Widener University
Center for Social Work Education
In This Issue
1st Annual Social Work Day of Service
Sexuality and Aging Conference
Ph.D. Student Spotlight: Dr. Dana Davis
Welcome Back Social Work Doctoral Students
Students Translate Research Into Action
2013 Advisory Board
Kindness and Generosity of Widener Students
Grief, Loss, and Resilience
Project Homeless Connect Day
Fall 2013 Continuing Education Event Schedule

The Center for Social Work Education offers continuing education credits throughout the year. Each program offers 2 CEUs. The cost is $25 for professionals. 


The workshops are free to current 2013-14 field supervisors, Widener faculty and current students, and Advisory Board members.



"Supporting the Latino Community through Grief and Loss"  


Presenter - Dr. Stephanie Traynor  

Tuesday, October 15, 6-8:00 pm

University Center, Webb Room

To register click HERE 


 "Internal Family Systems (IFS) Model"  


Presenters - Bruce Hershey, LCSW & Lois Ehrmann, PhD  

Friday, November 15, 9am -3pm Latham Hall



 "Grief and Loss in the Asian Community"


Presenter - Dr. Sachi Ando   

Friday, December 13, 10am - Noon 

University Center, Room C

Volunteer Field Instructors
A special thanks to those who volunteered to provide clinical supervision to our students placed in agencies with no MSW available to supervise. Their generous gifts of time and expertise allowed us to place students at sites that otherwise would not have been available.

Cynthia Costen, MSW
Marlene Keating, MSW
Deborah Karner, MSS
Regina Hamilton, MSW
Rebecca Hicks, LCSW
Richard Oakey, MSW
Marian Robinson, MSW

If you have an hour and a half each week to volunteer and are interested in joining this committed group, please contact:
Pat Fletcher, Director of Field Education
 610-499-1133 or pafletcher@widener.edu
Support the Center for Social Work Education
Your donation of as little as $5 helps us change lives. To support the Center's service and educational initiatives, send check to: 

 Widener University Development Office 
Attn: Center for Social Work Education 
One University Place 
Chester, PA 19013 
You can also contribute via the University Advancement Office's website. We appreciate your support!  
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John Poulin


The 2013-14 academic year is off to an excellent start.  Our BSW program, under the leadership of Dr. Brent Satterly, is at an all-time high with 60 majors.   


Our goal is to double the size of the program by 2016. We're expanding the number of articulation agreements with two-year colleges in the region, increasing the number of electives open to non-social work majors, and developing social media strategies to promote undergraduate social work education at Widener.


Exciting things are also happening with the MSW program under the direction of Dr. Beth Barol. For the second year in a row we have increased the percentage of full-time social work and dual degree students admitted. Our goal was to have a 50/50 split between full- and part-time students, and we hit that goal this year. I am especially pleased given the national trend toward part-time enrollment in graduate social work programs.


On the curriculum front, the MSW program has launched a new trauma certificate for MSW students. This effort was led by Professor Barb Gilin as part of her sabbatical project. She also worked with faculty to increase trauma content throughout the MSW curriculum. We believe that all of our MSW graduates should have a strong foundation in trauma-informed practice. Our new trauma certificate and our curriculum enhancements are importance steps towards that goal.


Dr. Linda Houser assumed duties as Ph.D. Program Director in July following Dr. Tom Young's retirement. Our doctoral program has grown to 38 students, and we have a strong and diversified cohort of five new students who began the program in September. Dr. Houser is working hard to sustain the supportive learning environment created by Dr. Young. She is committed to supporting student scholarship and helping doctoral students publish in journals and present work at national conferences. We wish her well in her new role.


I am pleased to report that Gail Ober, La Salle Non-Profit Center, and Harriet Burton-Wilson, Philadelphia Department of Human Services, are continuing as Co-Chairs of the Center for Social Work Education Advisory Board. We are pleased to welcome Brenda Dawson, Senior VP of Pathways, Inc., and Joscelyn Keeves-Crawford, Ceridian LifeWorks, as new board members. We also welcome to the board doctoral students Jolynn Haney and Pamela Williams, MSW student Lauren Allen, and BSW student Mary Smith.  


