Partners, Spring 2018

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PARTNERS USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work

The Grand Challenge to Achieve Equal Opportunity & Justice Addressing Social Stigma The Integration of Latino/a Immigrants Success for AfricanAmerican Children Fair Housing & Inclusive Communities


Meet Our Next Generation of Social Innovators

Support Grieving Students:

The National Center for School Crisis & Bereavement



“ Social work skills extend way beyond the therapy room.”


John Im, MSW ’15

Courtney Farr, BS ’00

John Im is a specialist in the corporate responsibility department at Warner Bros. Studios, working in each of the department’s sub-areas of philanthropy, social impact and sustainability. His role is unique in that it spans many of the company’s activities across strategic philanthropic campaigns, cause marketing initiatives and supporting green practices in its film and television productions. He also brings to it the distinct perspective of a social worker. “Before I got my MSW, I was a graphic designer, but I felt that I wasn’t doing enough good in the world. I decided to put that career on hold to explore where my passions were, and I ultimately found fulfillment in helping others,” he said. “I got my social work degree and am able to do something I find more meaningful, and it turns out that my background in computing and media is still relevant to my work. It overlaps with my industry, to which I can contribute with more depth as a nontraditional social worker. “Social work skills extend way beyond the therapy room,” Im said. “We have the ability to think holistically and work across populations, we are good navigators and connectors and we adapt quickly. Human connection is so important regardless of industry, and that is the underpinning of my career.” Im added that for him, “it’s not just about doing business—it’s about how a company does business. My company knows that consumers and audiences are paying close attention to that now, and that’s why I am dedicated to working here.”

Courtney Farr is a nurse practitioner at the Department of Veterans Affairs and founder and CEO of HouseCallsMobile, a health care provider that delivers medical consultation and care to patients via video conference with expert medical practitioners. She was driven to develop the web-based service and mobile app by a desire to help improve access to health care for people struggling to afford it—something she has a personal connection to. “I lost my mother to breast cancer, and she would have benefited from receiving medical advice about her early warning signs. If there had been a service like this available to her, she might have been able to consult with a medical provider earlier, and she might still have been alive today,” she said. “Though I devote a large part of my time to providing care for veterans and their families, I also want to be able to make a difference in the lives of other people, including those who are uninsured or finding it difficult to afford medical expenses with insurance. HouseCallsMobile is a way to do that. For the cost of an insurance co-pay, patients can receive a virtual medical ‘house call’ without having to utilize an insurance plan.” In developing the new service, Farr drew upon her clinical experience with Veterans Affairs, which regularly uses telehealth and video conferencing to provide patient care, and which uses small teamlets to manage care in a large health care system. HouseCallsMobile operates with practitioner teams of one physician and four nurse practitioners that serve designated groups, specialties or regions.


4 A New Way to connect

Coming Soon! An online platform for alumni, students & faculty


Work It With Juan: Our web series with a twist!

The Grand Challenge to Achieve Equal Opportunity & Justice

16 social Innovators in action First Cohort of DSW graduates

18 s upport grieving students

From the Dean Dear Members of the School Community: Our turbulent environment has prompted many to rise up, speak out and create movements to improve the well-being of our society and to fight for those who are relegated to its margins. Nurses and social workers are often on the front lines helping individuals and communities in desperate need. Advocating for equality and social justice is at the core of our profession and values. From institutional racism to gun violence and immigration policy to homelessness, there has never been a time in recent history when society’s welfare has been at the forefront of most conversation. It seems to permeate around us, and for good reason. The USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work supports our constituents in their pursuit of social change through education, civil discourse, research, practice and policy. In this issue of Partners, we are exploring the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare’s 12th Grand Challenge: Achieve Equal Opportunity and Justice. As part of this journey, we highlight the complex facets of the challenge by discussing social stigmas, the integration of Latino/a immigrants, increasing success for African-American children and youth and the challenges associated with establishing fair housing and inclusive communities. Finally, we provide readers a glimpse into the impactful work of our National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, which has helped hundreds of schools and communities cope in the aftermath of tragedy. In the wake of the shootings that occurred in Parkland, Benton and Las Vegas and the wildfires and hurricanes that have devastated our nation, our center’s work is needed now more than ever. We also introduce you to a set of alumni and students who are social innovators impacting their communities and advancing the fields of nursing and social work. We hope this issue of Partners stimulates reflection and dialogue. Like those featured in this magazine, you are an inspiration to the school. We appreciate your contributions to the social work and nursing professions and the strides you are making to advance equal opportunity, justice and society’s well-being. Sincerely,

Marilyn L. Flynn, PhD 2U Endowed Chair in Educational Innovation and Social Work, Dean and Professor of Social Work


PARTNERS alumni relations

Coming Soon!

