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September 2015

MSW News: Totally UNExpected

Greetings from the Interim Director

Shelley Cohen ConradIt’s one of those amazing late summer mornings in Maine when the combination of sun and fog cast magical light on the flowers in my garden. I’m an early-morning person and gazing out into the world before the business of the day is a small pleasure that I practice. It’s a form of self-care, something you’ll discover is an essential element of life as a professional social worker.

Today, thoughts about the upcoming fall semester filter through the fog (both nature’s production and that which remains as coffee infiltrates my sleepiness). An especially large cohort of students is entering the School this year adding to the rich and diverse class that will be completing their program in December 2015 and May 2016. I’m delighted that this inaugural social work newsletter will provide all of you, campus-based and online students, along with alumni, field instructors, community partners and members, staff and faculty, opportunities to highlight successes, offer critical commentary, tell stories, feature arts and global journeys, raise cultural awareness and generally share with each other the beauty and challenge of our common yet multi-faceted community.

I want to extend a special thank you to Kat Gifford for taking the lead on developing the newsletter. Please contact Kat if you want to contribute to future issues.

Lastly, please don’t hesitate to come by the fourth floor of Hersey to say hello. I’m there to listen to your aspirations, hopes and dreams — to seek solutions to that which is solvable and to simply be there when there may be no solution to be found. What I can promise is that you will be transformed by your experiences in social work practice. Speaking for myself and for the faculty and staff of the School, we’re here for you all along the way.

Take the time to watch this inspirational video I found interesting.

- Shelley Cohen Konrad

Watch Video


In this Issue


Student Spotlight 


Traveling through Sekondi
Traveling through Sekondi

MSW Student Travels to Ghana — Returns Amazed and Humbled

In August, MSW Student Kathryn Ridgeway traveled with 39 other UNE students to Ghana for a two-week Cross Cultural Health Immersion initiative, led by Director of Nursing Jennifer Morton. This is a service-learning trip that happens annually, and it involves collaboration between UNE, the Ghana Health Service and local Ghana health practitioners to provide primary care, health education and clinical services to community members in the city of Sekondi and two rural nearby villages. Its purpose is to give American and Ghanaian physicians, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists, physician assistants, optometrists, social workers and public health professionals the opportunity to learn from, with and about each other and their patients. Here is Katie’s story:

Since I was the only social worker who attended this trip, I wasn't quite sure how my discipline would fit in with assisting a health clinic, much less one in a foreign country. I had never worked as a social worker in a medical setting or internationally. As soon as we arrived in Ghana, I was very intimidated by the work ahead. 

UNE students earning to Batik fabric, Ghanaian style
UNE students learning to Batik fabric, Ghanaian style

I was initially paired to assist as a pharmacy technician to help fill prescriptions. In this health immersion trip everyone was cross trained to assist where needed. The clinics were very busy, and you are trying to assist a lot of people with very little to start with. Soon, after the first day of opening the clinics, I found a place for my natural social work role. It turned out that the pharmacy was one of the last stops that people made in the clinics before leaving. It was a place where several additional questions or concerns were presented, so my role shifted slightly to assist people with those questions, and to problem-solve additional situations as needed. Together with the patients, community health outreach workers, and other health professionals, we worked around difficulties related to medical referrals, finances, lack of insurance, transportation, religious beliefs, public hospital strikes and understanding of medical instructions to attempt to give people the best medical care possible. It involved a lot of running around, clear communication, close interdisciplinary teamwork and a ton of creativity.

There were also several other activities we were able to participate in for professional or personal learning purposes. The public health students and I were able to meet with a UNE social work online student, Christopher Keiser, in Cape Coast to discuss social justice and health issues affecting the people of Ghana. Our team of UNE health professionals and students explored the jungle of the Kakum National Park by canopy bridges. There were also several visits to local soccer games, churches and markets to explore Ghanaian culture and meet community members.During our time in Ghana we had limited resources, and the nationwide strike of public hospitals created an increased number of people seeking medical care. I was able to fall into an advocate role as a social worker to help register people with insurance, and to follow up on patient care on a day-to-day basis. However, that would not have been possible without the amazing community health outreach workers. These were local community members who took time out of their lives to assist us with running the health clinics. They helped us understand the culture, assist with language barriers and educated us on their health systems. This was a vital role that gave all of the UNE health professional and student community the ability to be able to perform their roles as health professionals.

Students, faculty, volunteers
Students, faculty, volunteers

I cannot begin to describe all of my emotions and experiences while in Ghana. There are too many. During my time in Ghana I was able to make wonderful connections with people going though the clinics. They taught me more than I could ever have imagined learning. They challenged my understanding of what it means to be a part of a community and what it means to be sincerely kind. They challenged my previous perceptions of cultural competency, ethical care, white privilege, poverty and resilience. It was an amazing and humbling opportunity to work with so many community members of the Sekondi and outlining areas in various forms, as well as the Ghanaian and UNE health professionals. It was truly a life changing experience for me.