The Advisory Board members will be helping with many program initiatives, and we are incredibly grateful for their experience, expertise and energy as we strengthen our programs, our learning environment, and our capacity to build relationships and change lives.


I look forward to an exciting year, new challenges and the pleasure of working with an excellent administrative team and faculty.


John Poulin  

Director and Associate Dean

null   First Annual Social Work Day of Service 
Before setting foot in a class or field placement, the new class of MSW students at Widener received a powerful message about the importance of service. As part of their MSW orientation, the Center for Social Work Education partnered with Chester community leaders to remove bulk trash and purchase 32-gallon trash receptacles for the Sun Hill neighborhood.

MSW Program Director Beth Barol noted that the Day of Service "not only represents an opportunity for us to serve the Chester community, but also symbolizes our commitment to enrich and promote our relationship with the Chester community." The event was organized by Dr. Marcine Pickron-Davis, Chester's Chief Community Engagement and Diversity Officer.       


Chester Mayor John Linder, who earned his Bachelor's degree in Behavioral Sciences from Widener and a Master's degree in Higher Education and Counseling from Kutztown,  began the day by addressing the eager crowd of Widener students, faculty, and staff. Mayor Linder spoke of the importance of the relationship between the Center for Social Work Education and the Chester community. He encouraged the 150 students and 20 faculty and staff members in attendance to "never stop searching for ways to give back."    


"This class of MSW students has so much to offer," Director and Associate Dean John Poulin said. "They are bright, compassionate, and full of possibility. Today was a small, symbolic gesture to underscore our ongoing commitment to serve our community."   

Widener Hosts Sexuality and Aging Conference
Co-chair Robin Goldberg-Glen (top) and presenter and Widener doctoral student Pam Williams




On September 27-28, the Sexuality and Aging Consortium at Widener welcomed participants from all over Pennsylvania for its third annual Sexuality and Aging Conference. On Friday, Dr. Amanda Barusch spoke about "Love and Sex in the War on Ageism." Author Harry Getzov discussed lessons learned from hundreds of in-depth interviews with seniors. Dr. Gayle Appel Doll presented on "The Challenges of Sexuality and Dementia." Participants were treated to afternoon workshops ranging from grief and loss work with LGBT seniors to discovering and preventing elder abuse in Pennsylvania.  


Saturday's program focused on LGBT older adults and featured keynote speaker Mark Segal, Philadelphia Gay News (PGN) Editor and the person responsible for Philadelphia's new LGBT senior housing project. Dr. Mark Brennan-Ing discussed his work on "Sex and the Older LGBT Adult: The Impact of Sexual Identity and HIV-Status." Catherine Thurston, MSW, discussed research and developments at SAGE, the nation's oldest and largest organization dedicated to LGBT older adults.  


Melanie Davis, PhD, CSE, and Robin Goldberg-Glen, PhD, MSW, co-chaired the event. Tiffini Lanza and Jill Brinker provided invaluable administrative support. The Sexuality and Aging Consortium at Widener is a leading, international organization dedicated to enhancing the sexual health, knowledge, and well-being of adults in mid and later life.



Ph.D. Student Spotlight: Dr. Dana Davis
Dr. Dana Davis (2nd from left) with Dissertation advisors Tom Young, Linda Houser, and Stephen Kauffman
After 16 years as a social worker for people living with HIV/AIDS, Dana Davis began a new journey of service.
Noticing the enjoyment she felt when working with student interns in a Pittsburgh-area hospital, Dana decided that teaching was her calling.
She began a Ph.D. program in Pittsburgh, but for personal reasons she decided to transfer. She reached out to a friend who also happened to be a colleague of Dr. John Poulin. Her friend recommended Widener's part-time Ph.D. program since it catered to people working full-time and emphasized teaching and direct practice.