A NEW WAY TO CONNECT Our school community will soon be able to connect in a totally brand new way, via an online platform that links social work and nursing alumni, students, faculty and staff members together. The goal is to build a supportive network within the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work that can explore new career opportunities, share work experience or simply reconnect with old friends and colleagues.

I t is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that you cannot sincerely try to help another without helping yourself.



What can this online platform do for you? • Help you connect with alumni, students, faculty and staff from all class years and programs around the world • Find you other members within the platform who share your career interests • Connect you with other members based on an area of practice or by geographic location • Give you access to exclusive resources that will aid your career development goals • Allow you to sign up for volunteer opportunities • Keep you up to date on the latest events, school news, research and innovative initiatives Learn more about what this valuable resource can do for you and your career by visiting

alumni relations PARTNERS

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT with a twist As part of our recently expanded professional development programming and content, we created Work It With Juan, the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work’s monthly professional development web series. Hosted by Juan Macias, associate director of alumni career and professional development, and featuring special guests from our alumni community across the profession, Work It With Juan offers tips, advice and professional development information to help you stay up to date with your practice and grow your career. Full episodes can be watched through the school’s website, social media pages and YouTube Channel ( Juan and his guests go in-depth to showcase a different topic each month, offering plenty of useful information—plus a few surprises—along the way. Want even more professional development information? Check out the extended content for each episode available on the Work It With Juan website page at Also explore the other career resources, videos and job search tools available and updated regularly.


Get That Job!

Juan and guests Ramona Merchan, MSW ’08, Sean Taitt, MSW ’11, and Nikita Hearns, MSW ’12, provide tips for giving a winning interview.


Job Transitioning

Juan and guests Samantha Quintero, MSW ’10, and Levonnia Iwuoha, MSW ’16, discuss what to consider if you want to make a transfer from macro to micro, or micro to macro.


What are they? Who needs them? Where can you get them?


Juan breaks down the steps for obtaining your licensure—in his own unique way.



Continuing Education Units (CEUs)



Avoiding Pitfalls of Applications and Résumés

Juan and special guest April Castaneda, MSW ’99, answer questions about how to overcome issues when completing online applications and preparing résumés.

Start Your Own Practice

(debuting on June 13!)

Juan and guest Heather Halperin look at everything you need to prepare for when deciding to start your own practice.

Don’t miss a single episode!

Subscribe to our YouTube Channel today at


PARTNERS feature


Equality & Justice

The Grand Challenge to Achieve Opportunity and Justice


n the United States, we have a long history of marginalization based on prejudice. Enabling all of our citizens to fully participate and succeed in the social, civic, economic and political life of the country is a cause that the social work profession is tackling head-on. The 12th Grand Challenge for Social Work, as identified by the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare (AASWSW), is to achieve equal opportunity and justice. No small feat, particularly in a current societal climate that often feels as if we are taking five steps back from the two we just look forward. As with all of the grand challenges, this is a national call to action which the faculty, students, alumni and donors of the USC Suzanne DworakPeck School of Social Work have embraced and are striving to meet through research, education, policy development, legislation and community engagement. The Grand Challenge to Achieve Equal Opportunity and Justice encompasses four distinct, but equally important, issues that must be addressed in order to realize this challenge. The first of the four issues is to examine the ways in which stigma—when social status and roles are assigned to groups based on certain characteristics, such as gender, race, class or sexual orientation— is a fundamental cause of inequality.

