's ultimate goal is to return to Kenya to teach social work, open a child and family welfare research and policy center that would advocate for children's rights, conduct research, and participate in the creation of an infrastructure for a national child welfare policy.  And, as per her dedication, serve as a role model for other Kenyan women.  For the time being, Dr. Ogongi has happily accepted a position at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) in their Ventilator Assisted Children's Home Program providing clinical social work services and conducting research on families. 


We at the Center wish to congratulate Dr. Ogongi on all of her accomplishments and wish her the best of luck with her future plans!

Sensorimotor Therapy: It's Not Just All in Your Head by Tom Young, Ph.D Tom Young


Originally, I wanted to write a brief piece entitled "Emotion-the Engine of Change." I had read something written by Allan Schore, author of The Science of the Art of Psychotherapy. He confirmed what I had seen evolving in the literature and in my practice-namely that bodily-based emotional processes have replaced cognitive and behavioral processes as the focus for understanding and facilitating therapeutic change. This helped me understand why personal narratives are so powerful. (See November Newsletter.) It is not the content of the narrative that holds the power; it is the emotions-how we feel about ourselves--that the personal narrative encapsulates and symbolizes. That is what moves us.


It will come as no surprise for you to read that the majority of social workers' clients have developmental histories that include "traumatic attachments." These are relationships with caregivers who were frightening to the child because their own difficulties (with depression, anxiety, alcohol, drugs, loss, or their own traumatic histories) undermined their efforts to be good parents--by leading to behaviors that scared the child at the very moment when the child needed to be closely connected to them. One result is that the child's nervous system and capacity for affect regulation become unbalanced and unreliable. Another result is that the emotional aspects of these experiences often are encoded bodily but not consciously.


When these children become adolescents and adults, they often are mandated to seek counseling for a variety of reasons: abuse or neglect of their own children, substance abuse, domestic violence, criminal acts, or emotional instability variously diagnosed. On the one hand, they are desperately seeking an attachment that can give them what they could not get when they were younger. On the other hand, even the prospect of seeking a secure emotional connection evokes fear of repeating their earlier experience--both consciously and unconsciously--and their level of emotional distress rises to unacceptable levels. When well meaning therapists try to connect their clients' current emotional distress and dysfunctional behavior to their previous traumatic experiences, the clients are often flooded with intolerable emotions and frequently "shut down" and/or refuse to participate in the process.


Enter sensorimotor therapy. Sensorimotor therapy provides a way for clients to find relief from all of this by focusing on where in their bodies they carry their feelings, the emotional reactions to their earlier experiences. It is a body-centered talk therapy that does not require any "hands on" intervention.


My understanding of how sensorimotor therapy works goes like this: by focusing on where pain and tension are located in the body and tracking how it organizes posture, movement, and nonverbal expression, the body "processes" the painful emotions from earlier traumatic attachments and finds within itself physical evidence of protest, assertiveness, and resilience. These bodily sensations are exercised and intensified at the therapist's suggestion--all without resorting to any cognitive explanations or interpretations. (The latter is deliberate since conscious, cognitive, left-brain processing could actually interfere with the unconscious, bodily, right-brain processing.) The end result is that the client's nervous system re-balances and more physical and psychological energy becomes available for affect tolerance and regulation, and the previously unconscious experiences become available for conscious cognitive processing. The client can now modify his or her personal narrative in a way that includes an expanded and more compassionate view of self.


I learned about all of this in a recent workshop given by Janina Fisher, Ph.D. There's much more to it, of course, but you can find out more about her and sensorimotor therapy at www.janinafisher.com. Also recommended is the book Trauma and the Body: A Sensorimotor Approach to Psychotherapy by Ogden, Minton and Pain (2006). New York: W. W. Norton.


Fisher concluded her workshop with a quote from Joseph Bobrow:


                   "What we cannot hold, we cannot process.

                     What we cannot process, we cannot transform.

                     What we cannot transform, haunts us."


