eNewsletter — December 2009 Archives

December 17, 2009

eNEWSLETTER – Vol. 1, Issue 4.pdf

From the Dean ~ Winter 2009

I hope you and yours are doing well during this holiday season. As you will see from this issue of our eNewsletter, there has been a lot going on during the Fall semester at the VCU School of Social Work. Our faculty have been involved in interesting and important research, teaching and community service activities, and staff, students and faculty have been actively engaged in our Community Reach Out initiative that was started last year. We are also very proud to have had alumnus Mr. Paul McWhinney (MSW, 1979; BSW, 1974) and faculty member, Dr. Elizabeth Cramer, initiated into Phi Kappa Phi along with some of our most outstanding students.

In this newsletter we also continue to provide alumni updates. We do love to hear from you, so if you have some updates to share please log into our Alumni Updates Survey and let us know.

I know this has been a difficult financial year for many of you, and that includes our students. As many of our alumni know, the debt load our students accumulate in the pursuit of their social work degree is astounding. Because of this, we have made it a priority in the coming year to expand our efforts to secure dollars for student scholarships. Achieving our goals, however, is going to be dependent upon individuals like you who donate to the School of Social Work, so I urge you to make a donation to the School. If you have any questions pertaining to charitable giving to the School please feel free to contact me directly, or you can go to our website to make your gift: www.givenow.vcu.edu/SocialWork.

Thank you in advance for your valued support to our school. Happy holidays from the School of Social Work !

Ann Nichols-Casebolt, Ph.D.

Interim Dean

Latina Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening: Attitudes of Consumers and Providers

by Jacqueline Corcoran, Elizabeth Hutchison, Professor Emeritus, and Janice Berry-Edwards

Striking disparities exist for Latinas in terms of breast and cervical cancer screening in the United States. Although the incidence of breast cancer is lower for Latinas than for non-Latina white women, Latinas are less likely than non-Latina white women to be diagnosed in early stages (Lantz et al., 2006) and to receive needed care. Furthermore, the incidence rate of breast cancer in Latinas is growing three times faster than the rate for non-Latina white women, and the rate of mammography screening has been declining in Latinas recently (Sheppard et al., 2008).For cervical cancer, the rate for Latinas is about twice that of non-Latinas and is highest out of all ethnic groups. The annual death rate from cervical cancer for Latinas is 24.2 out of 100,000 (McDougall, Madeleine, Daling, & Li, 2007). Even when Latinas with no health insurance were serviced by a safety-net system for people with low income, still 18.9% of Latina-Americans and 16.8% of Latina immigrants had never had a Pap smear (Owusu et al., 2005). As the number of Latinos in the United States continues to grow, greater attention to ways to deliver effective medical care to this population is imperative.

Read more begins here….

Faculty at NOVA were approached by social worker, Wendy Sittner (VCU alumnus), from the Medical Clinic at the Northern Virginia Medical Education because she and her director wanted to conduct a focus group study with their Latina consumers and area service providers to determine Latinas’ non-use of the clinic for cervical and breast cancer screening.

The consumer focus group was attended by 14 women, ranging in age from 20 to 69. Three women were patients at the medical clinic, but the majority was not. A wide variety of countries were represented: five women were from Honduras; three were from El Savador; two were from Guatemala; and Bolivia, Mexico, Uruguay, and Peru were represented by one person each.

When findings were analyzed across consumers and service providers, the themes clustered around these main categories:



-facilitators and recommendations


Consumers had limited knowledge of both PAP smears and breast cancer screening, and perceived that both involved a great deal of pain, which they feared. Consumer participants were unaware that PAP smears were associated with cervical cancer prevention; their experience of PAP smears was limited to prenatal care. Related to breast cancer, consumers believed that injury to the breast was its cause. One participant stated, “My sister was hit and the impact caused breast cancer.” The service provider participants noted that Latinas often do not understand the concept of prevention because of their experiences in their countries of origin with lack of preventative care. If there were no symptoms (and cervical cancer is an initially asymptomatic disease), Latinas did not see the need for screenings.


Barriers to screening included the perceived inaccessibility of the health care system and difficulty negotiating its complications. One consumer stated, “…there were too many requirements…six months of making phone calls.” Lack of financial and health care resources were also named as prime barriers. A consumer participant explained, “It’s expensive to go to doctor, which means cancer is detected late.”

Service providers emphasized the inaccessibility of the health care system. One participant said, “Even when our programs have resources, there is a problem with navigation of services, going from one office to the next, a lot of running around. We don’t cover all; if need hospital — if they need to be hospitalized — that is where we stop, they then need to apply for other programs. Every step they need to be prepared to be assessed… Undocumented won’t be an issue for getting services; however access to resources is complicated … it is impossible.”