Integration of Latino/a immigrants into American society is the second, including recognizing the history of deprivation due to the immigration and acculturation process, a lack of educational opportunities, inadequate access to health care and growing discrimination. The third issue is to increase success for African-American children and youth, particularly through improvements to the educational system. Disproportionately higher school suspension and expulsion rates of African-American children contribute significantly to low graduation rates, as well as to negative academic and social outcomes. Finally, those who support the creation of fair housing and inclusive communities face a decadesold collection of policy decisions that have produced patterns of gentrification and segregation. The fourth part of the challenge seeks to eliminate the barriers that are placed on low-income residents to move up the neighborhood ladder through anti-gentrification actions and investment initiatives. Ultimately, this challenge holds a mirror up to some of our deepest flaws as a society, and asks that we seriously reflect on the kind of world we want to live in.


part 1:

Promoting Equality by Addressing Social Stigma

by Robin Heffler


wide array of groups experience social stigma: negative characteristics or stereotypes that are ascribed to them based on generalizations, misinformation, attitudes and beliefs. “The Grand Challenge to Achieve Equal Opportunity and Justice is committed to ensuring that the world is focused on ending social stigma and improving access to services for marginalized communities,” said Jeremy T. Goldbach, associate professor at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, and a co-lead of this national challenge. Goldbach, whose research focuses on the relationship between social stigma, stress and health among minority populations, co-wrote a chapter in the official book about the AASWSW’s Grand Challenges for Social Work Initiative, entitled Grand Challenges for Social Work and Society, aimed at social work practitioners and educators. The chapter includes a description of the four basic ways in which stigma arises and produces inequality: direct person-to-person discrimination, internalized or self-stigma, discrimination that results from perceptions of stigmatized individuals and structural discrimination. Goldbach cites groups that often encounter stigma as including racial and ethnic minorities, women, immigrants, the elderly, and

lesbian, gay and transgender people, as well as people with disabilities, obesity, HIV/AIDS, mental illness, addiction and homelessness. “We live in a society that systematically believes it is OK for some people, for example, to be homeless or experience substance use disorders and not have access to services like health care or substance-abuse treatment,” Goldbach said. “This apathy is at the core of persistent social problems—stigma enables us to accept their condition.” The effect of stress caused by stigma on the health of gay and lesbian adolescents is another area of study for Goldbach through the LGBT Health Equity Initiative that he is leading at the school. The initiative was created to study the physical, emotional and social health of LGBT youth, adults and families, and to develop best practices for them to achieve health equity. He noted that social-stigma content has also been incorporated into the curriculum for the USC doctor of social work program, and is the cornerstone of a master of social work course on social justice. Overall, he said, he and others studying stigma are “trying to understand the common aspects of stigma that cut across marginalized communities. If we can find the common threads, then maybe we can develop interventions that will work across populations.”

Equality & Justice

THE STIGMA OF HIV AND AIDS Ken Howard, LCSW, MSW ’94, was an actor in Los Angeles in the 1980s when the AIDS crisis hit. As a

young gay man then, he saw many friends and others succumb to the disease, and he was diagnosed with HIV in 1990. During those early days he also experienced many instances of stigma because of his diagnosis. “The stigma of being HIV-positive often came up during dating,” Howard said. “Even guys who

were involved in HIV nonprofit organizations could be HIV-phobic. One time my parents didn’t want

me to come home for Christmas because they were afraid I would ‘infect’ the relatives. They’re great about it now, but they too got caught up in the web of ignorance and hysteria then.”

Howard volunteered as a peer counselor with AIDS Project Los Angeles and decided to pursue

psychiatric social work at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.

“The intensity of what I saw during the AIDS crisis made me think that I had to do more,” he said, “and

I chose USC because the social work school was more clinical and less theoretical than other schools.” The stigma of being gay has decreased over the past two decades due to an increase in media

exposure and the national legalization of gay marriage, said Howard, who married his husband in

2008, one of the first 18,000 same-sex couples to marry when it became legal in California, before the imposition of Proposition 8 later that year.

“All the LGBT members represented on TV and in the movies have helped a new generation to be

OK with gay relationships,” he said. “At the same time, HIV medications, especially the advent of Truvada as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) have helped to lessen the HIV stigma, but it’s a slow process, in part because of the lack of federal funding for explicit HIV prevention education.”

