The Ideals of Social Work Expressed in Food

yuSu-Mei Yu is the owner of Saffron restaurant in San Diego. She is also an SDSU alumna who earned her Master ’s in Social Work in 1967.  Between now and then she has held vastly different professional roles, but there is one characteristic about them all – she is always concerned with healing others

Social work hadn’t been her first choice –she wanted to pursue a career in diplomatic service. But her parents were not too keen on the idea, so she came to the SDSU School of Social Work on the recommendation of a favorite professor, not entirely sure of what a career in social work would entail.

Social work was a challenging field for Yu since some of the basic concepts did not match her cultural upbringing.  She notes, “There are alcoholics in Asia, and crazy people who wander the streets. But they aren’t labeled as having a ‘so- cial illness’ – family take care of them. And if they have no family, the community steps in to make sure they are cared for. There weren’t agencies whose job it was to reach out to these people. And the elderly were respected and cared for, so there was no need for agencies to help them.” But in the US, the entire system was different and the underlying assumptions were foreign to me. It took some time for me to understand.”

yu2She graduated and went on to a career in social work, specializing in maternal and child health. For many years she worked in the Ventura County Hospital’s Neonatal ICU. She returned to SDSU in 1979 and taught courses in maternal and child health for the next two years.

She also began working, as a volunteer, with refugees who were coming from Asia. She concentrated on teaching English as a second language courses as a way to help these refugees understand and adjust to life in the United States. That led to starting a non-profit agency to help the women refugees use their skills in handicrafts and cooking to earn a living. The agency was so successful that Catholic Charities soon copied the idea and Yu closed her agency since Catholic Charities could do so much more with the resources they had.

Since she was working with food and cooking with her clients, she decided to open a small restaurant. “I had no idea what I was getting into! It takes so much patience, stamina and mental perseverance every day.” Although the physical demands of running a restaurant are often touted as making this a hard industry, Yu thinks the daily interactions between customers, employees and the public are more challenging. Here is where her background in social work begins to show through.

She is concerned with both the physical and mental health of all of those around her. She has carefully designed her menu to include the most healthful ingredients she can find. She has taken traditional wisdom about the healing properties of certain foods and woven those ingredients into her dishes. She sources her ingredients from local, organic producers as much as possible and she prepares her dishes with healthy preparations. She is currently sharing her knowledge of local suppliers in a KPBS television series, Savor San Diego.

She is even more concerned for the emotional health of both her customers and her employees. She sees her job as helping her staff do their best for the restaurant’s guests so that the staff and guests are happy. She uses the same skills she learned as a social worker to facilitate this – the keen sense of observation and the ability to read people and situations help her anticipate and prevent potential issues, and she trains her staff to do the same.

cookbookPreparing food is much more than “just cooking,” she says. It is a way of giving oneself and she tries to inspire her staff to use food to connect with her customers. It must work since she has many regulars at her restaurant and Saffron is frequently listed as one of San Diego’s top restaurants.

For all of the success this attitude brings her restaurant, she really wishes people would cook more at home. She worries that the lack of cooking is reducing people’s connection with one another and their heritage. “Food is a wonderful expression of identity.

It ties people together and is a treasure and a gift from generation to generation. As more and more people rely more heavily on prepared foods, that identity is lost.” She is also worried that, “When people don’t cook, they don’t know as much about where their food comes from and they don’t care as much about how is it raised. If they don’t care about their food, then they are separated from the global community and are less likely to be a caretaker of that community.” This has motivated her to write several cookbooks in hopes of inspiring people to cook at home more.


Development Office

The Importance of Annual Giving

Rebecca Williamson
Rebecca Williamson
Development Officer
(619) 594-2868

You are probably familiar with “the call” – it goes something like this:

“Hello, this is Suzy from San Diego State University… Can you help us with an annual gift…”

Some of you won’t answer the phone when caller ID says “SDSU,” some of you will answer but decline to contribute, and some of you will contribute a small amount and feel badly that it isn’t more. And when we are especially lucky, you will make a very generous gift. For those who give, even a few dollars, we thank you, because even a very small gift can be meaningful.