Along with noting that there were few places to obtain free or low-cost cancer prevention screenings, one service provider participant explained the differences between medicine as practiced in Latinas’ countries of origin and the U.S.: “Medicine is so commercialized here. They don’t trust; they just want money. The mistrust is shared. Doctors here are well to do; in our countries they are working class like anyone else. Different perspective of doctors, don’t believe in them as they believe in the doctors back home.”

Another category of barriers had to do with the experience of being an immigrant. Both consumers and service providers mentioned language barriers, which at least one consumer thought might have involved discrimination for services. She said, “They shouldn’t ignore people. I went to three clinics, and they always put me off to another day because I don’t speak English.” Language barriers arise at many points of the screening process – to schedule and arrange appointments, provide personal information, to understand recommendations to obtain screenings, and to ask questions and understand the procedure of screenings. Providers further contributed to the understanding of language barriers in mentioning that Latinas had often not learned to read in their native language. Therefore, even information provided in written Spanish may not help some women understand the necessity of breast and cervical cancer screening and where it could be accessed.

Another barrier to screenings involved the cultural value of modesty. Consumers reported feelings fearful and embarrassed about submitting to screenings. Women lacked familiarity with the examinations (“Not knowing what the doctors are going to do”) and believed they involved indecorous behavior (“…because people are scared and embarrassed to get checked”).

Another factor related to immigrant status was women’s unwillingness to seek services because of their undocumented status. Service providers elaborated on this barrier. One participant stated, “If it is a free service…like mammogram. They think not a good thing. You are like a burden to the community. Will I have some problem when I try to fix my legal status?” Another provider explained, “The misconceptions out there are tremendous. Takes so much time to explain… to put away fears that they are not going to be deported. They are mistrustful because of many incidences of things that have happened.”

An additional barrier named by service providers involved Latina cultural beliefs that their role in life is to care for the family. As one service provider said, “They don’t put themselves first; they put family first.” As a result, women might be reluctant to seek screenings for themselves when there were other needs in the family.

Another cultural belief was fatalism. A service provider participant explained, “Faith in what God will provide, and what God has in store from them, prevents them from preventive measures, and is what prevents them from doing what they need. That acceptance of what they cannot change and from a higher power, sometimes it is a difficult barrier to break and to take the next step.”

Another barrier named by service providers was the lack of time women in the area had to devote to screenings. One participant said, “They are too busy. They do not have the time. They do not. They work two jobs. They barely have time for their children. Two to three jobs. Not that they are not aware. … they don’t have the time.” Another noted that free screenings were often terribly time consuming. She said, “Sometimes, they prefer to spend money because they get an appointment and see the doctor in one day, rather than lose one day for free service appointment. For free service, fill out papers …. Time. . . Time . .. Time.”

Facilitators and Recommendations

Consumers’ main response to factors that facilitated screenings involved Spanish speaking providers. Service providers had many more ideas about facilitators of screenings. Outreach was one category of responses, although types of outreach varied considerably. Personal outreach to Latinas by service providers was one method named. Other means of outreach were community centers, churches, health fairs, mobile mammogram vans, and through community icons/leaders.

Another category of responses had to do with education about breast and cervical cancer and their prevention. A further facilitator was the level of comfort women experienced with providers. If there was a trusting relationship in which women felt cared about, they were more likely to submit to screening. Service providers also said that “word of mouth” was a powerful medium for Latinas. They were more likely to follow through with screenings if information was given to them personally in Spanish.

Conclusion and Implications for Social Work

Closing the gap on health disparities will require sustained, multi-level efforts; social workers can make substantial contributions to this effort. First, social workers can provide education or advocate for the provision of education about breast and cervical cancer prevention. Education would need to demystify the process of the examinations, so women would know what to expect. Myths Latinas may hold about breast and cervical cancer (i.e., that it is due to trauma) could be dispelled, and correct information could be provided in the form of Spanish-speaking videos, pamphlets, and televised educational campaigns. Indeed, an educational video intervention program for Latina breast cancer prevention has been designed and tested (Borrayo, 2004). Social workers could advocate for such campaigns and disseminate knowledge about already existing resources.


Note : This paper was presented at the Council on Social Work Education Annual Program Meeting, 2008. Grateful acknowledgement to Wendy Sittner, Victoria Castro, Jacqueline Larkowich, and Kristin Wheeler for their assistance with this project.