How fortunate for our clients, I thought, that we can add this additional layer to our efforts to free them from the oppression of their traumatic pasts. 
2012 BSW & MSW Student Award Recipients
MSW Student Awardees
The Center for Social Work Education is proud to recognize its 2012 BSW and MSW student award recipients.  Awardees were honored at the graduation banquet and at individual award ceremonies in front of faculty, staff, peers, families, and friends.  Congratulations to these students for their hard work and impressive accomplishments.  Please see the individual awards and awardees below:


2012 BSW Awards:

The Outstanding Academic Achievement Award for Social Work - Rachel Randazzo

Rachel Randazzo has demonstrated excellence in scholarship and graduated with honors with a Bachelor of Social Work.  With a 3.96 GPA, Rachel is a member of Phi Alpha Honors Society, the national social work honors society.  As past president of the BSW Club, Rachel led the club in community service efforts at Widener and around Chester.  She has been accepted into the Advanced Standing MSW program at Widener Center for Social Work Education for the 2012-2012 academic year.


The Center for Social Work Education Service Award - Rita Sharma

Committed to providing supportive service to those in need, Rita Sharma demonstrates leadership and excellence in civic engagement and student life at Widener, in the community, and internationally.  Rita has served as an officer in the BSW Club, as the Director of Recruitment and Sisterhood Events in the Panhellenic Association, as the Chair of Scholarship and Community Services for Sigma Sigma Sigma, as the Student Government Association (SGA) Treasurer and later Speaker of the Senate, as a site leader for Alternative Spring Break, and as a leader in the Greek Life Immersion Trip to El Salvador.


The Excellence in Child Welfare Practice Award - Krystle Valdez

Krystle Valdez has demonstrated excellence in social work practice with children and families at the Department of Human Services of Philadelphia in the Child Welfare Education for Baccalaureates Program.  Krystle is a committed and strong advocate for children's needs.  She graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work and will now be employed in public child welfare.  In the future, Krystle plans to pursue a Master's of Social Work.


The Excellence in Social Work Practice Award - Stephanie Greco

Stephanie Greco has demonstrated excellence in generalist social work practice at her internship at Mirmont Institute.  Working with the vulnerable drug and alcohol population in a residential setting, Stephanie consistently demonstrates the ability to integrate a strengths-based ecosystemic approach in her assessment, treatment planning, and discharge planning.  Stephanie plans to work in the field of drug and alcohol as well as attend the MSW program at Widener in the future.


The Outstanding Senior Research Project Award - Rachel Randazzo

Rachel's project, entitled "A Perspective from the Elderly: Variables that Mitigate Autonomy in Long-Term Care Facilities/Rehabilitation Centers," uses a strengths-based approach to explore the variables that help older adults mitigate some of the challenges of aging.  These include familial support, resiliency, positive attitudes, and engagement with professionals.  This project contributes to the body of knowledge about effectively addressing the needs of older adults as the baby boomers age.


2012 MSW Awards:

Center for Social Work Education Service Award - Talisha Lee

This award is given to the student who exemplifies exceptional service to the Center for Social Work Education, the university, the community, and the profession of social work.  Talisha Lee has provided outstanding service to the Center and the profession through her leadership as president of the Widener University chapter of the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW).  Talisha's leadership in recruiting NABSW members and making the organization a vital component of the Center's learning environment is recognized and appreciated by the social work faculty and student body.


Carolyn Walter Award for Outstanding Clinical Social Work Practice - Patrick Johnson

This award is given to the student who exemplifies excellence in direct clinical social work practice.  Patrick Johnson has excelled in his internship at Einstein Medical Center.  Patrick has shown an exceptional ability to integrate theory and clinical concepts into his work with clients.  He has demonstrated outstanding assessment and intervention skills and has the ability to form effective helping relationships with diverse client populations.


Hobart C. Jackson Jr. Award - Stephanie Willets

This award is given to the student who exemplifies excellence in practice with ethnic minority senior populations.  Stephanie Willets has demonstrated a strong commitment to and effective clinical practice with older minority adults in her internship at Belmont Behavioral Health.  Stephanie has excelled in the MSW program in the classroom, in her field placements, and in her service to the Center, the community, and the profession.

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Ginny Focht-New 

 Ginny Focht-New

Title: Visiting Assistant Professor

Degree(s): PhD, PMH-CNS, BC, CDDN

[Psychiatric Mental Health-Clinical Nurse Specialist, Board Certified & Certified Developmental Disabilities Nurse]



Ginny has worked in the field of intellectual/developmental disabilities for more than 40 years beginning as a direct care staff member in a developmental center in Pennsylvania.  She has worked for a large community-based residential agency where she was a staff nurse, nursing coordinator, and eventually became a division director.  Ginny was a Director of Nursing for the Health Care Quality Unit in the southeast region of PA.  Recently she has worked as a consultant in several states assisting agencies to support individuals identified with "challenging behavior" through understanding and compassion.  In addition, Ginny is a therapist, now primarily meeting with individuals with IDD and focusing on traumatic experiences of this population using EMDR.  In 1998, she received the Lillian Brunner Sholtis award from the University of Pennsylvania's nursing alumni association for innovative practice. She also has numerous publications in a variety of journals.