Faculty Spotlight 


Thomas McLaughlinAnything is Possible, Just Add Money: Social Service Infrastructure Perceptions

by Thomas Chalmers McLaughlin, Ph.D.

For the past two years, I have been working with two social work colleagues from Universities in Finland to study people’s perceptions of the social service infrastructure. Some of you may have met my colleague, Timo from Finland who visited here on a UNE sponsored trip a couple of years ago. Others may remember me teaching a class remotely from Finland to Portland. Okay, back to the research.

Now, for sure, the United States does not compete with the Nordic Welfare State model and many may argue that we should not. However, there are many similarities between the U.S. and the Nordic countries of Demark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Conversely, there are also many differences between the countries which help to understand both public opinion and confidence in the different systems of health care and the social service infrastructure. In our analysis — and to our surprise and delight — we encountered a World Health Organization dataset which collects data from citizens in many different countries on health care system related questions, confidence in the system and demographic data. Now my colleagues in Finland are much, MUCH smarter than I am on how to crunch juicy, rich and delicious large datasets such as this, so I will defer to them on the math and statistics behind the analysis. 

However, the great part about this collaborative work is that we can work together on the analysis, even though sometimes I feel like I am the dunce in the corner. Collaborative international work also helps to contextualize the results relative to our countries and the implications. In this vein, my colleagues and I have examined two key questions as they relate to health care “confidence in the health care system” and “willingness to pay more taxes to improve the health care system.” Not surprisingly, the U.S. ranks the lowest with only 18% reporting high confidence in the health care system. We probably all know this given the work that we do. Sweden and Finland rank the highest in confidence with 58% and 56% reporting high confidence in the health care system, respectively. I know some of you are yawning at this point and hoping there is something worth reading here, right?

Okay, so here is where it gets interesting — put your seat belt on — the U.S. ranks highest, yes, HIGHEST of the countries who are “willing to pay more in taxes to improve the health care system.” Now you may be saying, “Duh, that’s because they said the system is crappy and they have no confidence in it.” BUT, that doesn’t square with the political rhetoric about how awful the health care system is in the U.S., right?  Most political debate focuses on RETURNING to a crappy system of five years ago. 

So, here is the part where you need to make that seat belt a bit tighter — it’s gonna get technical, I tell you! When you weight for country size, population and the tax burden in each country — most Nordic countries pay 17-21% sales taxes and about 52% income tax —  even controlling for those issues, public opinion in the U.S. suggests Americans would be willing to pay up to 70% MORE in taxes to improve our health care system! That would mean the average taxpayer's bill would increase about $272 a year which is equal to about half the cost of a coffee and pastry a week at a local, good quality, coffee shop or bakery. One coffee and pastry a week for a better health care system, I don’t know about you but I’m all in! 

News and Happenings



The New Student Orientation was a great success, thanks especially to the faculty, staff and members of the Student Organization! Events and activities included a few meet & greets, video/book discussions, a field scavenger hunt and a breakfast served by apron-ed faculty. However, the winner of the Best Apron Award is still up for debate...

Thanks to everyone who helped and participated, and welcome again to our new students!

Here are some photos from the breakfast event:



Thursday, September 10 on the fourth floor of Hersey Hall the SSW Applied Arts and Social Justice Program officially opened its first art exhibit of the season with this amazing Family Crisis' Services exhibit of photographs and poems of Maine's incarcerated women.  

Since 2000, Family Crisis Services (FCS), the domestic violence agency for Cumberland and Sagadahoc counties, has been working with incarcerated women at Cumberland County Jail and Maine Correctional Center, a community where approximately 95 percent of the women have experienced domestic violence in their lifetimes.

In FCS’ support groups, women were asked to tell their truth. Fifteen minutes later, an exhibit was born. The women’s truths are profound, inspiring and raw. FCS partnered with the SALT Institute’s Christine Heinz, who photographed the women, creating forceful portraits that visually mirror the truth of the women’s words.  

SSW Interim Director, Shelley Cohen Konrad, reflects on the opening: "I want to take a moment to reflect upon the extraordinary experience that took place last night on the fourth floor of Hersey Hall. 'More Than a Rap Sheet' is a powerful photo narrative as a stand-alone exhibit — hearing firsthand stories of the women in front of and behind the camera was transformative. Inspirational as well was the bustling energy generated by the many people in attendance — individuals from all walks of life gathered together to exchange ideas and celebrate possibility. As one of the speakers said, it takes one person to make a difference. Observing the hallway energy I would add to this by saying that bringing people together — creating community — forges new relationships, strengthens existing ones and enhances our potential to make positive contributions in the world."

The exhibit will be up on the fourth floor of Hersey Hall on the Portland Campus through October.



