Sociology & Social Work Newsletter

Spring 2012 Edition

Message from the Chair 
Notes from the Graduate Coordinator's Desk 
BSW Program News 
Laboratory for Applied Social Research (LASR) 
Alumnus Profile 
Thanks to Our Recent Donors  

Message from the Chair

Greetings to all!

Ferarro 2 

Last July, I had the honor of taking over the role of departmental Chair. Our previous Chair, Professor Kooros Mahmoudi, is on a well-deserved sabbatical pursuing his interests in demography with research in South Korea. It is a humbling task to follow him! But the Department of Sociology & Social Work continues to thrive as we pursue our collective and individual goals. Our faculty and students are engaged in exciting research, teaching, and service activities locally and globally. Professor Warren Lucas is about to begin his sabbatical at the University of Botswana (UB) in Gaborone, Botswana. As described in the message from our Graduate Director, Dr. Michelle Harris, we have a joint master’s degree program with UB. Dr. Lucas will assist the Department of Development Studies in an evaluation of their program and also teach a course in Juvenile Delinquency. The exchange of faculty and students between NAU and UB offers a rich opportunity for cross-cultural exchange of knowledge and friendship. We are grateful to Dr. Harvey Charles, Vice-Provost for International Education, for helping to facilitate this relationship. He funded a visit to UB for me and Dr. Harris in December, allowing us to meet with faculty. Worker's MuseumI took a side trip to the University of Johannesburg and toured the historical sites documenting the apartheid era and the struggle against it (see photo of the Worker’s Museum). This summer our students will have the opportunity to visit South Africa and Botswana on a study abroad course led by Professors Michelle Harris and James Reed, “Crossing Borders: Witnessing Contemporary African-ness.” Last summer, Professors Anne Medill and Janine Schipper led a group of students on a summer abroad course in Spain where they studied Sociocultural Aging and Child Welfare. This summer Dr. Medill will partner with Professor Yvonne Luna in offering Child Welfare and Race & Ethnic Relations in Alicante, Spain. These programs offer students a wonderful opportunity to learn sociology and social work from the perspective of other cultures and to enhance their capacity as global citizens.

Here in Northern Arizona, the faculty and students are delving into local social issues as well as global trends. Professor Angela Willeto authored an article “Happiness in Navajos (Diné Ba’ Hózhó)” to be published in the book Happiness Across Cultures: Views of Happiness and Quality of Life in Non-Western Cultures. Professor Michelle Harris is publishing a chapter “Methodological considerations in the study of work and occupations: the case of domestic workers in New York City,” in a forthcoming anthology, Research Methods in Studies of Race and Ethnic Minority Populations. She is also at work on an edited collection of original articles, Contemporary Emergent Indigenous Identities. Professor Natalie Cawood has a forthcoming article, “Addressing Interpersonal Violence in the School Context: Awareness and Use” in Children & Schools.  Professor Janine Schipper continues her role as editor of Humanity & Society and her work on Buddhist sociology with an article, “Toward a Buddhist Sociology: Theories, Methods, and Possibilities.” And as described in the message from Professor Rich Fernandez, our LASR lab has been involved in several applied research projects in Flagstaff. Many of our faculty and graduate students have been accepted to give presentations at the upcoming Pacific Sociological Association to be held March 22-25 in San Diego. 

We are excited about our new Social Work lecturer, Melissa Rhodes. Melissa is a LCSW with an MSW from ASU and has over ten years of practice in the field of social work. We also have a new instructor who we share with Ethnic Studies, Daisy Purdy. Daisy holds a M.Ed. in Social Studies, concentration in American Studies, Ethnic and Global Issues as well as a graduate certificate in Ethnic Studies from NAU. We feel very fortunate to have both Melissa and Daisy on our staff providing high quality experiences for our undergraduate students. We also have many experienced and first-time part-time faculty offering on-line and in person classes. Given the budget crisis, it is not possible for Sociology & Social Work to add tenure track faculty to meet the demands of increased student enrollment. Each faculty member now carries an average of 761 student credit hours, compared to five years ago when the average per faculty was 485. Our part-time faculty help to maintain course availability to our undergraduates while contributing energy, enthusiasm, and excellence to our program. 