You are also probably familiar with the annual college rankings in maga- zines such as US News and World Report.  These rankings take into account many things such as graduation rates, average starting salaries for graduates, graduate school accep- tance rates and alumni satisfaction. Some of these metrics are easy to measure and report. But how do they measure alumni satisfaction? You guessed it – by the percentage of alumni who give back to their school.  So, if every alumnus of SDSU gave even as little as a dollar, the US News and World Report ranking would increase. And that, in turn, benefits both current students and alumni, since the higher ranking for the school, the more value your degree has. Being able to say you have a degree from a school in the top 10 on a resume is clearly better than claiming top 100.  Moving up in the rankings also means that SDSU attracts more qualified students and faculty, further increasing its prestige.

In addition to increasing the university’s national ranking and reputation, there is the plain fact that your gift, however small, is needed.  Over the years, the State of California has consistently decreased its support of the state colleges, so that now less than 15% of the SDSU budget is covered by state funds. The remaining costs must be covered by tuition and fees, grants, and individual gifts. If you are an alumnus of SDSU, you probably appreciated the relatively low cost of tuition. And while SDSU tuition is still a bargain compared to many colleges, tuition has increased at an alarming rate, making it more dif- ficult for qualified students without financial means to attend. More students are gradu- ating with crushing student debt loads.  This is especially difficult for students in the Col- lege of Health & Human Services, where starting salaries in the helping professions our graduates join are low. Annual giving gifts can help provide scholarships or reduce fees.

Of course, for those of you with greater resources, larger gifts are always welcome and needed.  If you are in a position to make a gift of this nature, please contact me (my contact information is on the left of this page) and I would be happy to discuss the details.

Currently, only about 2% of SDSU alumni give on an annual basis, a far smaller percent- age than most schools. Won’t you help raise the participation rate? The next time you receive a call from SDSU, please answer the call and make a gift. Or, go to the SDSU web- site and give a gift now and we won’t need to call you at all. Remember, we are asking,

“Every Aztec, Every Year, Any Amount!”


Letter from the Dean

Marilyn NewhoffDear Friends,

Another academic year has drawn to a close. As I conferred degrees on all of our wonderful graduates in May, I realized how proud I was of what the College of Health and Human Services does and how it contributes to the community – both the local community and the global community.

A new class of nurses will mean more nurses for local hospitals since most of our graduates remain in the San Diego area. The same is true with graduates from the School of Social Work – most of them remain in San Diego. But some of them are committed to helping a larger community and they travel far and near to bring health and healing to people around the globe. Graduates from the Graduate School of Public Health find jobs everywhere from Southern California to Southern Africa. The same is true for graduates from the School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences and the School of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences – they find jobs bringing health and healing to people in a myriad of different communities. I am proud to know that CHHS helps them by providing international experiences and clinical field practice internships, as well as rigorous classroom learning. I know that, wherever they end up, our graduates are prepared to start their professional lives to their benefit and to the benefit of their chosen community.

I am proud of our award winning faculty and programs as well. The Fitness Clinic for People with Disabilities, part of the School for Exercise and Nutritional Sciences, was recently honored by Sharp HealthCare for their exceptional work helping people with disabilities build and maintain their fitness. The American Lung Association in California honored Dr. Melbourne Hovell for his work in the fight for healthy lungs and clean air.  Dr. Hovell is a member of the faculty in the Graduate School of Public Health. Dr. Roger Simmons, in the School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences, was awarded the 2013/2014 faculty Monty award for his contributions to teaching, research and community service.  The faculty Monty awards are given each year to one outstanding faculty member from each college.

 Finally, I am proud of our alumni, especially this year’s alumni Monty honoree, Mr. Larry Banegas. The alumni Monty is a symbol of achievement and success presented to distinguished alumni from each of the seven SDSU academic colleges as well as the university’s Imperial Valley campus. Banegas is an alumnus of the School of Social Work who has dedicated his career to helping others, especially in the Native American community. Although retired from his social work career, he continues to bring an awareness of the unique Native American cultural heritage to the youth of the Barona tribe of the Kumeyaay Nation.

Warmest Wishes,


Marilyn Newhoff, Dean

Outstanding Aztecs

Students Shine at the Research Symposium

Sarah Kirtland in her lab.
Sarah Kirtland in her lab.