Dr. Jacqueline Corcoran

Lib Hutchison.jpg

Dr. Elizabeth Hutchison, Professor Emeritus


Dr. Janice Berry-Edwards

“Sheriff! This person is disturbing the peace!”: Experiential Exercises in the Social Work Classroom

by Liz Cramer

It is a Wednesday afternoon at 3:45 and several students in my social justice class are sitting in the classroom waiting for the 4 pm class to begin. Some are taking notebooks out of backpacks while others are talking amongst themselves. I pick out six students to stay in the classroom while the rest are asked to wait in the hallway until we are ready for them (“Should we bring our stuff?” “What is going on?” “Why do we need to wait in the hallway?”). I post a note on the door that instructs the students to stay quietly in the hallway until I come to get them. The six students in the classroom are briefed about the experiential activity we will be doing (called “Lifeline”) and they are told that they are the workers in this activity. Their stations or roles in the activity include: bank, housing, jobs, complaint desk, escort, finish line, and sheriff. They are urged to stay “in role” throughout the activity.

Read more begins here….

In a few minutes, after we transform the room into stations, a jail, a waiting area, and a VIP section, the other students will come through the door one-by-one and each will be given a nametag with three letters. Some of the nametags will also have a color line on them. The letters and colors on the nametags indicate the social locations of the person (such as income level, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability), which will signal to the worker how to treat the person during the activity. Participants do not know what their labels mean or why they are being treated the way that they are during the activity.

After about 45 minutes, the activity ends and the processing begins. There may be a few people in jail; they may have spent most of the activity in there or they possibly could have been “released” for a bit and then brought back in for an alleged violation. Those might likely to end up in jail are racial and ethnic minorities, low income persons, gays and lesbians, and Muslims. Participants labeled as Muslim are the only ones that are “searched” by the Sheriff when they enter the room and receive their nametag. The upper class, white male and female are sitting in the VIP section (after being waited on by the escort and taken directly to the front of the line of the stations regardless of how long others had waited) and often they have received a mansion, high status jobs, and vacation homes. There are usually a couple of low-income people who haven’t made it past the first station because they could not understand the gibberish application form that was given to them to receive their money, which they needed to obtain their housing and jobs. They might have attempted to complain through the complaint desk only to witness the worker ball up the piece of paper and throw it away. A couple of lesbian or gay male participants might be segregated from the other participants and they may have watched the workers at each station pretend to spray Lysol on their seat when they vacated it. They may have also been told that they could not possibly have a job that would involve working with children. Low-income Hispanic men and women may have been told that they can’t have 10 or 12 family members in their house, a run-down small structure with a broken window and shutters falling off. The escort begrudgingly assists participants who use a wheelchair throughout the game because they are told they cannot manage this by themselves. Others speak to them very slowly and in a loud voice as if their need to use an assistive device means that they also are deaf or have a cognitive impairment.

At the beginning of the processing time, I ask students to remove their nametags and I ask them what they think the letters and colors on their nametag means. They often are able to guess their social locations based on what the workers said to them. Sometimes the lesbian and gay participants think that perhaps they are criminals or have AIDS. Muslim participants also sometimes wonder if they are criminals or illegally in the U.S. Participants discuss what they were thinking and feeling during the exercise. The students who played the workers also describe what the exercise was like for them. (I do tell the participants that the student who were workers were instructed to play a role because the workers are worried about the other students being upset with them.) Sometimes, a worker will admit that it became “too easy” to treat people according to stereotypes and to abuse the power in their role. This leads into a discussion of some of the ways that oppressed populations are treated in society and by human service and other organizations. Many of the suggestions that the workers receive for ways to treat people based on the labels are drawn directly from incidents that I’ve witnessed or that others have shared with me (including the Lysol-spraying).

At the end of the processing, I ask a person from each income group to read his or her finish letter. The letter for low-income participants (“Dear Client”) starts off by acknowledging that life may not be easy and options are limited; however, their attributes have not made it possible for them to be top performers. They are encouraged to think positively and to see their path through life as a learning experience, including the opportunity to learn patience, a wonderful attribute. The letter closes by reminding them that those on the fast track need to slow down and spend more time watching the daisies and fortunately for them, they have those golden moments when there is a chance to contemplate life as it passes them by. The letter for middle-income participants (“Dear Upwardly Mobile American”) notes that they have passed all stations of Lifeline successfully and that they have managed fairly well through life because of their steadfast commitment to the status quo and because they did not rock the boat. They have kept their head down and not questioned the system too carefully and as a result they have reaped the benefits that come to the unaware and apathetic. The letter closes with a hope that they will have a few years of retirement as a reward for their complicity; however ongoing health care benefits, retirement funds, and social security cannot be guaranteed because profit margins must be kept at acceptable levels. The letter for upper-income participants (“Dear Esteemed Colleague”) indicates that they have passed all the stations of the Lifeline successfully and that their competence is demonstrated by their remarkable success and by their lifestyle. They are warned that others who are less affluent may be envious of them. Therefore, they will need to lock their doors carefully at all times and avoid contact with those who are less fortunate because their resentments may contaminate the pleasant environment of their secure world.

