Widener University
Center for Social Work Education
Vol. II, Issue III
February 2013
In This Issue
Harrisburg MSW Program Open House
CEU Workshop: Medication Advocacy for Social Workers
Dr. Steve Kauffman: Civic Engagement Research
Update: Phi Alpha Honors Society
Alumni Banquet
Update: BSW Club Events
Doctoral Symposium
Update: MSWSO Events
Random Act of Kindness Initiative
Quick Links
Like us on Facebook

Visit our website:

Looking for Field Placement Supervisors
If you or someone you know has an MSW and would be interested in becoming a field placement supervisor for the Center's current BSW or MSW students, please contact Pat Fletcher, Director of Field Education at 
610-499-1133 or pafletcher@widener.edu.
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. 


John Poulin

MSW Volunteers Needed!


The Center for Social Work Education is looking for MSW social workers with at least two years post-MSW experience who are willing to volunteer one hour a week to provide supervision to MSW students placed in non-traditional field placements.  In an effort to serve high-need communities working with underserved populations we are instituting an innovative field placement/supervision program.  Our aim is to have small teams of students placed in grass-roots community agencies that serve vulnerable populations. Volunteer MSW social workers will provide these students with their required weekly clinical supervision.


Many grass-roots community agencies do not have the resources or professional personnel needed to provide MSW supervision to student interns.  CSWE accreditation standards require social work students in field placements to be supervised by MSW social workers.  The lack of MSW supervisors limits the placement of student interns in many community-based agencies and organizations.


For the past eleven years the Center has operated Social Work Counseling Services (SWCS), a student field placement agency that has provided a wide range of services to the Chester community.  Hundreds of Widener social work and clinical psychology students have provided thousands of hours of pro bono services to the Chester community.  We are committed to expanding our pro bono services to other communities and other vulnerable populations.  What we need are professional social workers who are willing to supervise our student interns by providing one hour a week of clinical supervision.  The students will receive on-site task supervision from agency personnel and have a social work faculty member monitor their overall internship experience.  We are planning to begin this program in the fall of 2013.


Becoming a volunteer supervisor is an opportunity to mentor beginning social workers and to help serve the more vulnerable members of our society. If you are interested in finding out more about this exciting volunteer opportunity, please contact Pat Fletcher, Director of Field Instruction, at 610-499-1133 or pafletcher@widener.edu.  Thank you and we look forward to hearing from you.


John Poulin, Ph.D.

Director and Associate Dean

Harrisburg MSW Program Open House
The Center for Social Work Education will be holding an open house on Monday, February 18th from 3:00-6:00pm on the Harrisburg Campus in the Social Work Office, Administration Building at 3800 Vartan Way.  All interested prospective students are welcome to attend, so please pass along this opportunity!  Presentations from the Director of the MSW Program, alumni, and financial aid will be held from 4-5pm and refreshments will be served.  For more information or to RSVP, please contact Sara Strayer by February 11th at 717-541-3988 or sestrayer@mail.widener.edu.
Medication Advocacy for Social Workers: From Diagnosis to Effects and Beyond
The Center will be hosting its next CEU event on Tuesday, February 19th from 10:00am to 12:00pm on Widener's main campus in Chester.  Facilitated by Ginny Focht-New, Assistant Clinical Professor and psychiatric clinical nurse specialist, this presentation will highlight the process of assessment and diagnosis leading to the need for medications. Information presented will assist social workers to advocate for people they are supporting. General medication effects, side effects, and adverse reactions will also be covered.  Interested professionals can receive 2 CEUs for $25.  For more information and to register, click here.
Stephen Kauffman
Dr. Steve Kauffman: Civic Engagement Research

The scope of involvement in citizen engagement is as diverse as American education itself, and indeed, some institutions have enthusiastically embraced the effort.  Widener, for example, has embarked on a substantial expansion of such activities over the past 10 years. Widener has evolved from a university with only a relative handful of CE opportunities in the 1980's and 1990's, to one where virtually every department and student organization now has some venture that involves or targets the external community through service-learning and civic engagement activities. At this institution, a range of projects have arisen, including a University-sponsored social work agency, law and nursing clinics, a number of activities in support of the regional educational systems, such as reading, cultural enrichment and engineering programs,  and extensive work with an under-resourced school district (Thurlow, Ledoux, McHenry, & Burns, 2007), and neighborhood community development (Musewicz, Pickron-Davis, Harris & Marczyk, 2006).  Further large efforts include a Charter School serving K-5th grades and University Crossings, a $50 million project with a range of community redevelopment goals.  Recent additions to this list include a federally-funded violence prevention center and the Oskin Leadership Institute, funded by a University gift of $5 million.  The mission of this institute is to develop individuals' capacity to understand that global issues and problems are within their power to solve and to prepare individuals to that end; this proposed project aligns with and will help to promote and realize this mission.  