Each Spring, San Diego State University holds the Student Research Symposium (SRS) to recognize the exceptional scholarly achievements of its students. For two days, students present their research through posters, presentations and speeches, and compete for several awards and the opportunity to represent SDSU at the California State University Research Competition in May.  Sarah Kirtland and Kayli Dalton were among the students selected to showcase their research and represent SDSU at this prestigious competition.

This spring at the SRS, Kirtland was awarded the Social Justice and Diversity, and President’s awards for her research examining balance control, an aspect of gross motor function in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). ASDs are characterized by abnormal cognitive, social, communicative, and motor abilities.  One in every 88 children has some form of this disorder, and researchers say that this disease is on the rise. Kirtland’s research focuses on the relationship between balance control impairments and ASDs. Her aim is to find a quick, easy tool that would enable clinicians to determine the severity of these balance problems, aiding in the diagnosis and rehabilitation process of ASD.

Kirtland is currently finishing her final year in SDSU’s Masters in Kinesiology, Rehabilitation Science program. After graduation, Kirtland will be pursing her Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Science at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. Her passion for rehabilitation began several years ago when she graduated in 2006 from James Madison University, where she attained her bachelor ’s degree in Exercise Science. She began working in injury rehabilitation as a personal trainer and later spent three years as a health and fitness instructor at Brian College in Sacramento, CA teaching a course in corrective exercise, anatomy and physiology.  She chose to pursue her Master ’s at SDSU because of the unique and competitive rehabilitation focus in its kinesiology program.

She believes that the experience gained prior to attending her graduate program was critical in helping her succeed in her endeavors today and that not enough undergraduate students attain adequate hands-on experience.  To assist in resolving this issue, Kirtland started an undergraduate internship at the Aztec Recreation Center (ARC) where Exercise and Nutritional Sciences (ENS) students can gain hands-on experience in physical fitness and health careers.  In addition to running this internship program, she works as the fitness manager, overseeing the personal trainers and group exercise instructors.

Kayli Dalton interviewing a client.
Kayli Dalton interviewing a client.

Kayli Dalton was honored with the Diversity, Library and President’s awards at this year’s SRS for her research, Testing the Role of Physical Acceptance in Exercise and Self-esteem Model in College Students.  Using data from the Freshman Activity Nutrition and Success Program (FANS) at SDSU, her research focused on freshmen’s physical activity and how it affected their physical acceptance and self-esteem.  While in the program, freshmen were coached on physical activity and nutrition over time with the goal of improving health behaviors.  Dalton found that increased exercise self-efficacy significantly influenced the relationships between confidence, physical acceptance and self-esteem.  She suggests that this is an important finding in the college population, as research has shown the influence of higher levels of self-esteem on success rates in school.

Dalton will be graduating this spring with a dual Master ’s degree in Exercise Physiology and Nutritional Sciences. She recently obtained a position at San Diego Sports Medicine as an exercise physiologist. After graduation she will be administering ECG stress tests and other physical assessments to fire fighters from various fire departments throughout San Diego County.

Dalton began her journey as an undergraduate here at SDSU by attaining her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology. During her sophomore year she was diag- nosed with a debilitating back condition and, in her senior year, underwent spinal fusion surgery.  It was with her ENS professors that Dalton found the encouraging support system that helped her work through her ordeal and inspired her to go on to graduate school to teach others about health and how to improve their quality of life.

In addition to the outstanding research Dalton has accomplished, she also fills her time by helping others. At the ARC she helps promote healthy lifestyles through physical activity, nutrition and time management as a wellness instructor.  She also provides leadership to the ARC as the membership services lead supervisor.  Dalton’s passion for teaching has enabled her to inspire other students as a teacher ’s assistant in four ENS laboratories.

Both Kirtland and Dalton are recipients of the Kasch-Boyer Endowed Scholarship. This scholarship was developed to honor Dr. Frederick W. Kasch, Professor Emeritus of the School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences and Dr. John L. Boyer, former Medical Director of both the Exercise Physiology Laboratory and the Adult Fitness Program at SDSU. Kirtland and Dalton’s research, experience, and academics made them exceptional recipients of this scholarship and representatives of SDSU.

Congratulations, Kristi Hendrickson, CSU State Research Competition Winner!

Kristi Hendrikson (2nd row, 2nd from right) with fellow winners at the 27th CSU Research Competition.
Kristi Hendrikson (2nd row, 2nd from right) with fellow winners at the 27th CSU Research Competition.