Howard had a 10-year career with local nonprofit organizations, but has been in private practice

for 20 years, as the founder and director of, specializing in therapy and coaching for gay men in Los Angeles, as well as nationally and globally through telehealth platforms. He became a

part-time USC faculty member in 2012, and he teaches a course on LGBT Psycho-Social-Political Issues through the Virtual Academic Center. “There are students in areas of the country, like rural areas, who


are learning about the LGBT community in ways they couldn’t do locally,” he said.


LGBTQ students


To make a gift, visit or text LGBT to 71777.


part 2:

The Integration of Latino/a Immigrants into American Society by Constance Sommer

wo USC social work professors are bringing the Latino immigration experience out of the classroom and into students’ lives, training a new generation to serve and advocate for this growing population. Concepcion Barrio, associate professor at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, has created a program housed at Los Angeles’ Mexican Consulate, where immigrants and their families can access mental health care, outside the reaches of U.S. immigration authorities and other stressors. Meanwhile, Omar López, clinical associate professor of field education, himself an undocumented-immigrantturned-citizen, leads his students on a reverse migration trip over spring break as part of an elective class, from Los Angeles deep into the heart of Mexico, to witness what such a journey entails. At the consulate, Barrio and postdoctoral fellow coordinator Paula Helu-Brown are trying to directly address the mental health issues triggered, in part, by uncertain immigration status. The current federal focus on deportation “creates a fear-laden atmosphere that affects [immigrants’] health,” Barrio said. “First it affects their mental health, and then, if that’s not addressed, it can lead to multiple [physical] problems.” People are approached while they are at the consulate for services like passport acquisition or legal aid, and are offered the option to speak with a therapist right there on the spot. “When we have them meet with counselors who speak their language and are familiar with their culture, they become more invested in the treatment and recovery process,” Brown said. The program—which is currently searching for funding to continue and broaden its mission—


Equality & Justice is staffed by first-year social work student interns like Alexandra Zaragoza. She finds the work rewarding, but also challenging. The struggles of the adults are reminiscent of her immigrant parents; the stresses facing their children remind her of herself. “You know their journeys because you’ve been through it yourself,” she said. To better understand this clientele, she enrolled in López’ course, and recently returned from the Mexico trip. The class starts at USC, with three fivehour Saturday hybrid sessions—both on campus and through the virtual platform for students that live outside of Los Angeles. Then the students and faculty pile into a bus to begin their reverse journey. First stop: a detention facility. Second stop: the border, to chat with border agents. Then, the group “migrates” across the border to Ensenada, then on to Mexico City, Puebla City, and finally, Coatzingo, a town in southeastern Mexico that is considered a migrantsending community.

“The course allows students to interact with individuals who enforce immigration laws and with those who are impacted by the immigration system,” López said. “It increases objectivity when dealing with the controversial, and often emotional, topic of immigration in the United States on both sides of the border.” At the end of his course, López hopes the students come away with more “cultural competency, to understand this population, and be effective, not only in providing direct services, but also advocating when working with government at the local, state and federal level.” For Zaragoza, the course and internship have been life-changing. She originally planned to work in schools, but “my experience at the Mexican Consulate,” she said, “has opened my eyes to see my passion in working with underserved communities, those dealing with language barriers and living in poverty, those that are marginalized.”

IMPROVING THE ODDS FOR THE LATINO COMMUNITY Helen Ramirez, MSW’59, knows what it is like to succeed against the odds. Her parents did not finish elementary school, yet encouraged her to go to college. When she arrived at USC in the late 1950s, she was one of only three Latino students in the school of social work, and the only woman.

Now the retired director of the Los Angeles County Department of Adoptions—where she created

the first all-bilingual, bi-cultural unit—wants to enhance the odds for younger generations of Latinos. This was the impetus for Ramirez endowing a social work professorship dedicated to improving the lives and outlook of the Latino community.

Named for her parents, the Cleofas and Victor Ramirez Professor of Practice, Policy, Research and

Advocacy for the Latino Population was created to fund the efforts of an academic who aims to be, in Ramirez’ words, “a change agent.”

