Social Work Newsletter 2021-22

Welcome to our fourth annual e-newsletter! We’re excited to share with you the outstanding work that is taking place in the UMD Department of Social Work. Please explore the links below and see what we have been up to in the past year.

We are active on Social Media!

Have you tuned in to @UMDuluthSW on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram lately? We have been actively posting since the beginning of this academic year. Follow us on your preferred social media platform so that you can keep up to date on current news, BSW/MSW student happenings, campus events, job opportunities, CEU opportunities, and other culturally relevant material. If you are already following UMD Social Work on Facebook please check to see that you are following our active page, as there is an old Facebook page that has not been posted since 2013. Feel free to tag @UMDDuluthSW if you want to notify us of your event or happening. Thank you for helping us spread the word about our social media channels!

New Job Information Tool!  

We have created a new tool on our website to search for Social Work jobs that are relevant to you, a UMD BSW or MSW graduate. Go to d.umn.ed/sw click Alumni on the left and you will find a job openings link. This will take you to a google sheet that lets you know the agencies currently hiring in the area, salary data (if available), dates of job posting/closing, and a link directly to the application page. If your agency would like to have a job featured on this page please email [email protected] with information and a link to your posting.

Student News

rachel cross smiling for a photo

Rachel Cross, BSW student and president of the Bachelors of Social Work Student Association, recently completed a research project through the University of Minnesota’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). The project was titled “Corporate Solidarity Statements for Black Lives Matter and Political Contributions”, and Rachal received mentoring from Assistant Professor Katt Bongar Hoban on the project.


Social work students smiling for a photo
L to R: Karlee Severson, Ashley Krois, and Alyssa Koktavy, BSW Student Association members

The BSW Student Association held a fundraising event in Kirby Student Center at UMD on behalf of First Witness Child Advocacy Center during their “I Stand With Kids Month." The Student Association sold muffins and raised over $250. The students wanted to spread the word about First Witness and bring awareness to how prevalent child abuse is, and they also hoped to bring awareness to organizations within our community that are dedicated to strengthening our community.


Amelia LeGarde

Meet Amelia LeGarde, a MSW student and child welfare scholar. Amelia has been doing work in the field of child welfare for nearly 9 years. Her advice for students of color is that they belong here and need to be here.


a Group photo of PACT students behind UMD

The UMD Department of Social Work was awarded a $900,000 federal grant this year to provide clinical training for social work graduate students. This is the third round of funding the department has received from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The Providing Advanced Clinical Training (PACT) program emphasizes training social workers to meet the mental health needs of children and youth. The funding will support training stipends for up to 48 MSW students over the next four years. Read stories from alumni and a current student about how the program has made a huge difference.  Dr. Lake Dziengel is the Principal Investigator for the PACT project, and other members of the PACT team include Dr. Wendy Anderson, Sara Lien and Karen Nichols.


Emily Mack, UMD student smiling for a photo in front of a grey-gradient background

Emily Mack, MSW student, presented on her work at Grace Place on the topic of Homelessness and Addiction at the Minnesota Social Service Association (MSSA) Region 3 Fall Webinar. Emily is the Program Director at Grace Place, a long-term homeless housing organization for women in St. Louis County. Read more about Emily.


scholarship recipient Samentha sakry

MSW students Samentha Sakry and Summer Austin-Guevara were awarded the Don and Sylvia Schmid American Indian Child Welfare Leaders Scholarship. When asked how she plans on using her degree to make a difference, Samentha said, "I plan on using my degree to help people who have been traumatized live happy and healthy lives."



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Faculty and Staff News

Student Specialist Kevin Stanke and his family

Kevin Stanke joined our team as Student Support Specialist for the department. He provides support for both the BSW and MSW programs, working with both current and prospective students. Kevin is also the guru behind the department’s social media. He is excited to take on this 10-month position because he loves spending time over the summer with his two daughters, Jeanette (8) and Josephine (4). Since moving to the Northland in 2014 Kevin has volunteered for Duluth Public Library's Home Delivery Service, chaperoned field trips with the Montessori School of Duluth, participated in Head of the Lakes United Way's Community Investment Process and bike swap, as well as hosted The Local on KUMD as Marvin The mix. Kevin moved from Duluth to Minneapolis to support opportunities for his partner, Monica Haynes, Director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at UMD. He enjoys mountain biking, exploring nature, finding new music, and is working on reviving faculty/staff pickup noon-hour basketball games in RSOP at UMD. 


