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USM School of Social Work at Top of Its Game for State Conference

Wed, 02/27/2019 - 11:37am | By: Geoff LoCicero

The National Association of Social Workers-Mississippi state conference in March couldn't have a more perfect theme for the University of Southern Mississippi: Elevate Social Work.

The university's School of Social Work will be taking it to the top with a large number of presenters who are faculty, staff, students, alumni or former adjunct professors – the most of any university or college. The conference is March 6-8 in Natchez.

“It's a great year, and we've had good participation between the school and the NASW conference,” says Distinguished Professor of Social Work Tim Rehner, the school's outgoing director.

Last year, 25 attendees from Southern Miss presented at the conference in Biloxi.

“I think reason the numbers went down is simply because of where it is,” Rehner says. “It was in our back yard in Biloxi and now it's in Natchez. The fact that it's farther away means fewer students go.

“I think we have been the primary social work force in Mississippi for decades. And that's really, I think, just continued to climb. The last 4-5 years, we've really just been in stride for all that: grant-funded programs, research interests of faculty.

“It's been good. I like to think that's going to continue going forward. And most of our alumni are the ones who attend, so it's a good thing.”

Faculty and Staff Presenting

  • Dr. Michael Forster, professor of social work, will be presenting twice: "Confronting Social Isolation in Older Adults: Challenges and Opportunities" and "The Importance of Politics: Social Work, Social Movements, and the Electoral System."
  • Sherry Swindle, academic support and advising specialist, and Rachel Lahasky, clinical instructor: "Making Therapy A MOVING Experience."
  • Lahasky and alumna Miranda Estes Williams: "Beyond Pet Therapy:  Using Animals in Social Work Practice."
  • Ray Scurfield, social work professor emeritus: "Mantra, Breath, and Faith-Based Meditation: For Providers, Their Clients, & Patients"

Students, Alumni and Former Adjuncts Presenting

  • Students Ny'Tarica Braxton, Laura Gottschalck, Shelby Harris, Riley Herrin, Grace Rutledge, Lauren Slay and Katelee Thomas
  • Alumni Sue Ann Meng (MIND Center, University of Mississippi Medical Center), Jane Parker (Tulane University), Brenda Sumrall Smith, Kathy Van Cleave (MIND Center, UMMC) and Vincent J. Venturini (Mississippi Valley State University)
  • Former adjuncts Virginia Adolph (Harrison County School District) and Aspen Hodges (Southeast Mississippi Rural Health Initiative)


Learn more about the USM School of Social Work.