Winter 2019
School Updates

Program Highlights

News surrounding the BASW and MSW programs, along with key updates from Pitt Social Work.

BASW Program

Undergraduate Summer Research Program Continues to Attract Scholars

Through the generous support of the Office of the Provost, six undergraduate social work students were selected to work alongside research-engaged faculty members and were supported with a $1,000 fellowship this past summer. BASW students Rowan Connelly, Teresa DePace, Julia Lee, Emily Patrick, Ari Peck, and Elizabeth Steiner were selected to participate in the summer research fellowship program.

To learn more about undergraduate research opportunities, visit


Student Receives Honors College Fellowship

Sarah Krause in front of the Cathedral of LearningBASW student Sarah Krause has been awarded one of 10 Chancellor’s Undergraduate Teaching Fellowships through the University Honors College. She will be collaborating with Associate Professor Rafael Engel to expand on the topic of 19th-century European immigration to the United States in the Foundations

of the Welfare State course. She will focus on the history of intergenerational assimilation of European immigrants in the United States and how immigration policies have evolved over time. She hopes that this will help students to place current immigration patterns, policies, and ideologies in historical context.

Student’s Workshop Selected for Conference

Brandon Thomas inside the Cathedral of LearningBASW student Brandon Thomas was selected to present his workshop, Quick to Judge: Removing the Stigma, at the 2018 National Association of Social Workers Pennsylvania Chapter Conference. Thomas, who also works as a patient care technician in the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, developed the workshop to help attendees identify stigmas health care providers have toward patients with either mental health or addiction issues, primarily those presenting to an emergency room.


MSW Program

The Master of Social Work (MSW) program celebrated 126 new MSW graduates during the April 28, 2018, commencement ceremony at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum. Of those students, 25 completed all the requirements for the Community, Organization, and Social Action (COSA) specialization and 101 completed the requirements for the Direct Practice with Individuals, Families, and Small Groups specialization. Each of these graduates is now prepared with the specialized competencies to engage in advanced social work practice. We wish these newly minted MSW graduates the best of luck as they begin their professional social work careers.

The 2018–19 Academic Year class consists of 177 registered students. Of those students, 140 have decided to pursue the Direct Practice specialization and 29 the COSA specialization. Eight students remain undecided. Although the majority of the 2018–19 students are from Pennsylvania, this year’s class has a higher-than-average number of out-of-state students as well as five international students who hail from: China, France, Ghana, India, and Nigeria. This likely speaks, at least in part, to the School of Social Work’s stellar reputation within the state of Pennsylvania, nationally, and even internationally.

This past year, we’ve witnessed a number of changes within the MSW program. Last spring, Assistant Professor Darren Whitfield accepted an appointment as the new Direct Practice chair. We congratulate him on this appointment and also give a warm welcome to both Brianna Lombardi, assistant professor, and Adjunct Professor James Andrews, MSW program coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. These individuals bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to their respective new positions. We are excited to have all three of them assume their new roles within the school.

This academic year, the School of Social Work is celebrating the 60th anniversary of its community organization program—the first and longest-standing community organization program in any school of social work. The school hosted a kickoff lecture, “Reflection on 60 Years of Community Organizing,” on November 5. Please stay tuned for other upcoming events.


PHD Program

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree program has had a really busy year. Our students continue to publish, present at national conferences, and receive external funding, and we are looking forward to another successful year.

Eight students in total defended their dissertations between summer 2017 and summer 2018, including four since our last update: Heath Johnson, Andrea Joseph, Daniel Lee, and Thomas Ylioja. Joseph and Lee started tenure-track jobs this fall, Ylioja is the associate clinical director of health initiative programs at National Jewish Health, and Johnson is the supervisor of the crime analytics division of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police. Three of our third-year students have completed and are defending their comprehensive exams, and we have a number of students who are planning to defend their dissertations this year.

In addition, five new students began our PhD program this fall: Dashawna Fussell-Ware, Jacob Gordon, Soobin Kim, Ke Li, and Laurenia Mangum


Wilbur I. Newstetter Awards

On June 12, 2018, the School of Social Work hosted the Wilbur I. Newstetter Awards ceremony to give special recognition to three individuals who have exemplified personal and professional excellence in their service to the school: Morton Coleman, Mary Page, and Edward Sites.

Morton ColemanColeman is the founding director of the Institute of Politics at the University of Pittsburgh and is a professor emeritus at Pitt Social Work. He served as dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Connecticut, acting dean of the Pitt School of Social Work, personal advisor to Henry Ford II on urban issues, secretary to the mayor of the City of Pittsburgh, and senior social planner for the Community Renewal Program in the Pittsburgh Department of City Planning. He is a renowned community organizer and beloved Pitt faculty member.

Mary PagePage is associate professor emerita at Pitt Social Work, where she served as the MSW program coordinator, and led the school’s family therapy program. She was previously cited by the YWCA Greater Pittsburgh as Woman of the Year in Education. She is a specialist in interpersonal skills and social group work and developed and implemented the Extended Master of Social Work program, which received high praise from many sectors of the community.