Erin Moldowski, full-time instrcutor at CEHSP smiling for a photo behind a brick wall

We are excited to have Erin Moldowski as a full-time instructor this year in the department after teaching part-time for five years. Erin teaches courses in both the BSW and MSW programs and has worked in several positions in the social work field. Erin shared five fun facts about herself:

  • She loves hiking the Superior Hiking Trail in all seasons. Her favorite is the Brewer Park loop. 
  • She attends events and supports the local music scene as much as she can.
  • Erin worked in the nonprofit sector for about 8 years in various positions such as Program Coordinator, Program Evaluator, and Executive Director. 
  • She is a graduate of the MSW program (Spring 2014).
  • Her list of books to read grows faster than she can read them. She now has 120 books saved on her account at the local library she needs to read. 


carina Barker

Carina Barker has taught many different courses in the department for several years. We are so
grateful to have Carina’s expertise. She shared the following about herself:

  • She is a graduate of the MSW program (year 2000). Steve O'Neil, Kathy Heltzer and Melanie Shepard were just a few of her instructors (she has been so fortunate). 
  • She has been an instructor in the program since 2009 with both the MSW and BSW programs. 
  • Her first language was Finnish. Her parents are both from Finland and immigrated to the United States a few years before Carina was born. 
  • After twenty years with a hospital system, Carina recently opened her own private practice clinic in Superior, Wisconsin called 'Encouragement Clinic’.  
  • She has two children in college, who are both playing college sports (they are not social work majors yet but Carina is working on it!).


Abel Knochel

Congratulations to Dr. Abel Knochel who was recently promoted to Associate Professor with tenure. Abel has been with the department since 2014. Abel loves working with budding social workers – they bring a heartfelt commitment to advance justice and do good in the world. Abel's Faculty Spotlight Q&A.



Field News

Laura Brandt smiling for a photo in Duluth behind the lift bridge

Meet our new BSW Field Director, Laura Brandt! She joined the department in October of 2021. Laura is a UMD Social Work Alumni with a passion for Duluth. After nearly a decade in the field of children & family service work, she is excited to be back at UMD in this new role supporting students while they pursue their social work goals. You will likely spot Laura walking or riding her E-bike to and from campus, hiking local parks with her family, or catching a sunrise on the water. Stop by Bohannon 234 for a cup of coffee and chat anytime you are on campus!

Sara Lien  smiling for a photo with her dog



Sara Lien is now the MSW Field Director. Sara joined the department in October of 2018 and previously worked with both the MSW and BSW field programs. We are so happy to have Laura and Sara as our Field Team!


Elder in Residence

elder in residence

We are excited to introduce our new Elder in Residence, Candi Ozhaawash Gile Aubid!! Candi is Ojibwe from the Menominee and Ho Chunk communities. She lives in the Minisinaakwaang/East Lake community. Candi has thirty-forty years of experience in Health & Human Services, working primarily with tribal communities providing direct services in child welfare, chemical dependency, domestic violence, and mental health. She received her MSW from UMD in 1995, is a faculty member at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College and has taught in our program, as well.

In her role as Elder-in-Residence Candi will provide informal mentorship and support to Indigenous and non-Indigenous students as they navigate our program, as well as cultural teaching and support to the Department as a whole. We are so excited to welcome Candi to the UMD Social Work Family!


Center for Regional & Tribal Child Welfare Studies News

Mark, Sandy, and Larissa
Mark Erickson, Sandy White Hawk, Larissa Littlewolf, and her new baby

In a special session last summer, the Minnesota legislature appropriated more than $4 million in funding over the next four years to the Aabinoojiiyag-Wakhanheza Un Thantanhanpi - For all the Children - Sacred Being: Tribal Training and Certification Partnership (TTCP). The funds are designed to “provide training, establish federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and Minnesota Indian Family Preservation Act training requirements for county child welfare workers, and develop Indigenous child welfare training for American Indian Tribes”. TTCP is based within the Center for Regional and Tribal Child Welfare Studies (CRTCWS). Jeri Jasken is the Director of TTCP and Larissa Littlewolf is the Associate Director.

Read about how the Center for Regional and Tribal Child Welfare Studies serves as a model for decolonizing child welfare social work education through centering relational, Anishinaabe worldview and practices.  


Upward Bound Vision Quest 

Krystle Igbo-Ogbonna smiling for a photo

Krystle Igbo-Ogbonna serves as the Project Director for the Upward Bound Vision Quest program, which is currently positioned within the Center for Regional and Tribal Child Welfare Studies. Krystle has been with UMD UBVQ since July 2018. UBVQ is one of the oldest TRIO programs in the state and serves 135 students annually. The Federal TRIO programs have a rich history. The goal of the Upward Bound program is to support students in generating the skills and motivation necessary to complete secondary education and succeed in postsecondary education. In her role as Project Director, Krystle oversees programming at the five UBVQ high schools during the academic year, and during the annual UBVQ Summer Program. In addition to her role with UBVQ, Krystle also serves the Minnesota TRIO Association as a co-chair for the Legislation and Education committee and will have the opportunity to travel to Washington DC to meet with state legislators and advocate for increased funding to TRIO programs in 2022. In the seemingly little free time she has, Krystle enjoys being with family and friends, taking kickboxing classes, working on puzzles, and spending time with her corgi puppy-niece, Sloane.



The 2022 UBVQ Summer Program will be on campus July 18-22. We are excited to have our UBVQ students back on campus this summer after two years of virtual summer programming. We are especially excited for our Summer Bridge students to take a class in the Department of Social Work and for our Summer Program participants to spend time at Boulder Lake.