Lifeline is one example of how social work instructors use experiential exercises to teach about oppression and social justice. Experiential exercises can be categorized into three models: experiencing, self-discovering, and learning. Activities that can be categorized as experiencing include those that provide students with opportunities to take on an oppressed/oppressor role or experience life from the perspective of an oppression population. Lifeline is one example in this category. Another example is an activity that provides the opportunity for students without disabilities to go about their daily activities on campus using a wheelchair. Self-discovering experiential exercises include activities that help students to identify their own social locations, their awareness of others’ cultures, and their biases or prejudices. For example, students may complete a Social Group Membership Profile to identify various social group memberships (e.g., race, class, gender, disability, religion, sexual orientation) and to indicate whether their memberships are agent (dominant group) or target (subordinate group). Then, they may have a series of questions about their memberships and statuses to discuss in small groups. Exercises in the learning category, would include those that provide opportunities to expand students’ knowledge of the life experiences of a population, such as watching and discussing a DVD on an oppressed population, reading poetry by members of an oppressed group, discussing a case study, or participating in a field trip to a museum or organization in the community. I take my class to the Black History Museum and Cultural Center, the Virginia Holocaust Museum, and the Neighborhood Resource Center.

Experiential exercises have the potential for student learning at the “heart” level and not just in the “head.” For students who learn best by doing, experiential exercises can be profound learning experiences. They can also be fun and creative … a nice change from long lectures for both instructors and students.

The Family Law Clinic

by Portia L. Cole

The University of Richmond Law School is operating a multi-service interdisciplinary Family Law Clinic providing direct legal services to low income children and families, supported by case management and counseling services through the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work. The Clinic is located in the urban core of the City of Richmond at the corner of East 7th and Broad. The goal of the Clinic is to address the complex needs of low income families and their children through the provision of direct legal services and the psycho-social services necessary for the family to function in a healthy and productive manner. Areas of representation have included abuse and neglect, divorce, custody, child in need of supervision/services (CHINS), public benefits, housing, and domestic violence.

Read more starts here….

This year (2009-10) the SSW has placed two second year MSW concentration students at the Clinic for their internship experience. One of the students is Morgan Gammon, who chose the Family Law Clinic as her field placement because she had always been interested in the criminal justice field and psychology and in fact both of her minors in undergrad were criminal justice and psychology. She felt that having knowledge in both of these areas would greatly benefit her work as a social worker with the Family Law Clinic. Even as a clinical student, Morgan knew that going into a placement there would be more macro experiences (than a typical clinical placement), but that’s exactly what she wanted. She had been exposed to macro practice during her internship last year with Communities in Schools of Virginia and really enjoyed it. So, she wanted to find a placement that would provide her an opportunity to have both micro and macro experiences. Morgan reports that when she saw the Family Law Clinic listed as a possible placement and read that it encompassed social work, psychology and criminal justice, she knew that was the place for her internship.

The second student intern is Billings Collins, who chose the University of Richmond Family Law clinic because of his interest in the role of social workers in the criminal justice field. His first year field placement was with Henrico Community Corrections Program as a probation intern. His job there was primarily conducting individual case management with clients in a traditional one on one setting. The family law clinic allows him not only to continue one on one interactions with clients, but also allows him to understand how the organization works from the macro level. This micro-macro combination allows for students to grow a more diverse social work practice. The social worker placed at the Clinic has the unique ability to work on counseling skills as well as strategic and organizational planning. This experience has allowed Billings to continue to grow as a clinician, while giving him a solid base for organizational management, an aspect of social work that he may be interested in pursuing in the future.

The Family Law clinic is a wonderful learning experience as it combines social work students with law students from the University of Richmond T.C. Williams School of Law. This combination allows students to be exposed to different points of views concerning clients’ needs. Additionally, working so closely with students from different disciplines has helped to provide access to new and different information and resources. More importantly, the clinic provides an essential outlet for clients that are in need of legal and social services.

Throughout the Fall semester, these two students have worked in conjunction with Dr. Portia Cole (Field Instructor), Professor Dale Margolin and six University of Richmond law students assigned to the clinic. They have worked on cases involving divorces, child custody, domestic violence, housing, public benefits and abuse and neglect. Both have indicated that they have learned a lot from the law students and look forward to learning even more before their placement ends in May.