Kristi Hendrickson, a second year doctoral student in Language and Communicative Disorders, was one of 10 winners of the President’s Award at the 2013 SDSU Student Research Symposium.

Ms. Hendrickson went on to represent SDSU at the 27th CSU State Research Competition in May and emerged a first place winner for her presentation, You can look but don’t touch: the real-time dynamics between infant visual and haptic behavior, in the Graduate Behavioral and Social Sciences division.



School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences

Aztec, Ironman, Cancer Patient Advocate, Inspiration

treksaClayton Treska is an inspiration and an outstanding example of “Aztec Pride.” He is also a student in the Exercise and Nutritional Sciences bachelor ’s degree program. He has been nominated for the 2013 William Randolph Hearst/CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement. This award is given to “students who have demonstrated financial need, experienced personal hardships, and have attributes of merit, including superior academic performance, exemplary community service, and significant personal achievements.” There is only one recipient for each of the California State University campuses.

Treska’s story starts in 2007, when he returned from a deployment in Iraq, where he had served as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps. Shortly after he returned to San Diego, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer and began treatment at the Naval Medical Center.  Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy resulted in the cancer ’s remission.

In addition to visiting cancer patients, Treska also visits the local veterans centers.
In addition to visiting cancer patients, Treska also visits the local veterans centers.

Treska wanted to “show my family that I could still do anything, overcome anything,” so he began training to complete an Ironman triathlon. During the triathlon, each competitor swims 2.4 miles, bikes 112 miles and runs a full marathon, 26.2 miles. It is a grueling race that many athletes never conquer, and even more never even contemplate. Treska trained hard and was in peak physical condition by 2009.

But during his training, he noticed aches and pains he didn’t anticipate. For months, the pain was blamed on excessive training, but by the end of the year Treska discovered it was more — the cancer had returned.  This time it was diagnosed as stage IV and terminal.

But instead of giving up, Treska resolved to go out fighting. Whether in combat or in the hospital, he wasn’t going to let anything get the better of him. So Treska entered into a clinical trial using stem cell therapy to try and beat the cancer. He lived in a hospital room at UCSD Medical Center, getting treatments around the clock. By January, the tall, muscular Marine was an emaciated 155 pounds and even walking was a chore.

Treska encourages a young cancer patient with his Ironman story.
Treska encourages a young cancer patient with his Ironman story.

But he kept fighting. Between treatments, Treska continued training, in part to shift focus away from his illness. Friends and trainers came to the hospital to help him. He started gaining weight, and soon he was swimming, running and biking again.  “All along, it wasn’t about me,” he said. “It was always for my friends, my family and the community. I wanted to prove to them that it was possible.”

And he proved it in style. He was invited to participate in the World Championship Triathlon in Kona, Hawaii in 2010. Most competitors in this race qualify through finishes in earlier races while a few, such as Treska, are awarded spaces through a lottery system. While many of competitors don’t finish, he finished in 15 hours, 16 minutes and 58 seconds, ranking him number 1,702 overall and number 157 in his division.

Even though school work comes first for Treska now, he continues to train, fitting in workouts around his classes and studying.  He also helps raise funds for ENS Fitness Center for People with Disabilities. After he finishes his degree he hopes to develop physical therapy and nutrition programs for post-chemotherapy, post-cancer patients, though he acknowledges that most people are never going to complete an Ironman triathlon.

Treska is part of the promotion and motivation team for "Relay for Life" in San Diego.
Treska is part of the promotion and motivation team for “Relay for Life” in San Diego.

Treska says, “It has without a doubt been a long and arduous journey, but the reality is that these sacrifices have brought about the potential to help out fellow human beings, and therefore make it all well worth it in the end.”

“Countless unsung heroes carried me through my dire-straights, thus I’ve determined that the only possible way to convey my appreciation to them is to continue their initiatives by serving the community.”

“These are, without a doubt, to date, the best years of my life, which have subsequently fallen in the wake of some of the darkest I’ve ever endured. I share this story with others so they can know that there is no question as to whether or not there is hope for reprieve in the human spirit.  For it is in our darkest hour, that the love in our hearts will illuminate the path to success. And that path, although fraught with peril, will define who we are, and what our purpose in life will be.”