"I may have been na´ve," Dana recalled. "But I didn't realize Ph.D. programs could be so different. The Widener program had a totally different feel and was geared towards students' learning and helping them be the best they can be."


From day one, Dana felt welcomed at Widener. When her classmates found out she was traveling from Pittsburgh every Friday for classes, they offered her rides to and from the airport or bus station. Dana also enjoyed her classes, which were different from courses in her previous program because they emphasized the art of teaching and education.


"I was impressed with the level of knowledge of the professors at Widener and how they challenged the students and had high expectations for us," Dana said. "And they did that all with the intention of helping us be better at what we do, not to make Widener the number one school. They want the students to thrive."


When choosing a dissertation topic, Dana was encouraged to focus on her passion. Her experience with hospital social work taught her about the difficulties in providing health care to people with active substance use issues. She believes that many health care providers are resistant to providing substance users with care that does not have an abstinence component. They are often turned away until they have received treatment for their drug or alcohol problem-treatment that can be very hard, if not impossible, to find.


Dana decided to study social workers' attitudes about care that is not abstinence-based. Though the literature says people's values and beliefs are barriers to using care that is not abstinence-based, the social workers in Dana's study regularly chose interventions that were not abstinence-based, even if they also reported not believing in them. Her results were promising. "It's exciting to know that when they see [non-abstinence-based care] as an option, they are willing to try it. Now we need to bring that knowledge to more social workers so they know of non-abstinence-based options and will use them."


Dana has been invited by the Pennsylvania Trauma Center Foundation and Society for Social Work Leadership and Healthcare to share her results. She is hopeful that the data will be useful to hospitals and the social workers they represent--especially since trauma level I and II centers are required to provide drug and alcohol treatment.


In the fall Dana will begin applying to full-time, tenure-track teaching positions at some of the ten different BSW programs in Pittsburgh. We are proud to count her among our graduates and wish her much continued success.

Welcome Back Social Work Doctoral Students
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More than 40 students and faculty gathered in University Center to celebrate a new cohort of Ph.D. students and to welcome back continuing students. Dr. Tom Young, founder and former director of the program, current director Dr. Linda Houser, and Center for Social Work Education Director and Associate Dean John Poulin all spoke at the luncheon.

"Widener's Ph.D. students care deeply about practice," said Dr. Houser. "Their research agendas and teaching philosophies are embedded in rich clinical practice experience, community organizing administration, and policy practice."

In 7 years, the doctoral program has grown to 38 students. Students move through the program in cohorts, challenging and learning from each other. With courses offered on Fridays only, the part-time program is ideal for working professionals who want to further develop as educational leaders while continuing their practice in the field.  


Dr. Houser noted that "Our program works well for professionals who are deeply engaged in social work practice and who are excited about connecting their experiences with knowledge of history, social and behavioral theory, scholarship, and teaching." 


Only 6-8 students are admitted to the cohort-based program each year. If you or someone you know would like more information about our unique program, you can contact Dr. Houser at 610-499-1169 or ldhouser@widener.edu. 

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Students Translate Research into Action 

Dr. Focht-New and 2nd-year MSW student Susan Krawchuk collect data on the streets of Harrisburg


"Building Relationships. Changing Lives."


It's more than a slogan for Widener social work students and faculty. It's who they are, what they do, and how they try to live. Recently, Dr. Ginny Focht-New's SW 522 Harrisburg class demonstrated the power of those words by giving them legs.  


Dr. Focht-New's class partnered with Director Tim Whelan and the Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness (CACH) to develop and distribute a survey to unsheltered homeless individuals in Harrisburg. Their goals were to learn more about how people use food and shelter services, examine attitudes about the helpfulness of the services, and to find out if clients feel respected and heard during the process.


"We were all impacted by really listening to the experiences of a group of men and women who are homeless," Dr. Focht-New said. "We talked a lot about the nature of being homeless and how homeless people often feel misunderstood and disrespected in the research process. It was a valuable learning experience for us all."