Yet, despite the ubiquity of such efforts and the value that PSI's like Widener, and the larger society, places on them, several very important issues about civic engagement exist and several questions remain unanswered.  Among these is the critical question of the impact of such efforts on the communities that are served. In other words, what are the systemic consequences, both as benefits and costs, which accrue to communities served by a University's civic engagement efforts?  Further, are these impacts sufficient to warrant the huge public and private investment that support the activities?


Dr. Stephen Kauffman, Associate Professor in the Center for Social Work Education, leads an investigation into these questions at Widener's main campus in Chester.  By almost any statistical measure, Chester, a city with a 2008 population of 36,564 (City-Data, n.d.) is one of the most severely distressed cities in the United States. From its founding in the 17th century through the 1960's, the city supported a healthy economic and social environment for a diverse population. This included a large number of good paying industrial jobs, supported by a vibrant cultural life. Yet, beginning in the early 1970s the city experienced several decades of extensive economic change and a lack of effective political leadership, leaving Chester's civic institutions weakened and its population severely impoverished.  A few socio-economic indicators serve to illustrate the city's present condition.  The city has a high unemployment and poverty rate, a median household income that is only 2/3rds of the state of Pennsylvania (City-Data, n.d.) and a severely decaying housing stock (American fact finder, 2010). The city also has serious issues with its educational system, and a crime rate approximately three times the US average (City-Data, n.d.). The incidence of many health problems exceed the state and national averages, including children's lead levels, asthma, teen and pre-teen pregnancy, and low-weight babies.  Part of the health problems have been linked to the environmental conditions in Chester, a city that serves as the quintessential example of the consequences of environmental injustice. Finally, the public school system has some of the highest dropout rates and lowest test scores and attendance rates in the state. 


The current project began in late 2008 with a conversation in which James Harris, the President of Widener University, and Dr. Kauffman discussed the possible benefits to Widener and the surrounding community if some of the impacts of Widener's recent, and continuing, expansion of CE efforts could be identified. Taking on this project, during the next year the outlines of the project were designed by Dr. Kauffman in consultation with a number of other faculty, both inside and outside of Widener.  Recognizing the need for effective program parameters, during the very earliest times of this phase the Goals and Purposes of the project were developed. The purposes and research goals for the project are as follows:

  • To assess the scope and impact of Widener University's civic engagement projects
  • To develop and implement a system for tracking the civic engagement projects of Widener University and its faculty members and students
  • To disseminate the Tracking and Impact Assessment Model widely, through publications and other means, for the use by and benefit of the larger institutional community

As such, there are several data collection activities (all of which Dr. Kauffman coordinates). These include:


Program Tracking. The intention of this system is to identify the entire population of civic engagement activities at the University, and then to identify important characteristics of the activities, including goals, participants, partner organizations, service outputs and desired impacts.  Currently, the implementation of a full-time, online survey available to the entire university community (faculty, administration, students and staff) on the university's intra-net system is underway. Participation is currently voluntary, but several steps have been completed to facilitate and encourage participation. So far, we have identified N=328 programs working with over 1000 organizations.


Organizational Partners Surveys. As programs and activities are identified in the tracking process above, the University community is asked to identify the organizations who serve as partners in our civic engagement activities. These organizations, or partners, are surveyed once each year, with data stored in a database. As the organizations are surveyed, data collected address contact information, characteristics of their relationship with Widener, identified needs or problems in their specific communities, and their perceptions of the impacts of the University's efforts on their community.  The initial population was identified as a by-product of the tracking survey (n=769), although it is assumed that a substantial number of organizations were not reported.  To date, n=120 survey have been completed for the 2012-13 academic years.


Alumni surveys are also underway. These target all University graduates from 2005 on.

Update: Phi Alpha Honors Society 
Last semester members of the Phi Alpha Honors Society were able to make a real impact after donating $300 to families at the Widener Partnership Charter School (WPCS).  Many families at WPCS cannot afford to give a lot during the holiday season, so the members' donations allowed three families to receive $100 Walmart gift cards.  The families and staff at WPCS were very appreciative of the members' generosity and thoughtfulness.
This semester Phi Alpha will be hosting its induction ceremony for new members on Monday, March 18th from 6-8pm on Widener's Chester campus.  Members and one guest are invited to attend the ceremony for dinner, networking, speeches, and awards. Congratulations to all new inductees!
Alumni Banquet
Alums 2