A collaborative program with the University of New England and the Cumberland County Jail was highlighted in an August 12, 2015 story on WCSH 6 and WLBZ 2. “Crime and Communities” is a 12-week course where CCJ inmates and UNE Master of Social Work students take a class together taught by Kerry Dunn, Ph.D., J.D., assistant professor in the School of Social Work.

Incarcerated students and UNE students were featured in the story, explaining what they learned from the course. "It was something that was very distant and foreign to me,” said Abigail Chance, MSW ’15. “So it kind of broke down that barrier and I saw I can work with a variety of people, all walks of life.”

Watch the story


Marshall Archer


We are thrilled to announce the appointment of Marshall Archer, a current M.S.W. student in our campus program, as an Executive Board Member of the Maine Chapter of New Leaders Council. New Leaders Council (NLC) is a 501(c)(3) that works to recruit, train and promote the progressive political entrepreneurs of tomorrow — trendsetters, elected officials and civically-engaged leaders — in business and industry who will shape the future landscape.

Serving as the Selections Chair on the NLC Maine Board, Marshall will be recruiting and selecting the next annual class of NLC Maine Fellows — a diverse group of emerging leaders who will work together toward bettering our state and creating social change throughout the nation. If you are interested in learning more about NLC Maine, please email

Opportunities & Information for Students



The UNE School of Social Work Student Organization (SWO for short) was created as a response to the need for student involvement in the creation and maintenance of policies, procedures and the structure of the University of New England School of Social Work.  

The purposes of the organization include:

  1. Promoting communication, collaboration and community among students, faculty and administration in the UNE School of Social Work.
  2. Securing and advancing student rights and responsibilities for their education.
  3. Organize and unite the student body in such a manner as to achieve our collective goals and to provide the special needs of individual groups within the student body.
  4. Enrich our educational experience by providing and allowing for the growth and development of individual skills and interests.
  5. Participate actively in matters of concern and social justice.  

Every student in the SSW is considered a member of this organization. No dues or applications are required. All students are welcome and encouraged to become active members! Whether you join us weekly or just once in the year, we look forward to getting to know you!

Please check out our website for more great information!

Linda M. Piper
MSW Class of 2016
University of New England



Interested in Joining the UNE MSW Honor Society Sigma Lambda? We would love to have you as part of our organization! In order to join you need to have a 3.5 GPA and need to have completed one term of classes. You must send an email from your UNE account to Lisa Boris and send your transcripts to Dawn Blake. There is a $30 fee that covers the cost of the certificate and pin and must be paid by cashier’s check or money order only. Once the email, transcripts and money are received, members are added to the UNE MSW Honor Society page quarterly. Please feel free to post any questions on the Interested in Joining the Honor Society Facebook page and we will address them. Honor Society officers are: President Lisa Boris, Vice President Carly Turner, Secretary Dawn Blake and Treasurer Amy Tracy.



Shelley Cohen Konrad, Interim Director of the School of Social Work, is hosting Student Town Halls once a month on the following dates, times and locations. This time is devoted to discussion of a variety of topics. Do you have an issue, a concern or an accomplishment to share? If so, please come meet your classmates, bring an issue or come to listen.

  • September 9, 2015 4-5 p.m. in Cahner’s Lounge
  • October 21,  2015 4-5 p.m. in Alexander Hall Wing Lounge
  • November 11, 2014 4:30-5:30 p.m. in Alexander Hall Wing Lounge
  • December 9, 2015 4-5 p.m. in Cahner’s Lounge

Light refreshments will be served.

Upcoming Events


Storytelling Night on Race Relations in the 21st Century: An Applied Arts and Social Justice Event

October 21, 6 p.m. at Ludcke Auditorium (Portland Campus)

Join us for a fun, interactive session of storytelling around the subject of race. The evening is designed to give attendees some skills in talking about this difficult topic in new ways so that we can all move forward together, working toward social justice for all. Contact Lori Power for more information.

CATCH-ME Event with Portland Defending Childhood

The first CATCH-ME event for Fall 2015 will be held on Oct. 23 from 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. in the Wing Lounge of Alexander and is required for CATCH-ME students. It will be conducted by Portland Defending Childhood and is a multi-disciplinary training on the issue of childhood exposure to violence and trauma. This event coincides with DV Awareness Month and will feature a presentation by Portland Defending Childhood on the impact of DV on children, building resilience and early intervention and treatment.

Students are encouraged to invite their field instructors and placement agency staff. Contact Hours will be provided for the event.


Breaking the Silence: An interdisciplinary approach to domestic abuse screening — An IPC/SSW Student Organization Event

What is the health provider’s role in the treatment and prevention of domestic abuse and sexual assault? Short presentations followed by role play opportunities help establish tools for screening and treatment strategies for your practice, regardless of your profession.

  • When: Wednesday, October 28, 2015, 12-1:30 p.m.
  • Where: Ludcke Auditorium
  • Who: Our panel includes highly regarded professionals from the state of Maine, as well as other UNE representatives.

*This event will be LiveStreaming at