This is our first on-line newsletter. We have received hundreds of “undeliverable” returned newsletters that waste paper and postage. The on-line version will allow us to be greener and to produce more frequent newsletters. We always enjoy hearing from our alumni, so please drop me an e-mail and let us know how you are. If you are in Flagstaff, feel free to stop by my office and catch up on NAU news any time. My e-mail is

Best wishes to all, 

Kathleen Ferraro 

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Notes from the Graduate Coordinator's Desk

by Michelle Harris, Graduate Program Director 


In May of 2010, Provost Liz Grobsmith traveled to Gaborone, Botswana to sign the agreement that would create Northern Arizona University’s first dual-Masters degree program. The initiative is between NAU’s graduate program in Applied Sociology and the graduate program in Development Studies at the University of Botswana (UB).  This will afford NAU sociology students the opportunity to spend their first year in our department doing graduate work, and a second year at UB. A similar provision exists for UB students –they will spend the first year pursuing the development studies degree at their home institution and the second year in our sociology program. At the end of the two years, students will earn two (2) masters degrees – one from NAU in sociology and one from UB in development studies. This exciting new initiative is unique; you won’t find another like it in the country!
Last Fall, Ian Tong and Devil Kutil from our program, and Thembehlele Ndebele from UB crossed the Atlantic to become the first set of students to benefit from this wonderful new initiative. In addition to getting to “swap” classrooms, these three individuals had the opportunity to serve as graduate assistants in the respective host institution - an invaluable and enriching experience that helped to further embed them in the culture of the educational institution and the society to which they were newcomers.
Kathleen Ferraro, Chair of the Department of Sociology and Social Work, and I had the opportunity to visit our colleagues and students at UB in December. I am happy to report that both Devin and Ian are enjoying their time at UB. They have picked up some of the language, and have found their hosts to be warm and supportive. For our part, we have enjoyed having Thembie in the department. In addition to her full load of classes and GA work, she volunteers at Catholic Social Services and is happy to have the opportunity to see the inner-workings of an American social service agency.
We look forward to receiving applications for the 2012/13 school year from both NAU and UB students who want to follow in the footsteps of our pioneering cadre.

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BSW Program News

by Natalie Cawood, Social Work Program Coordinator 


The 2011-2012 academic year has been an active and productive one for the Social Work Program.  We have a very strong Senior cohort and an excellent group of Juniors progressing through the program.  We have 26 Mountain Campus students currently in field placements, with each one completing 480 internship hours at a variety of human service agencies.  Students are working in Flagstaff, Prescott, Cottonwood, Tuba City, Mesa, and Seattle, Washington.  We are excited to also have our first International field placement with a student working in Cape Town, South Africa.  It is a joy for the faculty to see our students working successfully in diverse agency settings and consistently hear positive feedback about the quality of our students in their placements.  We are grateful to the Field Instructors who volunteer a great deal of time and energy in helping us train high quality professional social workers.

The Social Work faculty has been working on revising our program assessment plan and curriculum maps.  Through this process, we have been able to move toward having an improved data collection plan in place that is feasible, more clearly laid out, useful for assessing the effectiveness of our program, while also meeting CSWE accreditation standards.  Working with the NAU Office of Academic Assessment has been a great experience and the outcome of the process will be beneficial to all students in the BSW program.

This year we have transitioned to having students receive their academic advising through SBS Academic Services and Advising.  This process has been collaborative and smooth, with the greatest benefit being that our students are assured of having excellent course and degree progress advising from a well-trained group of professional Academic Advisors.  We are also in the process of removing the Social Work Prep designation, a status that our students previously had when they entered NAU and declared Social Work as their major.  Students will still be required to apply and be accepted into the BSW program, but now they will be able to declare the BSW as their major before being admitted into the program.  Besides streamlining a student’s degree progress, this will also allow students to receive better academic advising for the BSW degree beginning their first year at NAU.  Despite these changes in the process of advising, Social Work faculty are still quite busy mentoring BSW students, as they have questions about the field of social work, arenas of practice, and graduate school.  This may have been a record-breaking year for the number of letters of recommendation written by faculty for graduate school applications.  As I said, we have an excellent group of students!

