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May/June 2016

MSW News: Totally UNExpectedGreetings from the Director

Shelley Cohen Conrad

Full disclosure — I have a problem with regalia. My hood is never situated quite right and my tam is always askew. I’ve been repeatedly tutored in proper regalia comportment and yet somehow I can’t get it right. This is why at hooding and commencement ceremonies there is always someone fussing with my attire before the marching begins. This year it was Associate Dean Pardue, both of us diminutive women, so it was easy for her — while fixing my hood — to whisper the following message in my ear: “You’ll be very proud today.” I turned and said: “I’m always proud of our graduates.” She gave me that knowing, deany look, and repeated: “You’ll be VERY proud today.”

And I was. Our School had multiple nominees for the Westbrook College of Health Professions honors: the Faculty Cup, which acknowledges a distinguished student and the Distinguished Teaching Award that recognizes faculty that have gone above and beyond for their students and colleagues. These traditional WCHP awards were respectively presented to Heidi Sistare MSW 2016 and SSW instructor Craig Owens MSW. I was further honored to announce the School’s outstanding campus and online students, Heidi Sistare and John Christopher Keiser as well as, later in the day at the Hooding Reception, to introduce Avantika Waleryszak and Tim Fuller who spoke eloquently to their graduating classmates, faculty, and families under the celebrational tent.

These honors notwithstanding, they tell only a partial story of the remarkable accomplishments of the graduating classes of August 2015, December 2015 and May 2016. This month’s newsletter shares more narratives describing amazing student projects and products indicative of the knowledge, skills and standpoints our graduates will bring into the world.

Saying good-bye to students is always bittersweet. A collective ground-swell of sadness, pride and joy permeates the School as we bid adieu to students we’ve come to know through struggles and successes and say "hello" to colleagues we’re sure to encounter in the community and future classrooms.

My heartfelt congratulation goes out to the School of Social Work graduating class with sincere appreciation to the faculty, who’ve helped them launch.

- Shelley Cohen Konrad

In this Issue

News and Happenings

congratulations to the MSW graduates!

More than one-hundred MSW graduates were here in Maine on Friday, May 20 to participate in the WCHP Hooding Ceremony to be introduced into the profession at the Cross Insurance Area. Heidi Sistare won the WCHP Faculty Cup as an outstanding student, Christopher Keiser was awarded as an outstanding online student, and Craig Owens won the distinguished teaching award. A lovely reception followed on the Portland campus. A big thank you to the friends and family who attended, and an especially big congratulations to the graduates! 

Marcia Cohencongratulations to professor marcia cohen, retiring in may

Marcia has been a member of the UNE School of Social Work faculty since the program began in 1988, developing and teaching courses in social work practice, group work, homelessness and poverty, social welfare policy and organizational change. She has published extensively on topics including homelessness and poverty, social work education and social work practice with groups. She is an active member of the international group work community and a long term member of the International Association for Social Work with Groups. She is the co-editor for the Journal of Progressive Human Services: Radical Thought & Praxis. Her book, Empowering Workers and Clients for Organizational Change, was published in 2014. After many years in Maine, her and her husband are relocating to California. Best of luck, Marcia! 



school of social work student organization elects new board leaders

Elections were held in late April for the new leaders of the SSW School Organization and we are excited to list them here: 

  • President: Becca Baker
  • Vice President: Elizabeth Landry
  • Treasurer: Seth Hunsicker
  • Secretary: Jason Hull
  • GAPSA Senator: Danny Bell
  • GAPSA Councilor: Jaime Mastrorio

Congratulations to these students, and a big thank you to all of the nominees!

director of online education and msw faculty wins maine snap-ed healthy recipe challenge!

The challenge was to submit a healthy recipe that feeds a family of four in Maine for under $10. Cyndi Amato, MSW, won the contest with flying colors for her Veggie Cassoulet!

Get the recipe

adjunct faculty and field community partner presenting at NasW national conference June 22-25, 2016

Rita Alfonso LaBarbera, LSW, CSP, MFA/W is co-presenting with Steve Addario from The Opportunity Alliance at the NASW National Conference in Washington, D.C. in June. Their poster presentation is titled "The Recorded History of Suicide: Implications for Prevention."

Student Work

We here at the School of Social Work unanimously decided to dedicate the May/June Newsletter to the people we all work for every day: the students! Here are a few amazing and thought-provoking projects that were created/made/written by both current students and recent graduate students this year. Enjoy!