Photos below: Morgan Gammon, Dr. Portia L. Cole and Billings Collins



Faculty, Student and Alumni Publications

September ~ November 2009

Brady, S. R., Cramer, E., Dellinger-Wray, M., & Johnston, S. (2009). Resources for Independent Living staff training curriculum: Risk assessment and safety planning. Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work and Partnership for People with Disabilities, YWCA of Richmond, and Resources for Independent Living.

Brady, S. R., Cramer, E., Dellinger-Wray, M., & Johnston, S. (2009). Resources for Independent Living staff training curriculum: Risk assessment and safety planning suggestions for facilitators. Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work and Partnership for People with Disabilities, YWCA of Richmond, and Resources for Independent Living.

Johnston, S., Carrow, R., Cramer, E., Dellinger-Wray, M., & Guardino, M. (2009). Resources for Independent Living staff training curriculum: Sexual violence intervention. Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work and Partnership for People with Disabilities, YWCA of Richmond, and Resources for Independent Living.

McAllister, C.A., Harold, R.D., Ahmedani, B.K., & Cramer, E.P. (2009). Targeted mentoring: An evaluation of a program. Journal of Social Work Education, 45(1), 89-104. Retrieved online December 10, 2009 from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb3060/is_1_45/ai_n31393739/?tag=content;col1

Nguyen, P. V. & Cheung, M. (2009). Parenting styles as perceived by Vietnamese American adolescents. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 26(6), 505-518.

Retrieved online December 5, 2009 from http://www.springerlink.com/content/vu31412244v14r27/fulltext.pdf

Price, S.K. & Handrick, S.L. (2009). A culturally relevant and responsive approach to screening for perinatal depression. Research on Social Work Practice, 19(6), 705-714. Retrieved online December 9, 2009 from


Ryosho, N. (2009) The role of social work in the lives of home care workers. Perspectives on Social Work, (8)1, 17-22. (Fall 2009).

Commencement ~ Fall 2009

On December 12th, five BSW candidates, 27 MSW candidates and two doctoral candidates received their degrees at the Fall commencement held at The Stuart C. Siegel Center on VCU’s Monroe Park Campus in Richmond. The Honorable Robert J. Wittman, who represents Virginia’s First Congressional District in the U. S. House of Representatives, delivered the commencement address.

Upon receiving their doctoral degrees, Dr. Hsing-Jung Chen and Dr. Geraldine Lewis Meeks were hooded by Dr. Ann Nichols-Casebolt, Interim Dean of the School of Social Work, assisted by their dissertation committee chairs, Dr. Pamela J. Kovacs and Dr. Patrick V. Dattalo.

The following degrees were also conferred at the Fall graduation event:

Bachelor of Social Work

Candidates presented by Interim Dean Ann Nichols-Casebolt

Max Palmer Daniel, Midlothian, VA

Tara Jean Marshall, Ruckersville, VA

Abiose Kali Middleton-Hewitt, Philadelphia, PA

Chandra Denise Preston, Richmond, VA

Eden Nicole Wilson, Chesterfield, VA

Master of Social Work

Candidates presented by Dean F. Douglas Boudinot, Graduate School

Brooke Elizabeth Annessa, Fairfax, VA

Kathryn Elizabeth Boxer, Herndon, VA

Michele Lynn Burtner, Kilmarnock, VA

Jessica M. Crank, Weyers Cave, VA

Cynthia Cypress, Springfield, VA

Michelle Renee Donachy, Richmond, VA

Rachel Gayle Ehrmantraut, Dumfries, VA

Rosalind Frazer, Centreville, VA

Heather Leigh Gary, Arlington, VA

Paul Duncan, Gushurst, Fredericksburg, VA

Jacelynn Alana Hill, San Leandro, CA

Kelly M. Hunt, Charlottesville, VA

Andrea Carson King, Harrisonburg, VA

Kimberly Jo Lovings, Richmond, VA

Darren Lawrence Madison, Woodbridge, VA

Derek Anton Morch, Arlington, VA

Jada E. Overton, Prince George, VA

John Joseph Pace, Burke, VA

Linda A. Perez, Palmyra, VA

Carla Marie Renner, Howells, NE

Neelma Radha Chinsammy Sajjad, Springfield, VA

Laura Katherine Savitsky, Arlington, VA

Karen Yvette Taliaferro, Lanexa, VA

Sandra M. Tan, Richmond, VA

Sara Allison Taylor, Garland, TX

Rashika N. Wallace, Richmond, VA

Jacqueline Withers-Johnson, Williamsburg, VA

Community Reach Out ~ Faculty, Staff and Students Participate in Community Service Projects

The School of Social Work faculty, staff and students have been involved in numerous Community Reach Out projects during the Fall semester, providing much needed assistance in the Richmond and Northern Virginia areas, and beyond.