In honor of 20 years of graduating MSWs from Widener's Center for Social Work Education, the Alumni Organization is hosting an Alumni Banquet on Friday, March 15th from 6:30-10:30pm at Heritage Ballroom in Holmes, PA.  Alums and one guest are invited to join faculty, staff, and other past graduates for an evening of reminiscing and networking. $30 a ticket will include dinner, music, a retrospective slideshow, a 50/50, and a silent auction.  Attendees must RSVP by February 28th.  For more information and to register, please click here.
If you have any pictures from your time at Widener, please send them to socialwork@mail.widener.edu for our use in the slideshow!
Also, any alums interested in donating items for the silent auction may send their item description and cost to Charlotte Hangsterfer at cahangsterfer@hotmail.com.  Items will then need to be dropped off to the Social Work office or Social Work Counseling Services (SWCS) before March 15th.  Any questions can be directed to Michelle McCann at mdmccann@mail.widener.edu.
Update: BSW Club Events
This semester the BSW Club will continue to hold meetings every other Friday at noon in the Social Work Conference Room.  The meetings for February will be on February 8th and February 22nd.  Please join them to help in planning events for the semester! Currently, the BSW Club is planning to help out with the Art Fair for students at the Widener Partnership Charter School which will be held sometime in April.  The Club is also going to be hosting this year's annual Take Back the Night event on Wednesday, April 3rd.  Look out for information about other future events!
Doctoral Symposium
Annette Duranso Symposium  















On January 18th, the Center hosted the 1st Annual Doctoral Symposium for its doctoral students and faculty.  The Symposium resulted largely from the suggestion of the doctoral students that one of the Center's doctoral candidates, Annette Duranso, present her study "Runaway and homeless youth transitioning to adulthood: An exploration of the risk factors and outcomes for youth served in Transitional Living Programs."  Ms. Duranso had recently presented at the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP) 2012 Annual Meeting in New York City.  With a majority of the doctoral students and many of the Center's faculty in attendance, the Symposium allowed the students to experience a formal presentation given by one of their own and provided Ms. Duranso with an opportunity to gain presentation experience as well as acquire valuable feedback for her work.  When asked to share his view of the experience, the Center's doctoral program director, Dr. Tom Young, provided the following comments:


"First, I think it was a tangible expression of the "community of scholars" idea that I have been trying to promote since the program began--social workers dedicated to understanding how to use research in order to figure out how to improve the delivery of social services to vulnerable client populations. Second, I saw it as an experience of the expansion of identity that occurs in the course of pursuing a Ph.D. Annette embodied that and the students in attendance witnessed that and could see themselves embodying that in their own futures."   


As a successful, positive experience for the doctoral students and faculty, the Symposium marks the first of many such educational forums.

Update: MSWSO Events

The Masters of Social Work Student Organization (MSWSO) will be hosting its first ever Careers in Social Work Conference! This conference will be held on Monday, March 25, 2013 in the University Center on Widener's main campus. The morning will focus on professional development. Career Services will teach students how to improve their resume and curriculum vitae as well as how to advance their interviewing skills. Additionally, a representative from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) will present students with information on licensure. The afternoon will consist of guest speakers discussing topics such as sexuality counseling, crisis therapy, and narrative therapy. Attending the Careers in Social Work Conference will count towards field hours and lunch will be provided.  Instructions on how to register for the Careers in Social Work Conference will be posted shortly; keep in mind that, due to numbers, this opportunity will be offered to Spring 2013 graduating students first.


Further, the MSWSO and NASW will be providing transportation to the Legislative Advocacy Day held on Tuesday, April 16, 2013 in Harrisburg. This event will be a great opportunity for students to experience activism, learn about the legislative process, and network with students from the Harrisburg Campus. Please keep your eye out for more information about MSWSO's Spring 2013 events!  
Random Act of Kindness Initiative 
Kids 2 Kids 
Last semester MSW student Harriet Burton-Wilson headlined the Random Act of Kindness Initiative with the help of Prof. Michelle McCann, field placement students, and 3rd grade teachers and students at the Widener Partnership Charter School (WPCS). Harriet developed a great working relationship with one particular 3rd grade teacher, Ms. Soula. Together, they discussed the purpose of the activity with the 3rd graders--to share some time and random kindness celebrating the holiday season with the elderly residents at Palmerhouse. Everyone involved was very enthusiastic about this community engagement activity and the residents and staff at Palmerhouse were receptive towards their visitors.  The 3rd grade students provided residents and staff with holiday cards, candy, and a large cookie tray and spent some time engaging with the Palmerhouse community.  This was the first community engagement effort with WPCS and Harriet is hopeful that this event can be continued in the years to come.  She wishes to extend thanks to the Palmerhouse staff and everyone (Widener students and staff) who donated to the Random Act of Kindness Initiative.