Ginny is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at Widener University, teaching Research, Human Behavior in the Social Environment I and II, and Interpersonal Processes on both the Chester and Harrisburg campuses.


Research interests: 

Health Education, Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities, Trauma, Mental Health, and Illness


What have you learned from your students?

I have learned the importance of engaging students in their education by including, encouraging, and empowering them.  Students teach me in every class as they bring a wealth of knowledge and experience into their courses.


Why should a student choose your program?

I love learning and teaching.  I try to bring enthusiasm and experience from my practice and years of experience as a student into the classroom.


What is your favorite type of involvement with your students?

I like lively class discussion and also the points in time when students attain a new way of understanding a novel concept or a dreaded topic.


How do you engage your students outside the classroom?

I email a lot and use message boards to try to maintain dialogue with students between classes.  I offer to meet with students to assist with learning.


What are your professional involvements outside of Widener University?

I am a member of the American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (national and Pennsylvania chapters); International Society of Psychiatric Mental Health Nurses; EMDR International Association; Phi Kappa Phi; and Sigma Theta Tau, and I review manuscripts for Perspectives in Psychiatric Care.

Chester Children's Art FairArt Fair
       Art Fair Pictures
On Wednesday, April 18th the Center for Social Work Education (WCSWE), along with the Widener Partnership Charter School (WPCS) and the Nia Center, hosted an art fair for students in grades K-5.  Throughout the year, students created original pieces during art class at WPCS and in after-school programs at the Nia Center that were on display during the fair for students, family, and guests to view.  Volunteers from the BSW Club engaged students in an art activity during the fair.  Delores Freeman-Clybourn, Executive Director of the Nia Center, presented each student with a certificate acknowledging his/her hard work.  We are proud of the many students who participated and thank WPCS for hosting this enjoyable, annual event.
Widener Center for Violence Prevention 

Jenny WyattThe Widener Center for Violence Prevention (WCVP), directed by Jenny Wyatt, Ph.D., a full-time faculty member in the Center for Social Work Education (WCSWE), works in collaboration with numerous agencies and programs in Delaware County to prevent violence in the community. These partnerships include Criminal Justice Agencies, Social Services, Faith Based Services, County Services, Schools, and Community Initiatives. Their goal is to improve the effectiveness of violence prevention efforts by facilitating collaboration between agencies and providing supportive resources. Services offered include: an online database, asset mapping of violence prevention resources, consultation in program development and grant writing, and training.   The Center is supported by the WCSWE, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. Monthly collaborative meetings are held with partners, and smaller workgroups address specific issues/areas of practice.


Currently, the WCVP is involved in a number of projects, including the Violence Prevention Collaborative. Originally developed in 2004, the Collaborative has fostered networking and collaboration between over 40 different agencies with monthly meetings, workgroups that focus on information sharing, identification of barriers and challenges, problem solving, and collaboration between different agencies and disciplines. Meetings are currently held on the 3rd Tuesday of the month at 12 noon at Widener University.


Another ongoing program created by the WCVP is the Juvenile Diversion Project, which involves collaboration with partners in the juvenile justice system to make necessary changes in services. This undertaking provides services to assist police and juvenile court personnel in assessing juveniles for prevention and diversion services and mobilizes various agencies to assess the efficacy of current practices. Participants in the Project include the Chester Police Department, the Upland Police Department, the Office of Behavioral Health, the Delaware County Juvenile Court, CUSD, and the Chester Youth Collaborative. Recently, leadership of this project is being turned over to the Juvenile Court for increased accountability.


A major initiative of the WCVP is its involvement in training sessions in a number of areas of violence prevention. Specific trainings are developed for targeted populations, such as police and school personnel. Over 600 people have been trained thus far in gang prevention, juvenile justice, child sex trafficking, engaging families, and dating violence. In the area of dating violence, the WCVP has collaborated with the Domestic Abuse Project to develop a 'train the trainer' curriculum. To date, over 250 school personnel have been trained in this project alone.