The founding appointee, William Vega, retired in 2017 as executive director of the USC Edward

R. Roybal Institute on Aging. Ramirez is eager to see who comes next. “I want a very active person who will show results,” she said.

At 85 years old, Ramirez has seen much change in her lifetime but, frustratingly, much has also been

slow to evolve. “I’m at the point, people tell me the future will be great, but I want the future to be now!” she said.

By endowing the professorship at USC, she knows she is doing her part. Latinos “have got to be

able to take action, to create policy that will actually be used and developed,” she said. “Unless you can be part of the final decision, you’ll just be talking.”


part 3:

Increasing Success for African-American Children and Youth by Constance Sommer

erence Fitzgerald wants to talk about race. Specifically, he wants to start a conversation about how and why the American education system discriminates against African-American boys. Fitzgerald says the time has come for his profession to “shine a spotlight” on an issue that too many researchers and practitioners have avoided for too long. Increasing success among African-American children and youth is one of the focus issues of the Grand Challenge to Achieve Equal Opportunity and Justice, and a subject that both Fitzgerald, clinical associate professor, and Riana Anderson, assistant professor, specialize in at the USC Suzanne DworakPeck School of Social Work. “For these [African-American] youth in particular, there’s this racialized context that’s being missed in the classroom,” said Anderson. “And in a lot of ways, it’s not being missed, it’s being purposefully not discussed, because a lot of educators don’t have the language.” This is where social workers can and should step into the breach, Fitzgerald and Anderson said, helping teachers, schools and school districts learn how to better meet the needs of black students in a system originally designed for white men. But first, social work professionals themselves need not only awareness, but specific training. “When you think about an area that has gotten little attention but has just a plethora of implications, it’s what is happening with our students of color in public education,” Fitzgerald said. He noted that black children, specifically black males, have a markedly higher rate of suspension and expulsion than the general student population.


For example, according to a 2012 study by T. González published in the Journal of Law & Education, African-Americans make up 52% of all suspended students in San Francisco school districts, but only 16% of the student population. Similarly, a 2015 report produced by E. Smith and S. Harper at the University of Pennsylvania Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education found that African-American girls account for 56% of all girls suspended and 45% of all girls expelled from K–12 public schools, while AfricanAmerican boys account for 47% of suspensions and 44% of expulsions. “You would think, wow, social workers should be there fighting this fight,” Fitzgerald said. “But if you search through the literature or look to the national social work conferences and presentations, it’s rarely talked about, especially from a social justice standpoint.” Fitzgerald’s expertise in this arena has led him to realize that the responsibility for researching the experience of African-American youth in the classroom lies with academics. Then the next step to bringing this issue out of the shadows is teaching it to their social work students so they can take the knowledge out into the world. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), MSW ’15, feels it is important to combine such learning with people who have experience in the community. “So you have both,” she said, “people with personal connections to the communities they serve, and training to improve cultural competency among all social workers. You can never replace either of those.”

Equality & Justice

EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL June Simmons, MSW ’70, donates to the Barbara Solomon Endowed Scholarship Fund because she has seen first-hand how relieved patients are when matched with social workers from their own community. “There’s a trust within affinity groups,” said Simmons, the founder and CEO of Partners in Care,

a nonprofit foundation dedicated to devising new ways to deliver health care.

The Barbara Solomon Endowed Scholarship Fund opens doors for African-American students to

pursue their master of social work (MSW) at USC. It also invests in students who have an interest in working with the African-American population.

“We found there was a lot of anxiety in the African-American community about whether physicians

might hasten death rather than offer a full range of curative alternatives, because of racist views,” Simmons said. In such a situation, an African-American social worker can be invaluable, both in communicating with the physician and in calming the fears of the patients and their families.

“I think any time when people can see people like themselves in the system,” she said, “they’re

going to feel the system is more open and respectful.”

Barbara Solomon, DSW ’66, was one of Simmons’ first professors when she began her MSW

training, and Solomon made an indelible impression. The first African-American dean at USC,

Solomon has focused her work on helping communities find the resources they need to counteract the power of institutional racism.