On top of school and community outreach, he is also starting the strategic planning process for cancer patient care within the UCSD medical system.  The Chief of Staff of UCSD medical systems describes the new venture as “a way to support process improvement activities with a focus on several clinical areas including cancer.”



Graduate School of Public Health

VIIDAI — Celebrating 15 Years of Service

A VIIDAI team surveys colonia residents about their needs.
A VIIDAI team surveys colonia residents about their needs.

Health outreach to an underserved community, field practice, thesis and publications for students, an opportunity to work in diverse teams, first-hand experience working in a different culture — VIIDAI provides all of these!

VIIDAI (Viajes Interinstitucional de Integración Docente, Asistencial y de Investigación) is a partnership of students and faculty from San Diego State University (SDSU), Universidad Autónoma de Baja California (UABC), and the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) that provides medical outreach to the people of the colonias in rural Baja, Mexico. This year is their 15th year of service and their 30th trip. For the last seven years they have concentrated their efforts on the Colonia Lomas de San Ramón. Each trip is an opportunity for the students and faculty of all three universities to work together to provide medical, dental and public health services to the people of the colonia. VIIDAI partners with US- and Ensenada-based Rotary Clubs, which greatly expands the impact of the program.

Colonia Lomas de San Ramón started as a squatter neighborhood and grew into a town of approximately 4,000 people. The population is primarily migrant and seasonal farm workers and their families. Like many poor areas of Mexico, water, sewage, garbage collection, electric- ity, and other basic forms of infrastructure are often lacking. There is limited medical care available and it is difficult for the poorer members of the community to access it.

Twice a year, faculty and students from the three universities, and members of Old Mission Rotary Club, spend several days in San Ramón. Regular visits have resulted in a high level of trust and partnership. The community leaders greet them enthusiastically and help identify community needs, provide space and resources, and assist with followup so that the projects’ benefits continue after the VIIDAI team has gone.

Participants from the SDSU Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH) and other SDSU departments have conducted numerous public health projects over the years. They assess the needs of the community through door-to-door surveys, focus groups, interviews and insights from community leaders. Data from the assessments leads to targeted interventions. For example, nearly half of the women and children in the colonia were found to be anemic. Poor diet and nutrition was documented, as well as a heavy burden of intestinal parasites related to lack of sanitation. The community leaders suggested building a school kitchen and increasing the number of children covered by the school lunch program.  Five San Diego-based Rotary clubs worked with the Ensenada Rotary to build a state-of-the-art school kitchen. Anthropology students analyzed the meals and recipes and trained the school cooks and parents. Now, a few years later, anemia has fallen by 50%.

This spring, the GSPH student team, with a Nutritional Science master’s student and UABC medical students, conducted a more detailed assessment of the community’s nutrition, after a previous trip revealed that one in four adults are diabetic. They found that the diet consists largely of beans and tortillas, with little meat, vegetables and fruits – despite the farming work that they do! This will be investigated further in the fall trip. Another team evaluated the community’s perceptions and behaviors related to zoonotic diseases – diseases transferred between animals and people. They found that the community had limited knowledge about disease transmission, risk exposures and preventive behaviors and recommendations for intervention are being developed.

Students enjoying the new computer lab.
Students enjoying the new computer lab.

The Old Mission Rotary participates in the plan- ning of these trips so that their support coordinates with the upcoming project plans, as well as supporting the overall medical mission through the purchase of laboratory, dental and medical equipment. This spring, at the urging of the school principal and teachers, the Rotary set up a fully functional computer lab in the local school. The local community provided a secure room and the furniture. The team from UABC provided guidance on which hardware and software would be compatible and useful for the community. The Bixby Foundation had provided the initial internet access and the local community has been able to take over that expense. In addition to providing new educational opportunities, the computer lab is also one tool against the increasing influence of gangs and drugs which is beginning to penetrate the community, also documented by a prior VIIDAI Public Health project.

The team has discovered that even highly sensitive topics can be addressed when the community leaders request help. One project was the result of a request for help with family planning education for students. With Bixby Foundation funding, the VIIDAI team created a program of peer educators to work with students at the elementary and middle school levels. The team worked with teachers and parents to develop a culturally-sensitive and age- appropriate curriculum to help students avoid early pregnancy. The team also evaluated its effectiveness and the program continues to be taught in the local schools.