The WCVP also directs a community service initiative that involves working with the Juvenile Court, District Judges, Juvenile Police personnel, and Youth Aid Panels to identify and train alternative resources for community service that will provide further diversion from the juvenile justice system and strengthen ties between communities and youth. The WCVP has been developing training for the summer/fall for youth aid panel volunteers throughout the county to develop and collaborate with new community service partners.


If you are interested in becoming involved with the WCVP or learning more about their services, please contact Jenny Wyatt at 610-499-1285 or Jbwyatt@widener.edu. You can also visit their website at www.centerforviolenceprevention.org.

Using Therapeutic Writing as a Tool for Social Workers
Anjana Deshpande
On April 24th, one of the Center's MSW graduates from 2009, Anjana Deshpande, LSW, presented interesting and helpful information about how to use structured writing exercises to assist clients in meeting their goals. Alumni, students, and faculty were provided opportunities to actually "try out" a number of these exercises themselves and to experience the benefits of this modality. Ms. Deshpande cited research which found that writing for 20 minutes over four consecutive days about something difficult to talk about brought about "significant clinical improvement."  Other therapeutic benefits that have been noted are: Writing is good for self soothing and self regulation.  It provides a safe way to release emotions, and it creates a feeling of "taking action" when a person is immobilized.  Writing also allows people to notice patterns and recurring themes in their lives. 

During therapeutic writing, clients are told that grammar and spelling are unimportant, and that they are not required to reveal what they wrote. The following are some of the writing exercises that were presented in the workshop:

  • Complete simple sentence stems such as "I am happy (or sad) when......"
  • Write for five minutes without editing or censoring about a question posed by the worker, such as "How am I doing today?"
  • Write a letter to a person that you will not send.
  • Write a goodbye letter to a destructive habit, such as "Dear Cigarettes....."

Participants who attended said that they were leaving with actual tools that they could begin to use with clients.  Ms. Deshpande also provided a very helpful bibliography about the use of therapeutic writing for social workers.  

Dr. Sachi Ando - Refugee Research Project 

Dr. Sachi Ando, one of the Center for Social Work Education's newest full-time faculty members, immigrated to the United States about twelve years ago for school.  After receiving a bachelor's degree in psychology and English, Dr. Ando found herself drawn to child abuse prevention and trauma work.  In order to better serve this population, she decided to enroll in the MSW program at the University of Texas at Arlington.  However, while completing her MSW, Dr. Ando changed the course of her professional focus following the advice of one of her professors.  This professor directed Dr. Ando away from child welfare-a field inundated with social workers-and instead encouraged her to explore more underserved populations, namely immigrants and refugees.  Volunteering and interning at social service agencies focused on immigrants, refugees, and human trafficking victims cemented Dr. Ando's passion for this new population.  After receiving her MSW, she stayed on at the University of Texas at Arlington to complete her Ph.D. in social work with a dissertation exploring how Japanese immigrants flourish while living in Texas.


Dr. Ando joined the Center's faculty in the fall of 2011 and has been teaching courses in research and social and economic justice. This summer she is working on developing a new course for students focusing on social work with immigrants and refugees.  Recently, she was awarded a one-year Provost's grant in order to pursue her own research agenda.  Dr. Ando is particularly interested in exploring mental health issues among refugees newly arrived in the Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and Lancaster areas.  Historically, Pennsylvania has concerned itself primarily with public health issues (i.e. disease prevention) regarding refugees while neglecting their mental health needs.  To remedy this, Dr. Ando plans to begin a mental health needs assessment in her targeted areas this summer and then use her findings to advocate changes in policy for this population.


Lancaster, PA is a hub for many refugees, primarily those from Bhutan and Nepal.  The southeast Pennsylvania region currently has more than six agencies serving refugees and many existing refugee communities.  Dr. Ando plans to start with this area in order to understand how successfully the current services are meeting the needs of this vulnerable population.  Although her research will examine specifically refugees, Dr. Ando notes that it is important to recognize the differences between this group and immigrants.  As she explains, refugees come to this country without anything and without a place to return.   For many refugees, the United States is the hope and future.  In contrast, immigrants primarily come to this country in order to pursue higher education or for work and have a home to which they can return.  Since Dr. Ando has been greatly supported by many people and opportunities while in the U.S., she feels that this project and her future endeavors are a way for her to make a positive contribution to both refugees and immigrants who find their homes in this country.


The Center congratulates Dr. Ando on her grant and wishes her the best of luck with her research!