“She’s a powerful thinker and leader, and seriously dedicated to the issues of equity and social

change,” Simmons said, “so I love recognizing that with a gift to support this scholarship fund.”


part 4:


How Can Social Work Move Us Forward?

by Robin Heffler

nswering the need for affordable housing and related services is an issue for which Samuel Mistrano, clinical associate professor at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, has hands-on experience. Mistrano, who specializes in policy practice, has spent the last decade helping to initiate and develop programs for low-income families throughout Los Angeles and Southern California. “Social work and the grand challenges have the ability to provide services that can help create healthy families across all of Los Angeles that bring people together, where we think of all areas of L.A. as ‘us,’” he said. “There are actual interventions that create housing and end homelessness. The proof is the 14,000 homeless people who were housed last year.” Currently, he is involved in monitoring how the city and county of Los Angeles are making plans to spend the funding approved by voters with the 2016 passage of two bond measures to build more housing for the homeless. Addressing the need for fair housing and inclusive communities is part of the Grand Challenge to Achieve Equal Opportunity and Justice. With real estate and rental rates in Los Angeles and around the country soaring to new heights, this challenge has become even more prevalent. But those experiencing homelessness are not the only group affected. While conducting primary research on the social and economic consequences of mass incarceration, Robynn Cox, assistant professor, has found that former prisoners often have a hard time finding appropriate housing, a problem they share with many other Americans. “When we think of those who experience housing insecurity, we often think of the extreme: the homeless,” she said. “Yet many people struggle daily to find and maintain affordable, quality housing, and we don’t really know how many because they are invisible. There are people living in poor housing environments, or who are one paycheck away from homelessness but we don’t know exactly how serious this problem is because we have not been adequately measuring it.”


As lead author, she and her colleagues—Ben Henwood, Eric Rice and Suzanne Wenzel of the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, and Seva Rodnyanksy, a doctoral student at the USC Price School of Public Policy—wrote a 2017 paper titled “Roadmap to a Unified Measure of Housing Insecurity.” It argued for creating a widely accepted definition of housing insecurity, and a consistent way to measure it. They defined the problem as including limited or uncertain availability of, access to or ability to acquire “stable, safe, adequate and affordable housing and neighborhoods” in a suitable manner. Cox also led a follow up study to develop a comprehensive, multidimensional scale to measure housing insecurity ranging from no housing insecurity to severe. Using this scale, Cox and her colleagues estimated that single, poor, African-American and Latino households, along with undocumented immigrants and the less educated, experience the most severe forms of housing insecurity. Obtaining appropriate housing can also have a profound effect on a person’s health and well-being, a factor that Sabrina Friedman, MS ’96, observes in her role as clinical director and health care provider for the health clinic at the Union Rescue Mission on Los Angeles’ Skid Row. Friedman conducts preliminary evaluations so that individuals and families can qualify for lowincome housing and leave the shelters. “We have patients who end up getting permanent housing and are doing much better,” Friedman said. “If they have their own kitchen area with a small refrigerator, they can prepare healthier food. Or, if they have serious conditions like cancer, which compromise their immune system, not living in crowded conditions can cut down the rate of infection. We’ve had some who have been able to have homes and jobs and have gone back to school and gotten degrees. I think the housing propositions that passed will be extremely helpful in assisting homeless and near-homeless people to have a better life. They can provide a one-stop shop with housing, medical care and case management all in one place.”

Equality & Justice

A FAMILY COMMITMENT TO END HOMELESSNESS For the Watt family, constructing homes is more than a multigenerational family business. It is also a sign of their dedication to community improvement and finding solutions to end homelessness. Raymond Watt started his company in 1947, providing housing for veterans returning from

World War II. Watt Companies later became one of the first to provide low-cost housing in the

greater Los Angeles area, building in neighborhoods where most homebuilders did not go. At USC, he served on the Board of Trustees from 1968 until his death in 2009.

His legacy of community and USC support has continued through his children: J. Scott Watt and

Sally Oxley, and his granddaughter, Nadine Watt. All three are also alumni of USC.

“My father was always philanthropic,” Scott said. “It was his philosophy to give back.”

In 2006, Scott Watt joined the Board of Councilors for the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School

of Social Work, and the Watt family funded the school’s initial research initiatives on homelessness. Subsequently, the Watt Family Innovation Fund for Urban Social Development was created to find ways of improving housing affordability and access in Los Angeles.