The student participants greatly benefit from this effort. Students have an opportunity to work as an interdisciplinary team, a critical skill in healthcare fields. The entire team, about

140 people on the spring trip, takes over a local hotel and chores such as cooking are shared. Students from each institution plan and lead social and team building activities. Students also have an opportunity to engage in real hands-on public health work and to apply their classroom learning in a “real world” setting. They learn to interact with people from a different culture and with different life experiences. For many students this is their first exposure to the poverty and living conditions of rural village life. Life-long friendships are formed among team members. And for the community, it is a story of partnership and empowerment through information.

Program participant Kristine Ortwine says, “I have been lucky enough to participate in VIIDAI for two consecutive semesters. It is by far the most challenging and important class that I have taken at SDSU. The opportunity to collaborate with students in multiple disciplines from the US and Mexico has given me a new appreciation of public health from a global perspective. Learning how to apply the principles of epidemiology in this setting has helped me to understand some of the challenges faced when working in the field, as well as the rewards of making a difference in the lives of those people you are trying to help. I know I am a more conscientious epidemiologist because of VIIDAI, but more importantly, I am a better person.”

School of Nursing

Nursing Students Bring Health Care to Rural Ghana

Children in the Ghanian village greet the team.
Children in the Ghanian village greet the team.

Last January, a team of 54 students joined together for an incredible experience.  Under the auspices of Global Brigade, these students spent ten days on a medical mission in a village in rural Ghana.  The majority of these students, 45, were SDSU nursing students and the rest were medical and dental students from other area schools.

The students went knowing that the work would be hard, the days long and the setting unfamiliar. Yet more students applied than could be accommodated and each student paid their own way. The entire group engaged in fundraising activities to purchase the medical supplies and medications that would be needed.

The students arrived in a rural village of about 2,000 people with little access to medical care. The nearest medical facility was an hour away by car or many hours of walking. Over the ten days the team was there, they treated 475 people for a variety of problems.  To prevent treatment from being started but not finished, Global Brigade returns to the village three to four months later for follow-up and the mission group leaves money to pay for follow-up treatment or further tests at the nearest medi- cal facility.

Nursing students and children cluster for a photo.
Nursing students and children cluster for a photo.

The village did not have running water and housing was in mud and mortar huts.  Often a bench was the only fur- niture in the home. Cooking was done outside without power, although there was a single TV for the entire village that was run on a generator.  These conditions were quite eye opening for students from urban San Diego. The students themselves were housed in a neighboring town and travelled to the village each day by bus.

Upon arrival, the team was greeted by the chief and the villagers. They went door-to-door assessing the needs of each family and learning about the concerns of the village. The biggest concerns were family planning, malaria and the need for clean water.

The team set up a medical clinic in the village school. Two physicians, two nurse-mid- wives and three registered nurses traveled with the students to oversee care and two  local physicians, a midwife and a pharmacist also joined in the effort. Over the next eight days the team worked individually with everyone who came to see them and also conducted educational seminars on a variety of health care topics, such as family planning. They saw many cases of hypertension and malaria. They also worked to educate the women of the village about the impact of having many children. The women believed that having few children meant death and the educators worked to convince them that that, in fact, fewer children would result in longer life.

Sherry Kari, MS, RN, CNM, a nurse-midwife and nursing lecturer at SDSU noted that there were both great blessings and great challenges that went with the experience.  For the students, one of the biggest challenges was adjusting to the lack of variety in the local diet and having less food than they were accustomed to.  They also did not enjoy the cold showers that were all that was available.  They all suffered fatigue from working long hours at the clinic, plus the long commute to and from the village and then preparing for the next day. And, of course, they also faced the challenges any large group faces with group dynamics on a two week, highly stressful trip. across disciplines were essential for the mission’s success and will be a critical skill as the student nurses become nursing professionals.

In exchange for the discomforts they endured, the students gained confidence in their abilities, learned to be leaders, and honed their organizational skills. Their interpersonal skills were developed by the challenge of demonstrating caring and professionalism when they did not speak the same language as their patients.  The ability to work with a team and collaboratively across disciplines were essential for the mission’s success and will be a critical skill as the student nurses become nursing professionals.