Activities benefitting the Alzheimers Association, Habitat for Humanity, Boys and Girls Club, the Better Housing Coalition, United Methodist Family Services, Capital Area Food Bank, Culture of Work Academy, Freedom House, the Richmond Food Bank and U. S. military service personnel, just to name a few, have been undertaken by our faculty, staff and students.

Read more begins here…


The student chapter of Association of Black Social Workers held a back to school drive for Carver Elementary School in September, volunteered for the Alzheimer’s Association Annual Memory Walk in October, and in November they co-sponsored a night of self-defense instruction.

The MSWSA participated in Delegate McClellan’s 4th Annual Community Harvest festival on October 30th, where they baked, decorated, and donated over 100 cupcakes for the participants. The MSWSA served as volunteer support staff at the YWCA’s Annual Charity Fashion Show, where 10 association members volunteered for a total of 24 hours. MSWSA members also participated in a build with Habitat for Humanity on December 5th.

The BSWSA participated in monthly service projects including volunteering for the Boys and Girls Club in September, organizing and participating in an inter-generational party at the Better Housing Coalition in October, running a food and clothing drive in November, and also making and handing out sandwiches to the homeless in November. In December, the BSWSA plans to make holiday treat bags for children at United Methodist Family Services.

NOVA Student Government Association

The NoVA SGA organized a Thanksgiving Food Drive for the Capital Area Food Bank, donating 41 pounds of food to those in their area who need it most. They are now beginning a letter writing campaign to the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. There has been a noted drop in mail for soldiers and this has created a great opportunity for students to raise the spirits of those at war. Cards will be provided for students who would like to write our service men and women a note of encouragement, a holiday wish or simple thank you. If you would like more information on where the letters are going please contact Heather at priceha@vcu.edu .


For their fall service project, the faculty again collected men’s and women’s clothing for the Culture of Work Academy and Freedom House. To assist faculty with the drive, the Dean’s office staff sorted the donations, picked up clothing from donors, and packed and loaded the donations for the agencies. Hundreds of items were collected, including business attire, accessories, shoes, work clothes, coats, and hygiene products.

With the success of the Spring 2009 clothing drive, it was expanded this semester to include other university departments and donations were received from the School of Nursing, VCU Alumni Association, Financial Aid office, Social and Behavioral Health, Honors College, Pharmacy and Radiology, in addition to Girl Scout Troop 3266.

Eight SSW staff volunteered at the Richmond Food Bank Community Kitchen for the fall service initiative, preparing meals for community organizations. Volunteers included Dan Park, Candice Tam, Pam Duffus, and Ashley Vertuno, who prepared ready-made snacks and meals for the Children of Kids Café and Senior Connections, and Lisa Pond, MeMe Boyd, Kristin Hopkins, and Fay Wade, who compiled healthy snacks into bags for the Children of Kids Café. Close to the end of their shift, Lisa and Fay were scooping meals into trays for homebound Meals on Wheels recipients, while the rest of the staff worked diligently preparing ready-made snack bags for the next day’s volunteers. During their four-hour shift, these volunteers put together more than 3,500 meals that went out that day to Meals on Wheels, Children of Kids Café, and Senior Connections. Staff volunteers at the Community Kitchen

Both faculty and staff are currently donating items to fill holiday gift bags for low-income children and youth who, along with their families, will be guests at the Freedom House Christmas Day Dinner event.


Winter 2009

The 70′s

Barbara (Pokrasso) Burke, MSW 1978, is clinical director and social worker at the Family Counseling Center for Recovery in Richmond.

J. Neil DeMasters, MSW 1976, is a consultant at Carilion Clinic in Roanoke, VA.

Cynthia (Gimby) Gadberry, MSW 1976, BSW 1974, is a realtor with RE/MAX Properties. After spending most of her work life in the corporate world, she “retired” and began a new career in real estate. Cynthia has combined her social work roots and new skills to help homeowners in financial distress avoid foreclosure.

Paul McWhinney, BSW 1974, MSW 1979, Director of Family Services, Virginia Department of Social Services, was recently inducted into the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society as a distinguished alumnus.

Theresa Puckett, MSW 1979, for the past 18 years has been a school social worker at an elementary school in the Portland, Maine public school system. She has the luxury of having summers off, and uses that time to travel extensively.

Paul Wexler, MSW 1973, is executive director of Central Fairfax Services, Inc., Springfield, Virginia. He has been the CEO for the past 23 years. CFS is a private nonprofit corporation providing day support services to over 200 adults with developmental disabilities.

The 80′s

Jean Donnan, MSW 1984, is an employee assistance program counselor-LCSW at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

Lynda (Peacock) Figueroa, MSW 1986, is a Licensed Child Mental Health Supervisor with the Richmond Behavioral health Authority.