Dr. Focht-New demonstrated her commitment to service learning by restructuring course assignments and content to provide students with applied research opportunities, meet the project needs of CACH, and to provide supportive interactions with the homeless. Students carefully constructed multiple drafts of survey questions, interviewed each other as a way to pretest the measure, and performed further pilot testing by interviewing seven members of the sheltered homeless community. Finally, they scheduled and conducted focus groups to further test the validity of the survey before collecting data on a back street off of Market Square in Harrisburg.


"This was a really interesting way to teach," Dr. Focht-New said. "Students really appreciated learning by using real-life experience." The learning and relationship-building will continue as she and her students assist with the second stage of data collection on October 28 at the Downtown Daily Bread Lunch Plus Program in Harrisburg. 

       2013 Advisory Board


Kindness and Generosity of Widener Students


Students in Professor Paul Felker's SW 635 (Practice with Groups) class taught some lessons of their own this summer, responding with compassion and action when confronted with a classmate's recent losses and hardships.


To say that Cheryl Jones, current MSW student, had a difficult July is an understatement. Her house was robbed twice, she lost two loved ones, and her cherished two-year-old Maltese puppy, Brooklyn, passed away suddenly.  


Struggling to get through the day, Cheryl still managed to attend her summer classes. In one of those classes, Prof. Felker invited students to "check in" and talk about how they were doing. Fighting back tears, Cheryl decided to make herself vulnerable and share her recent tragedies.    


Then it all began to happen. During a break in the class, Cheryl was surprised when Tiffany Pleasant--a student in the class who she had never spoken to--acknowledged Cheryl's pain and asked about her puppy. Later, another student Cheryl had never met, Betty Guise, asked if there was anything she could do to help. The next day Tiffany approached her once again--this time with a picture of a puppy on her phone. Professor Felker's entire class had pitched in and found a two-month-old Shitzu-Maltese puppy for Cheryl.


"I could not believe that someone could be so kind," Cheryl said. "The Widener Center for Social Work Education teaches students to lean on each other in difficult times. I felt so supported. I just cannot express how grateful I am that Professor Felker and so many Widener students cared enough about me to do something so wonderful."   


Betty mirrored Cheryl's thoughts. "Tiffany really gets all the credit for this gesture. A number of students were supportive, but Tiffany took the lead and made it happen. We continue to admire her generosity and initiative."


Tiffany was more modest about her role, and acknowledged Professor Felker's contributions. "He took time out of the class to check in with each one of us individually. Without this, Cheryl wouldn't have been able to share her story." 


Tiffany added, "From a class of social workers, I wouldn't expect anything less. Good things happen to good people, but they don't just happen, someone has to make it happen and that is where our class stepped in. I am very proud."                 

Grief, Loss, and Resilience Workshop   
Dr. Celeste Johnson presented the Center's first continuing education event of the semester, "Grief, Loss, and Resilience: Lessons Learned from African American Teen Girls Who Have Lost Friends to Youth Homicide." Dr. Johnson presented survivor narratives to illustrate coping strategies and the bereavement process. 
Project Homeless Connect Day in Harrisburg 
Harrisburg Coordinator of Field Placement Sara Strayer (left) and 2nd year MSW student Airika Pollard 


On September 25, Widener Center for Social Work Education faculty and students volunteered at the 4th annual Project Homeless Connect Day. Dr. Ginny Focht-New and Harrisburg MSW students Jessica Bergen and Airika Pollard staffed one of the tables at the event and worked with clients throughout the day.   


"We spent the day helping people who were homeless or on the verge of homelessness connect with a range of services, including housing, healthcare, employment, and much more," said Dr. Focht-New.  


The event, sponsored by the Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness, was held at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center. Medical and social service volunteers provided health screenings and mental health services to the more than 350 men and women who were either homeless or recently living in shelters.