“There are some exciting things happening through education at the school of social work,”

Scott said. “There is theory and application, and the research goes out in front of the application.”

The family also provided seed money to launch the school’s national leadership in addressing

the grand challenge to end homelessness.

“These Grand Challenges are things I have always been thinking about, and social work takes

it another step,” Scott said. “We have to educate the public about what is going on out there.” n




@USC In May 2018, an ambitious group of social innovators are the first cohort of the new doctorate of social work (DSW) program to receive this

degree from USC. DSW@USC is an

online program, and this first class of graduates hailed from all around the

In October 2016, Noel Lipana was medically retired from the military after 20 years of service. “I found my way to the DSW program because when I came back from Afghanistan I had some trauma and injuries, and I realized that the standard of care I had received was not the standard of care everywhere for veterans. I felt it was a personal calling to take this on and pursue it. The DSW program at USC attracted me because of the innovation and design background and emphasis. USC puts so much into everything it does, and I think the Trojan network is also going to be a big player in what I’m trying to accomplish.”

country. Meet six of these innovators

Tina Atherall, DSW ‘18 Yorktown Heights, New York

their DSW at USC.

Tina Atherall is the senior advisor for communities at Blue Star Families in New York, a national nonprofit supporting military families. “I am a social work leader, so the doctorate was definitely the next step for me professionally. I loved the opportunity to be involved with a program that was looking at social issues through a different lens. The USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work has been dedicated to being the leader in addressing military social work, and the DSW program is innovative, working within the leadership of complex systems of management, and this aligned with who I was in the profession. There are many schools of social work in

and learn why they chose to pursue


Noel Lipana, DSW ‘18 Folsom, California

New York, but the ability to be in a larger collaboration with students from other areas was what I looked forward to. The Virtual Academic Center made pursuing my DSW more manageable with a full-time career and family.” Nisha Narsai, MSW ‘04, DSW ‘18 Westminster, California A licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) who works for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), Nisha Narsai provides support to enhance services for students through professional development training for social workers and school staff. “I decided to pursue my doctorate in social work because it was completely aligned with my goals of innovation, scaling, social impact and expanding the way we look at social work. I was eager to take on a new challenge, knowing there were so many more ways I could grow personally and professionally as a social worker. With excitement to continue on this rewarding journey, I feel honored to be in the first cohort alongside my incredible classmates and friends.” Melita “Chepa” Rank, DSW ‘18 Fort Thompson, South Dakota Melita “Chepa” Rank is the behavioral health director for Indian Health Services on the Crow Creek Reservation in Fort Thompson, South Dakota. “I was seeing a lot of the same social problems over and over again, and I kept thinking if I don’t start being proactive and taking strides to make things different, then it’s going to stay the way it

is. I thought that going through a doctorate program would enhance my skill set, and then I could bring that back to my community and be able to teach others. What piqued my interest about DSW@ USC was its alignment with the 12 Grand Challenges for Social Work, as so many of the challenges have an intimate connection with the Native American population. Other programs didn’t have the flexibility or the opportunity to develop a capstone project or a network that would increase what I could do for myself, for my community and ultimately have a larger impact across the nation.” Carla Thornton, MSW ‘12, DSW ‘18 Moreno Valley, California A retiree from the Air Force following a 20-year military career, Carla Thornton spent 11 years in active duty and the remainder in the Reserves. As a civilian, she is the director of a veterans’ program at Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa, California. “I’m considered a nontraditional social worker as I do more program development, but the most important thing is that I help student veterans transition from the military to the academic environment. I knew that USC would provide me with the skills at the doctoral level to make a greater change, especially within the veteran community. As soon as the DSW@USC program was announced, I applied. What I had been provided with in the MSW program really helped me excel in my civilian career, and I knew that if I got my doctorate from USC I would have the same experience.” To learn more about the DSW@USC Program, visit Speak with an admissions counselor at 1.877.700.4679.