William Oldfield, MSW 1983, has been in private practice for 25 years specializing in adults and children with ADHD, learning disorders, and social skills deficits. He also provides consulting and in-service training for schools. In addition, he started a new program for social work services for a community health care center in Buffalo, NY, and was named Director of Behavioral Health.

Beverly Peacock-Barge, MSW 1981, is a school social worker in the Framingham, Massachusetts public school system.

Sheelah Sodhi, MSW 1988, a mental health therapist at Sterling Medical/Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX, provides mental health services for active duty Air Force personnel. She is married and has a seven year old daughter, Kira. Sheelah has rescued five mutts and loves weight training, yoga, and is learning to dance!

The 90′s

Suzanne Boyd, PhD 1997, MSW 1993, is an Associate Professor at UNC Charlotte, and was recently awarded a $16,154 grant for the Evaluation of Alexander Youth Network Intensive In-Home Service.

Felicia (Wilson) Caulk, BSW 1997, is a homemaker, married with three children, and living in the Northern Virginia area.

Heather Comfort, MSW 1999, is a bereavement counselor for Lifepath Hospice in Florida.

James Forte, PhD 1990, MSW 1978, is an Associate Professor with Salisbury University in Maryland. His recent book, Human Behavior and the Social Environment: Models, Metaphors and Maps for Applying Theoretical Perspectives to Practice, continues to receive very favorable reviews.

Misty (Cox) Henderson, MSW 1995, is a transitional housing program counselor with the Women’s Resource Center of the NRV. She is married to Dr. Dale Henderson, a professor in the College of Business at Radford University and they have two sons, Luke and Jude.

Dianna Hurtado, MSW 1990, has established a private practice in Plano/North Dallas/Frisco/Allen/McKinney area of Texas targeting extremely “difficult” children and their families. Her clientele are mostly professional families with children who have diagnoses such as Bi-Polar, Anxiety Disorders, ADHD, FAS and multiple medical and learning disorders. With the use of research from people like Dr. Bruce Perry, Dr. Ira Chasnoff and many others she is able to employ methodologies that help families change in a short period of time and provide children with a stress free environment in which to grow and thrive. This is Dianna’s passion.

Kathleen Shunk, MSW 1998, is a school social worker in the Prince William County public school system in Northern Virginia.

The 00′s

Odessa Becker, MSW 2007, is an adoptive home recruiter for the City of Alexandria, VA.

Barbara Blankenbaker, MSW 2004, is a licensed mental health professional, Family Solutions. Barbara has been an LCSW since December 2007. She works with at-risk children/adolescents and their families and loves her job. She recently attended a conference in Santa Fe, NM, and is currently working on a book about mental health and well being.

Lorener Brayboy, MSW 2008, is a clinical social worker for the United States Public Health Service in Texas. She will never forget the caring peers and staff during her years at VCU (NOVA campus). She says it is an honor and pleasure to serve as a uniformed services social worker.

Aileen (Callahan) Burrell, MSW 2000, is a social worker with the Department of Veteran Affairs. Since graduating from VCU, Aileen has worked in several fields of social work, almost all in the mental health arena. She is currently working in a residential program for combat veterans with PTSD in Denver, CO. She is married with one daughter and another ‘on the way’.

John G. Cagle, PhD 2008, MSW 1998, is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Institute on Aging at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Lila Curtis, BSW 2008, is employed by Wal-Mart and is currently enrolled at Walden University, working on her master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling.

LaTasha Davis, BSW 2006, MSW 2008, is a school social worker for Henrico County Public Schools.

Gerhild Dickerman, MSW 2003, left the Washington area in May 2007 and moved to beautiful Asheville, NC, where he opened a private practice in January 2008.

Kim Flournoy, BSW 2004, MSW 2008, is a self-employed consultant in Richmond.

Maggie Fox-Kirsch, MSW 2008, is a children’s mental health therapist for Fairfax County.

Susan Franke, MSW 2002, is lead independent living social worker for Greenspring – a continuing care retirement community in Springfield, VA. Her first grandchild, Courtney, was born in February 2009 and Susan and her husband Phil are enjoying every minute of being grandparents !

Michael Gasper, MSW 2003, is the executive director of Extra Special Parents, Inc. He co-founded a treatment foster care agency that has grown to three offices serving Virginia and remains an adjunct faculty at Richard Bland College in their Sociology Department. Michael and his wife, Jill (H&S – Psychology – PhD 2009), welcomed their first child, Cameron Michael, on July 24th. They still live in the Richmond area and are enjoying their new family.

Nadine Graham, BSW 2008, is a compliance review specialist for Intercept Youth Services in Richmond.