In addition, we have been actively recruiting new members to our Social Work Advisory Board on Mountain Campus and are excited about being able to welcome these new members at our March meeting.  The Board hopes to create some more frequent and meaningful contacts with students and faculty, while also being able to create greater connections between the Social Work Program and the community.  We are fortunate to have such a strong group of professionals interested in supporting and advising our program!

Finally, I would like to acknowledge Bill Pederson, who has received the Teacher of the Year Award on the NAU Yuma campus.  Bill is a dedicated and hard-working member of our faculty and has been instrumental in developing and maintaining the quality of the BSW Program at our Yuma site.  Congratulations, Bill!

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Laboratory for Applied Social Research (LASR)

by Richard Fernandez, Director of the LASR Lab 


The Laboratory for Applied Social Research (LASR) was established in 2010 and engages in a variety of applied research projects. Our mission is to examine relevant social issues and provide applied research opportunities for NAU graduate and undergraduate students. LASR provides client-driven sociological research to the university, non-profits, government agencies, businesses and other institutions throughout the Northern Arizona region and beyond. LASR is designed to collaborate with clients to best serve their specific needs and draws from an experienced group of faculty.

Over the past two years a number of projects have been completed. In the summer of 2010 LASR completed a values survey for the City of Flagstaff 2012 Regional Plan. The report consisted of responses from a random sample of residents living in the planning region. The residents completed a detailed mailed survey asking about their opinions on relevant planning issues for the region. Also in 2010, LASR surveyed NAU faculty and students for their views on a new electronic attendance tracking system and student athletes on their interests. More recently, LASR has completed a program evaluation for the Center for International Education at NAU.

LASR has a number of projects currently under way including work with Victim Witness Services for Northern Arizona on child abuse awareness and with the Flagstaff Family Food Center to understand their service for the working poor.

Department faculty affiliated with LASR are: James Bowie, Ph.D., Sociology, Natalie Cawood, Ph. D., Social Work, Richard R. Fernández, Ph. D. Sociology, Kooros Mahmoudi, Ph. D., Sociology and  James Reed, Ph. D., Sociology. Michael Van Ness, MA, Applied Sociology is the LASR Coordinator.

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Alumnus Profile: Damien Contessa, M.A. in Applied Sociology, 2008, NAU


Hello! My name is Damien Contessa, and I am a doctoral student of sociology at the University of South Florida. Drawing from literature on environment and culture, identity, animal studies, phenomenology, and qualitative methodology, I seek to understand how nature and culture are defined and socially constructed through social practices such as gardening, animal husbandry, wildlife tourism, hiking, and other forms of “green leisure.” Some past research projects I have conducted include studies of the Mexican gray wolf and environmental conservation in the American Southwest, the consumption of animal imagery in contemporary zoos, and nature/culture boundaries in monster film narratives. I am currently conducting an ethnography of urban beekeeping in the Tampa Bay area that explores how cultural narratives shape and frame environmental consciousness.

As a teaching assistant for the Department of Sociology at USF, I lead courses on Environmental Sociology, Consciousness and Social Change, Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Sociological Theory, and Social Problems. I am a continuing member of the American Sociological Association, the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction, and also serve as a co-president of the Innovative Inquiry Salon at USF, and co-organizer of the Consciousness and Social Change Panel at the Pacific Sociological Association’s annual conference.

In addition to my sociological pursuits, I also enjoy photographing Florida’s beautiful natural landscapes, studying Eastern philosophy, and writing and performing music in the Tampa Bay Area.

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Thanks to Our Donors!

As always, we would like to thank our donors. Most particularly during these difficult economic times, donations to our scholarship funds and to the department funds are greatly appreciated and help us to continue offering our students the types of opportunities and programs detailed in this newsletter. Thank you! 

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