Jacqueline Ashley, MSW ‘11, DSW ‘18 Riverside, California Jacqueline Ashley is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) and a primary care behavioral health provider for Riverside University Health System, working specifically in integrated behavioral health. “I’ve always been someone who has loved all aspects of social work: the three levels–micro, mezzo and macro. Now that I’ve been an LCSW for a while, I thought it would be interesting to explore other areas of social work. I don’t like to limit myself and I don’t think anyone should. What is great about DSW@USC is that it is only a two-year program. The format in the Virtual Academic Center makes it very flexible, and it allowed me to continue working full-time while being in the program. I looked at some other schools, but I always came back to USC because it’s the most innovative and cutting-edge, and that’s what I am.”


PARTNERS support grieving students

Support Grieving Students: The National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement by Eric Reese

Countless of schools have benefited… Recent tragedies such as the school shootings in Benton, Kentucky, and Parkland, Florida, have once again put the protection and well-being of children sharply into national focus. While much of the public’s discussion has been on the prevention of future calamity, an emphasis on recovery is just as important, particularly as crisis and loss can significantly impact the learning, behavior, and development of children. The USC National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement (NCSCB) has helped hundreds of schools and communities cope in the aftermath of tragedies such as the September 11th attacks, Sonoma County wildfires, San Juan hurricane and mass shooting in Las Vegas, among other horrific events.

Students gather following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida


The NCSCB is the only center in the country that provides comprehensive consultation and long-term support to teachers and staff who are helping students recover from crisis and loss. The NCSCB relies on philanthropic support to cover the expenses associated with its outreach efforts, which include rapid response, on-going support and robust educational resources for schools that are recovering from shootings, natural disasters and other tragedies. Most of the center’s work is done behind the scenes, with the idea that empowering schools to support themselves and their students is the best approach toward helping students with their recovery and resiliency.

Recovery efforts are still ongoing in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria

I look at situations very differently … now I look at mental health and wellness as part of a crisis response that is absolutely necessary.


I ’ve worked in a lot of school systems, and I know this is an area where there is a deficit. The fact that [the Center] is willing to put out all of this information, for free, to help people know the best way to support kids is amazing . . . that is what motivated me.

The center’s founding donor, The New York Life Foundation, wants to help raise the NCSCB’s profile and bring more awareness to its valuable services. The Foundation recently made a generous leadership gift of $1,550,000 to support the center’s work and the additional resources it needs to positively impact schools and students. “When New York Life began investing in the child bereavement space in 2008, there was very little public conversation about death and loss, despite the fact that virtually everyone experiences a profound loss at some point in time,” said Heather Nesle, New York Life Foundation president. “But we’re encouraged that today, public openness and inclination to lend support

A vigil for the victims of the shooting at a concert in Las Vegas, Nevada


is on the rise. It’s incumbent upon all of us to translate this momentum into action.” To encourage the public to give back to services that help grieving students, the Foundation has launched a challenge grant where gifts made to the NCSCB will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Foundation, up to an additional $450,000. The additional funds will ensure that when tragedy occurs, the NCSCB will continue to play a vital role in helping schools and communities heal and foster resilience. Help grieving students heal by supporting the NCSCB with a tax-deductible gift that will be matched dollar-for-dollar at

David Schonfeld, Director, National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement meets with Kevin Kiefer, principal of Bishop Gorman Catholic High School in Las Vegas, Nevada


Non-Profit Org U.S. Postage PAID Los Angeles, CA Permit No. 2075



to our Class of 2018 graduates

Contributors Editorial Staff Scarlett Powers Osterling Jessica Lee Joanna Scott Brian Goodman Judith Lipsett Harmony Frederick Contributing Writers Robin Heffler Constance Sommer Michelle Marquis Dumas Eric Reese Jessica Lee Joanna Scott

including our inaugural

nursing DSW

Contributing Faculty Riana Anderson Concepcion Barrio Robynn Cox Terence Fitzgerald Jeremy T. Goldbach Ken Howard Omar LĂłpez Samuel Mistrano Graphic Design Patera



If your name or address is incorrect on this mailing, or if you received a duplicate copy, please contact 213.821.6423 or

Printer Lithographix Š2018 USC Suzanne DworakPeck School of Social Work. Photography and artwork may not be reproduced without permission.