An Open Letter to the Portland State University School of Social Work Community

We, who believe in freedom, cannot rest.”  
- Ella Baker


February 3, 2017


Dear SSW Community,

Laura Nissen at Table

It has been a complex, busy, and challenging month. In my role as dean I have had the opportunity to interact with many intersecting groups across the university, across the city, and across the country because of my affiliation with all other schools of social work across the United States.  I can tell you that under no uncertain terms that all schools of social work are taking note of the powerful challenges ahead for the values of the social work and children, youth and family professions. 

Equity; racial, social, political and economic justice; competence; dignity and worth of the person; and integrity – all are core values we will steadfastly uphold moving forward. We are planning to increase our capacity to stand strong, and to participate in coalitions that represent diverse, broad community concerns with regard to the future of the most vulnerable among us. I'm sure that all of you are having similarly powerful conversations in your own circles of community. 

We stand in direct opposition to any policies that threaten these values, such as the White House's recent discriminatory Executive Order on immigration and refugee settlement. We stand in support and solidarity with all of those impacted both directly and indirectly by this language and tact. We believe, as does the National Association of Social Workers, that this is in direct conflict with our mission.  

We affirm our commitment to our community, our students and our goals for peace, equity and justice in our country and our world. Both Governor Kate Brown and Portland State University have expressed strong opposition to any policy which singles out individuals based on any identity group for exclusion. 

The School of Social Work is a community that is comprised of over 1,000 students, hundreds of community partners, scores of professors, researchers, trainers and administrative professionals who stand together on behalf of progress in individual, family and community well-being. We prepare students for effective practice, and we deliver new knowledge intended to inform progress. While we represent a range of interest areas, we have in common a strong desire to make the world a better, stronger and more just place. We stand ready to partner where we are needed. We plan to continue to advocate actively for human and civil rights both in the short and long term.

Most centrally, we extend our support to our students who may feel particularly vulnerable or targeted. Please reach out to advisors or faculty for the assistance you need.

We are committed to keeping an up-to-date SSW resource page populated with useful information. We also suggest you note the PSU Office of Global Diversity and Inclusion’s resources page which has additional extensive links, as well as in-depth information on PSU's status as a sanctuary university. We urge you to "like" us on Facebook, where we will post items we believe will be useful, including information regarding campus events.   

For 54 years our school has been a place of learning where people launch ideas that make Oregon a stronger place to live and work. That will not change moving forward. We intend to stand firm in our dedication and determination to continue that effort. Please stay connected as we support one another and respond to the great challenges ahead.    


With respect and appreciation, 

Image of Laura Nissen's Signature

Laura Nissen 

Former Dean and Professor 

School of Social Work