(*Please note that the following student projects are not to be duplicated in any form. The opinions, comments and statements expressed here do not those shared by School of Social Work or the University of New England.)

Relational Cultural Theory (RCT) in a Nutshell — Video by Becca Baker, Seth Hunsicker and Jaime Mastrorio

StudentsBecca, Seth and Jaime are all finishing their foundation year at UNE. They used their creative energy to collaborate on this project for their Human Behavior and the Social Environment (HBSE) class taught by Lori Power.

RCT in a Nutshell





kaitlin riceThe Impact of Gender on Empathy— Kaitlin Rice

Kaitlin Rice graduated from Providence College in 2015 with a BSW and she has just graduated from UNE with her MSW in May 2016. She is excited to enter the professional world of social work and plans on spending her career working with children and adolescents.

Follow-up: Empathy is a crucial component of social work and all helping professions. While conducting this research has produced some interesting findings, it also emphasizes the need for it to be further researched. This year-long process has been a great experience, giving me a quick look into the world of research. 

Description of class/assignment: This paper was written for social work Capstone over the course of this year. The research conducted for this assignment built off of research the author did as an undergraduate student on empathy. The aim of this study was to determine what role gender plays in empathy. The findings show that in general women are not only more empathetic, they are also empathized with more.

Read the paper

Flyer on Arts Education and Trauma — Melissa Potter and Ashley Ward

Melissa Potter

Melissa Potter

Ashley Ward

Ashley Ward

Our intention in doing this project was to bring an awareness of how arts education in our public schools can have a positive impact on children who are struggling with the effects of trauma. We designed a brochure for our Social Work Practice with Children, Adolescents and Parents (with Shelley Cohen Konrad) that promoted increasing funding for arts education in our public schools. Our brochure addressed the ACEs study — how trauma affects children in schools, how the arts impact children struggling with trauma and what a trauma-informed school looks like. The brochure will provide schools, Departments of Education, and policy-makers with the knowledge that becoming trauma-informed and having a strong arts education curriculum in our schools will greatly benefit the children affected by trauma, and that — ultimately — these environments are safe havens for all of our children.


Heidi SistareSelf-Understanding and Self-Care: Expressive Writing Intervention — Heidi Sistare

Heidi Sistare has worked with communities and groups in rural and urban areas around issues of racial and economic justice, community-led development, creativity and voice. She is also a creative nonfiction writer with work published in The Rumpus, Slice Magazine and other publications. Heidi graduated with her BSW from Warren Wilson College and has more than 80 hours of training in community mediation. Heidi is graduating with her MSW, where she had a clinical focus. As a student in UNE's School of Social Work (SSW), she was a recipient of the Community Access for Child Health in Maine stipend. She also received her Applied Arts and Social Justice Certificate from the UNE SSW. The research findings here were part of her final Capstone assignment for the SSW.

Read Heidi's Capstone 


Sarah Olmsted

Self-doubt and Second Guessing — Sara Olmsted

Sara is an MSW student at the University of New England. She completed her Foundation Year placement as a bereavement intern with the Hospice of Southern Maine. Sara was asked by placement to write an article on Grief and Loss that could be part of a compilation sent to those served by Hospice. 

Read the article







The Right to Silence?: Informational Website on Torture and Activism - Melissa Dello Stritto, Antonio Barraza and Jae Kierstin Carreira

Melissa, Antonio and Jae are three social work students who believe in human rights under all circumstances. This expansive website on torture and activism was created for their Policy II class with instructor Judy Boudman.

The Right To Silence? 

Opportunities & Information



Do you know of an artist or group whose art has a social justice theme? The art can address such themes as poverty, addiction, environment, gun violence, food security and many others! We need new art for the Hersey fourth floor hallway, and perhaps even the hallway near Parker Pavilion! If you, or an artist or group you know, would like to hang their art for a period of two or three months, please contact Lori Power, (207) 221-4493. Many thanks!


If you have graduated from UNE with your MSW two or more years ago, and are interested in a volunteer opportunity that will enhance your skills as a professional social worker, we need you! Our program is full of amazing students who need Field Instructors for their foundation and advanced field placements. As an alum, you understand the importance of Field Education and the expectations of students in our MSW program. Our field instructors have flexibility in how field instruction is delivered. You may meet with your student by phone, video conference, or face-to-face. If you'd like to provide field instruction to one or more students, please contact Director of Field Education Kelli Fox. Thank you!

Have a safe and happy summer everyone!