Edward SitesSites has been a faculty member at the school since 1966 and was awarded emeritus status in 2006. He served as director of admissions and financial aid, chair of the children and youth concentration, coordinator of the joint Master of Social Work/Master of Divinity degree program with the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, coordinator of the Home and School Visitor/School Social Worker Certificate program, member of the doctoral faculty, and founding principal investigator of the Pennsylvania Child Welfare Education and Research Programs. He also is Pitt Social Work’s unofficial historian, and his attention to detail and research skills have helped to archive the work and the 100-year history of the school for future generations.

The awards are named for Newstetter, the founding dean of the School of Social Work, who served from 1938 until 1962. Only two other people have previously received the award: Ruth Smalley and Manuel Conrad Elmer.


New Collaborative Research Center Created

Investigators at the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work and the Department of Psychiatry in the Pitt School of Medicine have established the Center for Interventions to Enhance Community Health (CiTECH) to study, understand, and improve community behavioral health services.

CiTECH is the first collaborative research center of its kind between a school of social work and a psychiatry department. CiTECH will serve as a bridge to the community in order to conduct translational research on population behavioral health.

The first official pilot study funding was awarded in spring 2018 to Jessica Levenson, assistant professor of psychiatry, and Sara Goodkind, associate professor of social work. This study will focus on improving educational outcomes for underserved youths by adapting evidence-based sleep interventions for use in the community.

The project supports the mission of the center to improve the uptake of evidence-based practices and enhance community mental health services. Says CiTECH director and founder Shaun Eack,

We believe that when we combine the significant and respective expertise of both social work and psychiatry, we will have the scientific, clinical, and community grounding needed to reduce the multi-decade lag between the development of an effective practice and its use in the community. By bringing these worlds together, we will make research advances more relevant and hope to hasten the translation of evidence to community practice.

Projects in CiTECH are supported by a number of entities, including the Community Care Behavioral Health Organization, National Institute of Mental Health, Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Woman in lab coat speaking with child

Pitt’s child welfare programs are recognized for their direct fieldwork with children and training programs that help to identify and report child abuse.


Honoring University of Pittsburgh at Bradford and Titusville President Livingston Alexander

(Below are the remarks given by Stephanie Eckstrom, coordinator of the MSW Program at Pitt–Bradford, at President Alexander’s retirement celebration)

Livingston Alexander accepting an awardThe Pitt-Bradford MSW Program started here in 2002, and I can tell you that Pitt main expected the program to last one, maybe two cohorts, and we are now recruiting for our ninth. And while it has been a collective effort, I truly believe that your ongoing support of the program has been a steadfast pillar of its longevity. Without your consistent interest, this program would have been easily dismissed by the larger bureaucratic offices. It doesn’t engage in glamourous research, and it certainly doesn’t make Pitt a ton of money. But what the Pitt–Bradford MSW program does do is educate local, clinical professionals who are invested in the wellbeing of our communities. I think this is where you connect with the program, recognizing and believing in the power of education to solve difficult, social problems.

On behalf of Dean Larry Davis, it is my honor to present you with the Pitt School of Social Work Award of Recognition. I am proud to reveal that the words on the plaque are my creation, as this is how I truly feel:

“[we want to recognize] your unwavering support of social work education, facilitating opportunities for students to learn and strengthen our communities. You have embodied the values of social work: enacting empathy and respect; upholding human dignity; and advocating for social justice.”

To me, you think like a social worker, and there really is no greater compliment that I can give. Thank you for everything.


(here is the letter from Dean Davis that accompanied the award.)

Dear Livingston,

With my retirement on the horizon, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to all that we’ve accomplished in my 17 years as Dean of Pitt Social Work. I’m sure you, too, have reflected on the tremendous advance- ments and achievements at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford during your long tenure as President.

As you plan for retirement, I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your leadership and friendship over the years. You have been a constant champion and advocate for our social work program and our students on the Bradford campus. You have shown great care and concern for others in your time as President and you have always engaged in the difficult but needed conversations around race, poverty, addiction, and mental health. As a social work scholar, I am pleased and proud of your great work.

It is my distinct honor and privilege, then, to honor you with the enclosed Pitt School of Social Work Award of Recognition for your unwavering support of social work education, facilitating opportuni- ties for students to learn and strengthen our communities. You have embodied the values of social work: enacting empathy and respect; upholding human dignity; and advocating for social justice.

I regret that I cannot be there in person to bestow this award upon you as the Pitt Bradford community celebrates your life and legacy at the regional campus. I have asked our Program Coordinator at Pitt Bradford Stephanie Eckstrom to share this honor with you on my behalf. Please know that Stephanie carries with her the admiration and appreciation that we all have for you and your impact on Pitt Social Work and the greater Bradford community.

On behalf of the school and our students, thank you for playing an important role in the success and impact of our social work program at Pitt–Bradford. We appreciate you.

With gratitude,

Larry E. Davis

Dean and Donald M. Henderson Professor, University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work, and Director, Center on Race and Social Problems