The international environment helped the students learn about global medical issues and how medical challenges differ between countries. Many of the participants returned with a commitment to continue with international medi- cal work in some form. In the end, Ms. Kari noted, “I was so proud of the students. It was wonderful to get to know them so well and watch their growth.”

Several of the nursing students who went to Ghana were so dedicated to international medicine that they immediately began to plan for their next trip.  In January 2014, a group will travel to Thailand on a similar mission. They have formed a student club called Students HEAL (Health Education and Leadership).  They are currently in the process of raising the funds necessary to purchase medical supplies and medications for the trip.  You can learn more about this group and follow their progress at https://

Congratulations on 60 Years of Nursing Education

receptionThe School of Nursing celebrated its 60th anniversary in May with a lovely outdoor reception.  Dr. Philip Greiner provided a brief summary of “the state of the school” and introduced attendees. There were alumni from each decade, includ- ing one who graduated in the late 1950s. Guests enjoyed sharing old yearbooks and stories of their nusing careers. Current students were delighted to hear their stories as well.


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School of Social Work

Feet in Two Worlds – Dual Degree Programs

The SDSU School of Social Work offers a variety of programs for graduate students who want to study more than one discipline and pursue a career that encompasses aspects of both.  The School of Social Work and the Graduate School of Public Health offer a joint Master of Social Work and Master of Public Health degree.  California Western School of Law teams with the School of Social Work to offer a dual Master of Social Work and Juris Doctorate degree in a four year program.

Master of Social Work / Juris Doctorate

A Master’s of Social Work and a Juris Doctorate (JD) degree in law prepares students to assist their clients with a holistic solution to their needs, which often include legal issues as well as social ones. Professionals with MSW/JD degrees often choose careers at legal aid programs, social welfare agencies, government departments, public-interest law firms, pub- lic policy organizations and legislative groups. Many professionals work in public policy and advocacy careers as they understand both the needs of their community and the legal and legislative processes required to meet those needs on a community-wide level.

The School of Social Work and California Western School of Law offer a four-year gradu- ate program that allows students to earn an MSW and JD simultaneously.  During the first year, students complete the traditional first year law curriculum and in the second year they concentrate on social work courses.  In the final two years the students take courses at both campuses as well as complete field work practical internships and a thesis.

MSW/JD Program graduate Beth Ploesch says, “I graduated from the program in 2007 and now I represent foster children in juvenile court. I love my job and being in the joint program helped me learn a tremendous amount about the child welfare system and what good social work looks like. I can relate better to my clients and I use the skills from the MSW program when I interview them about child abuse/ neglect. I also understand the importance of evidence-based practices and I am con- stantly assessing whether my clients are getting the appropriate services to set them up for success. I consider legal work to be a form of service and the program was per- fect in teaching me how to best meet the needs of foster youth who desperately need great advocacy!”

California Western School of Law operates the Community Law Projects (CLP) in Lemon Grove, City Heights, and downtown San Diego, and many MSW/JD students spend their internships working in this program.  The CLPs provide free legal information in a vari- ety of practice areas to low income and indigent members of the San Diego community in such areas as criminal, fair housing, employment, consumer and immigration law.

The City Heights CLP is based in three area public schools for the convenience of its clients.  The project is part of the Parent Centers at the schools and also hosts clinics and workshops on a variety of topics.  Current MWS/JD intern Shawna Larson notes, “What makes us different is that we can offer a holistic solution to our clients.  Few of our clients only have one issue that needs to be addressed. They need our assistance to find a variety of resources for them as well as address their legal concerns.  For the low-income population we work with, all of their needs are intertwined and by combin- ing social work and legal skills we can help them more completely. And having a single person who is able to work with both areas means fewer trips to the clinic, fewer times explaining things, and a lower risk of things falling through the cracks.”

Master of Social Work / Master of Public Health

The dual Master of Social Work (MSW) and Master of Public Health (MPH) degree pro- gram strives to “provide the knowledge and skills necessary to promote health, prevent disease, and enhance the delivery of social and health services in the community.”