Sloan (Hawley) Lindsey, MSW 2002, is a licensed assisted living administrator for Westminster Canterbury Richmond. She and her husband, Mark, live in Richmond and have a 3-year-old daughter named Vaiden. They are expecting their second child in late January 2010.

Kristin (Dowman) Lints, MSW 2006, is a clinical liaison at Poplar Springs Hospital in Petersburg, VA.

Margaret (Lefbom) Mellnik, MSW 2005, is a family advocate for Reston Interfaith in Northern Virginia.

Hope (Burnette) Melton, MSW 2008, is care coordinator and community liaison for Senior Solutions of Richmond.

Sue Murdock, Ph.D. 2006, is a program evaluator for the VCU Partnership for People with Disabilities.

Heather (Kinkade) Porter, MSW 2000, is a licensed clinical social worker for the Family Advocacy Program, US Army, Fort Eustis, VA.

Suzanne Pritzker, MSW 2003, recently completed her doctorate at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work, Washington University in St. Louis. and has joined the Graduate College of Social Work faculty at the University of Houston. Article, page 6.

Edward Robinson, MSW 2003, is a program director for A Gathering of the Ways in Richmond, VA.

Allison Ryals, BSW 2003, MSW 2005, is a social work supervisor for Richmond Department of Social Services Second Responders.

Hannah Kate Singleton, MSW 2004, is a trauma social worker, addictions counselor, adjunct lecturer, and health literacy consultant for Inova Health Systems in Northern Virginia. Kate received her LCSW this summer and is very excited about getting back into teaching at a Maryland honors college, UMBC-Shady Grove, this fall. She currently has an article in the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing on the importance of integrating approaches to health literacy, linguistic appropriateness and cultural competence.

Grace Stapleton, MSW 2004. After graduation, Grace worked as a group therapist for people with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. She is now a stay-at-home mother of three little ones in Chesterfield, VA.

Melissa Taylor, MSW 1994, Ph.D. 2002, is an associate professor and undergraduate director at UNC Greensboro. Melissa continues to work and write in the areas of severe mental illness and substance abuse, and completed a state-wide study of persons with mental illness and the jails of NC. She is active in departmental administration and in the mental health community in Greensboro, NC.

Angela (Merritt) Verdery, MSW 2001, is deputy director of Safe Harbor in Richmond, VA.

Bradley Wentz, MSW 2007, is a child protective services supervisor for the City of Charlottesville. He is the 2009 recipient of the John L. Snook Child Advocate Award (Charlottesville Area Service Award), a growing Family Support Program that provides outreach by placing Department of Social Services social workers in city elementary schools.

December 9, 2009


by Jacqueline Corcoran

In terms of teen sexual risk behavior, the U.S. continues to have one of the highest teen pregnancy, birth, and abortion rates in the developed world. According to the 2007 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, almost half of all high school teens have had sexual intercourse at least once. Among sexually active teens, 40% did not use birth control at last intercourse. Further, an estimated 9.1 million youth and young adults ages 15-24 are newly infected with a sexually transmitted disease in a one year period.

The Alexandria Campaign for the Prevention of Teen Pregnancy (ACPAP) is part of the Alexandria Office on Women and its mission is to reduce adolescent pregnancy in the city of Alexandria. One of the programs of ACPAP is the teen text message line, which is run by Becky Griesse, the Coordinator for ACPAP. In this program, teens text message their concerns about love, sex, and relationships and Becky answers their questions within a 24-hour period. Text messaging is a particularly appealing format for teenagers. According to a Washington Post article on text messaging and teens, youth from 13 to 17 are the most avid users of the medium. According to data cited by the Nielson Company, teens do more text messaging (average 2,272 texts per month) than they make cell phone calls (only 203).

Read more begins here….

In the Spring of 2007 I was awarded a Community Service Associate grant to work with the Alexandria Office on Women on various projects, including a qualitative analysis of the type of teen text messages the teen text line program received. Inspired by that work, I posed last Spring to the Office on Women that we consider putting the teen text message questions and answers into a book to sell for fundraising. The Alexandria Office on Women was agreeable since the budget for the teen text message line had been reduced . Becky Griesse and I put together a proposal, organizing the book, TEEN TEXT SEX, around chapters on relationships, sexual decision-making, sexual activity, birth control and preventing pregnancy, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases. Main selling points are that TEEN TEXT SEX would discuss the actual concerns of real teens in the language they use.

After sending it to about 30 literary agents, we eventually heard that the KT Literacy Agency wanted to represent TEEN TEXT SEX. We have since revised our proposal and developed two sample chapters so that our agent can distribute it to editors, who will hopefully be interested in buying it. Proceeds from any sales will go to the Alexandria Office on Women for the teen text line program.