Public health social workers approach their work from an epidemiological and a social perspective and have the benefit of training in both prevention and intervention. Most so- cial workers work in a health care setting and often do not even realize that they are com- bining Social Work and Public Health.  For those with dual degrees, they more frequently combine public health training and social work skills to lead prevention and health pro- motion efforts in field such as HIV/AIDS, child welfare, and gerontology.  Dual training in social work and public health helps these professionals to provide immediate assistance to those in need and to see the “big picture” and work toward a more global solution to the problem they are working with.  This means they can use their multidisciplinary skills and training to serve as program directors, community services administrators, policy analysts, and other positions in fields such as maternal/child health, HIV/AIDS, disaster response, trauma intervention, disease prevention and surveillance, substance abuse, out- reach services, and advocacy.

At SDSU, this is a three year program and students combine coursework from both schools, as well as completing four semesters of a field practice internship and a thesis. The program stresses an interdisciplinary approach and values ideals such as collabora- tion and communication skills. Field instruction prepares students for professional prac- tice and competence in social work and/or public health by helping them develop the values, knowledge, and skills they will need to assume a range of professional roles.


School of Speech, Language, & Hearing Sciences

Insights in “The Signing Brain”

Dr. Emmorey delivering the Albert W. Johnson Lecture
Dr. Emmorey delivering the Albert W. Johnson Lecture

Dr. Karen Emmorey studies language and the brain at SLHS and is the director of SDSU’s Laboratory for Language and Cognitive Neuroscience. Her work recently earned her the Albert W. Johnson Lectureship.  Recipients of this award are designated as distinguished professors in their disciplines to commemorate their extraordinary research endeavors and contributions. As part of that honor, she delivered a public lecture on her work, The sign- ing brain: What sign languages reveal about human language and the brain. In 2011, Emmorey received a Monty award for outstanding faculty contributions and exceptional mentorship for doctoral students.

Dr. Emmorey’s work focuses on the similarities and differences between spoken languages and sign languages used by both deaf and hearing people.  These differences help her and her team to better understand language processing and to reveal the fundamental cogni- tive and neural bases of language. A deeper understanding of how the brain handles lan- guage can lead to better diagnosis and treatment of a wide variety of brain injuries as well as lead to better teaching methods for language, be it spoken or signed.

American Sign Language (ASL) is a distinct lan- guage that uses hand gestures, facial expressions and spatial orientation to communicate. It is not pantomime – it is much more complex than that. There are different sign languages in different countries, just as there are different spoken lan- guages.  In fact, American Sign Language is com- pletely different from British Sign Language (BSL) – ASL and BSL signers cannot understand each other ’s signing! Sign languages use much more than just the hands – the placement of the hands and the expression on the face also play a part in communicating meaning.  Learning ASL, regard- less of whether you are deaf or not, helps improve spatial abilities and mental imagery.

Dr. Emmorey’s research helps to make the point that ASL is a linguistic system, rather than complex pantomime.  One of her studies looked at the brain’s response to ASL signs that looked similar to what a non-ASL user would pantomime to describe the same thing. For example, the ASL sign for “hammer ” (the verb) looks similar to a pantomime gesture that someone might use to depict hammering.  However, the signer ’s brain reacts differ- ently when confronted with the ASL sign and the pantomime gesture – for the ASL sign the brain’s language center is activated, where it is not for the pantomime gesture.

One group of people that Dr. Emmorey studies are those who are bilingual in ASL and spoken English – called “bimodal bilinguals.” When talking with each other, bimodal bi- linguals rarely switch between languages, unlike Spanish-English bilinguals who often “code-switch”; rather, bimodal bilinguals prefer to “code-blend,” producing a sign and a word at the same time. This is an impossible feat for spoken language bilinguals be- cause they cannot say a word from each language simultaneously. Dr. Emmorey notes that people who are bilingual in ASL and English sometimes unconsciously produce ASL signs when talking with a person who doesn’t know ASL.

Dr. Emmorey is now turning her attention to reading skills.  For example, asking the questions, “How does a person who is deaf learn to read words that they cannot hear? Does the brain process printed words differently for deaf and hearing people?  Hearing people generally learn to read first by associating letters with sounds, then stringing the sounds together to form words and so forth.  For someone who cannot hear, how does that work?” Dr. Emmorey hopes that her research will help pinpoint the mechanisms at work for skilled deaf readers and provide for better teaching methods and tools for stu- dents who are deaf. A better understanding of the way the brain learns to read could also help produce better teaching methods or tools for hearing students as well.